Some of the developments unfolding in Africa reminds of the remarks by the founding head of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), Vladimir Lenin (1870 – 1924), when he mused: “one step forward, two steps back”. But again I think it will be too harsh for me to conclude this as Africa’s march to achieving its noble ideal of socio-economic integration underpinned by good governance, peace, security and development is irreversible. Yes, there may be teething problems we’re suffering as reflected by the instability in Ethiopia, Equatorial Guinea, Sudan, Mozambique and Mali.

It was the Italian Marxist philosopher, journalist, linguist and writer, Antonio Francesco Gramsci (1891 – 1937) who observed “the crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum, a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.”  

We should commend Africa’s leadership – particularly our multilateral institutions such as the African Union (AU), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) – for their sterling interventions in an effort to bring stability in the trouble spots.

Africa needs visionary, tenacious and resilient leadership backed by management competence with incredible credentials – that include high moral standing. Avoidance or containment of malfeasance such as patronage, nepotism, cronyism, greed and corruption.

There are three leadership models that I suggest we should put under the spotlight. These are the leadership models of H.E. Cyril Ramaphosa which is premised on consensus building thus deepening broader participation; H.E. Paul Kagame’s “strong man” syndrome; and H.E. Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi’s military precision. Each of these three leaders have put their personal signature on their leadership models. Perhaps I should upfront declare that I’m not arguing their leadership styles are infallible and conclusive, but all I’m saying is that even with their imperfections, they provide a definitive body of work that could be adopted and adapted to advance one’s institutions and countries.

Many will recall the etymological origin of the concept of consensus from South Africa’s pre-1994 negotiations that ingenuously developed formulations such as “sufficient consensus” and “sunset clauses”. The first concept prevailed even during the development of the post-apartheid constitution – the process which was ably led by H.E. Ramaphosa and Roelf Meyer. The document was hailed, and continues to be today, as one of, if not the best, in the whole world. This is the document which inspired H.E. Thabo Mbeki, the then Deputy President to Nelson Mandela, to give his iconic speech, “I am an African”, during its adoption by parliament.  

President Ramaphosa continued carrying this spirit of consensus building into the development of the country’s socio-economic blueprint, National Development Plan 2030 (NDP), when he served as the Deputy Chairperson of the National Planning Commission (NPC) before entering public life in 2014. The document made history when it was adopted by the multiparty parliament in 2012.

President Kagame’s leadership model was recently described by “the africa report” (though bold lettering is mine, I’m retaining the publication’s corporate identity as its name is written in lowercase) as “agaciro”, a word in Kinyarwanda means “dignity”. His posture is uncompromising against Western paternalism and dispels the notion of Africa taking refuge in victimhood as he asserts the continent needs to “understand that the time for babysitting is over and that we will never develop as long as we feel we have a never-ending need for European, American, Asian or other babysitters”. Indeed the benefits accruing from the “Rwandan miracle” are emulated by many as this small country has emerged from the genocide to foster, as eloquently reported by “the africa report”, “ambitious governance encompassing anti-corruption efforts, accountability at every level of government, meticulous planning, environmental protection, across-the-board digitalisation, health insurance initiatives, proactive policies, decreasing the country’s reliance on international institutions, and promoting tourism and a service-based economy.”

H.E. Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, now a retired soldier, came into power at first through a coup d’état in 2014.After taking an oath of office, he declared in his speech that “in its next phase, Egypt will witness a total rise on both internal and external fronts, to compensate the mistakes of the past”. Today as I write, Egypt became the biggest beneficiary of foreign direct investment last year and it has since overtaken South Africa to become the second biggest economy on the continent.

Every leadership model has contradictions inherent in it. H.E. Ramaphosa’s leadership is perceived to be weakened by an insatiable desire to consult with almost everyone in decision-making to an extent that this resulting into a slow pace and also creating the impression he doesn’t want his head to stick out. Although this may sound caricatured, I remember in late 1980s when I worked as a writer for Learn and Teach Publications – an anti-apartheid NGO in Johannesburg. We had a problem with one of our colleagues who never attended our staff meetings and we then decided to institute disciplinary procedures against him. His response to the charge was phenomenal: “Comrades, I’m an artist and I deliver my work on time. I really don’t see any reason why I should attend these meetings where you even discuss such as how many tea bags we should buy in a month.” Indeed, as an NGO, we encouraged participative democracy in running the affairs of the organisation. 

