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Kofi Annan's call is pertinent, but is that enough?

May 9, 2011, 1:02 PM

It was heartening to hear former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan address the issue of poor leadership in Africa at the World Economic Forum in South Africa, which is an annual meeting that brings leaders from all over the world together with the aim of engaging in discourses that will improve the state of the world.

Kofi Annan bluntly made it clear that poor leadership has prevented development in Africa and will continue to prevent the continent from reaching its full potential, if leaders do not see the need for operating an effective government that will serve the people.

He acknowledged the 5.5 percent Africa-wide growth rates of recent years, but then remarked that the "leadership deficit" meant little was being done to create jobs and lift millions out of poverty.

"In most African countries today, people continue to live in very poor conditions as they were decades ago. Even college graduates wonder about the purpose of a degree, when they spend months and sometimes years looking for a decent job.

"The lifestyle in some African countries has become extremely difficult to meet, and people are really suffering in attempts to make day to day ends meet. When you make an assessment, you will see that all that is needed in these countries is good governance and proper management of resources.

"Most African leaders win elections with promises of making life better for their people, fighting corruption, providing jobs, etc, but then over and over, they disappoint.

"The sad fact about the condition in most African countries today is that the rich keep getting richer and the poor keep getting poorer. There are only a few opportunities for the poor to climb up the ladder or even attempt to compete.

African leaders are certainly not making much of a room for that to happen either as they busy themselves with their next strategic move on how to continue to cling to power, control resources, and make an exquisite living for themselves and their families, as ordinary citizens continue to suffer," he pointed out.

We applaud the first step that Kofi Annan has taken in bringing the issue of poor leadership in Africa to the forefront, but will his remarks go beyond the walls of the World Economic Forum or will they be dismissed by African leaders as just another "political move" that had to be taken?

How can leaders such as Kofi Annan, who acknowledge the severity of the issue of poor leadership and governance in Africa, help solve the problem? Only time will tell.

"I am working to make sure we don’t only protect the environment, we also improve governance."

Wangari Maathai