H.E. Kagame’s leadership model could be seen as endowed with elements of “authoritarianism”, as human rights groups purport. Yes, others decry the many terms of office he has changed the constitution to allow him to serve. Without necessarily arguing for other countries to be our yardstick of excellence, H.E. Angela Merkel served as a German Chancellor for 13 years and we also know about the shenanigans of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. I’m raising this to dispel the myth propagated by reactionary mainstream media as an “African phenomenon”. 

H.E. Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi’s may suffer the same fate as H.E. Kagame’s leadership as “authoritarian” and militaristic. I believe the pair based their leadership styles on the Singaporean model. 

We have to assess developments, and narrate our history, within a context.  So I take comfort in appreciating their imperfections by drawing inspiration from an inspirational poem by Bertolt Brecht (x), when he muses: 

“You, who shall emerge from the flood

In which we are sinking,

Think —

When you speak of our weaknesses,

Also of the dark time

That brought them forth…

Alas, we

Who wished to lay the foundations of kindness

Could not ourselves be kind.

“Do no judge us

Too harshly…”

Although I submit that the instability needs to be contained not to derail the integration process, I strongly believe the AfCFTA journey is unstoppable. The response by Africa’s countries to the AfCFTA is highly positive. These countries could be divided into three categories – that is, the stars who have signed, ratified and have submitted their instruments of ratification; followed by those that have just signed; and the only one that is still lagging behind.

The following countries have signed and ratified are, in alphabetical order, are Algeria, Angola, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo Republic, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Djibouti, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, eSwatini, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Saharawi Republic, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, Zimbabwe and Zambia.

These are followed by 14 countries which still have to ratify it – namely, Benin, Botswana, Cabo Verde, Comoros, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Morocco, Mozambique, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and United Republic of Tanzania. These countries have also deposited their instruments of ratification except for Burundi, DRC and Seychelles.

As they say, every family has one. Africa’s is Eritrea which still has to sign, ratify and submit its instrument of ratification.

We still have to strengthen regional integration by reducing the number of regional economic communities (RECs) from eight to five to avoid the overlaps resulting from the spaghetti bowl model in which some countries belong to multiple RECs. Accompanying this will also be establishment of a regional customs unions so that a region such as SADC may not have more than one customs union which may may pose challenges of trade harmonisation within the REC.

The cardinal principle is that we should be guided and aspire to achieve what’s best coming around of African countries – our yardstick of excellence shouldn’t be that since country A has taken this decision which undermines the integration project, we should therefore argue our own countries should also pursue such. Yes, reciprocation is one of the primary principles of diplomacy but we have to be mindful that two wrongs don’t make right. Although I can never understand why Botswana is holding SACU member states to ransom by not ratifying the AfCFTA, I do believe – like the AU – that we have to adopt an equitable approach to the agreement’s implementation – hence we have least developed and the “bottom 5” countries (Zambia, Mozambiquw, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia and Djibouti) being given more years to phase in some of the critical policy instruments of the AfCFTA. While there’s a danger of sounding naive, we can’t as business surrender the success of the AfCFTA to politicians or state parties. So here’s the platform, Jambo Africa Online, and let’s use it to advocate for the acceleration of continental integration for our sake and Africa’s.

Just as my parting shot, I’m glad to announce I have been formally appointed into the Africa chapter of the Board of Global Council for the Promotion of International Trade NPC. My fellow Trustees are Nomthandazo Mpande, Lavina Ramkisson and Cham Etienne Bama. We are geared to ensure the GCPIT has a presence across Africa and contributes to increasing intra-trade across the continent and also helps open market access opportunities for Africa’s trade.

Enjoy your weekend.

Saul Molobi
Publisher: Jambo Africa Online

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