Leadership, development financing spur optimism for Africa’s future: Ncube

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As Africa transforms under the leadership of the African Development Bank Group, its Chief Economist and Vice-President, Mthuli Ncube, looks at what could make a difference: visionary leadership and pragmatic approaches to policy-making.

“Transformational and principled leadership – in the government and other spheres of the society, including businesses, civil society – is indeed critical for Africa to strengthen its governance and to achieve other broad objectives,” Ncube says.

There are vibrant lessons to be learnt from the past, Ncube claims. To celebrate the continent’s journey for the next five decades, development outcomes will be determined by changes in both mindset and policies adopted by Africans.

For Ncube, these changes include instilling characteristics of good leadership in young people early on. From his perspective, leadership is not something a person is born with, but is rather a skill that can be acquired.

“It is important we introduce the subject of leadership in the curricula at all levels of our educational system and instill characteristics of good leadership in our young people early on,” Ncube says.

“This will not only make ‘finding’ good leaders easier in the future, it will also help our people make the right choices when selecting a leader.”

Ncube maintains that the next five decades will bring major challenges to which countries and their leaders will need to respond to. He argues that “transformational leadership, which can inspire people to look beyond their immediate concerns and consider benefits of the entire society and Africa will be required to tackle them effectively.”

But Ncube believes much more is needed across Africa.  

“The success of Africa’s transformation and strong growth in the next 50 years require increase accountability and strategic policy leadership at all levels and segments of the society, supported by well-functioning institutions and an enabling business environment,” he claims.

While Africa can draw on good practices from other developing regions, it also has good policies and experiences to share with others.

The business environment in Africa has improved tremendously over the years with some African countries ranking among the world’s most dynamic reformers. Further, the continent’s resistance to economic protectionism has worked out well for many African nations.

In addition, the difference between success and failure in leadership is determined by leaders maintaining a focus on long-term results in the face of short-term problems.

Further, there is also a willingness of all Africans to pursue pragmatic – rather than ideological or geopolitical – approaches to policy-making. This creates greater trust, confidence and cooperation across borders, helping African leaders modernize governance and strengthen institutions through enhanced transparency and accountability.

What needs to be done is in large measure known, but how to do it is less obvious, and the political resolve to do whatever it takes to get the job done will be seriously tested.

Still, Ncube sees many reasons to be optimistic over Africa’s future development.

“Africa’s development outcomes for the coming decades will be determined by a number of drivers of change, and the policy changes adopted by African countries in response to changing world conditions,” he says.

“These drivers of change will be global, physical and human. Governments need more collaboration with the private sector. Unlocking Africa’s potential will depend to a large extent on continent ability to trade globally and regionally.”

This year, the AfDB is celebrating its 50th anniversary. There is much to celebrate in its achievements, but there are also challenges heading into the future.

One of the most vital questions that the Bank must answer is: How will Africa’s development be financed over the next 50 years?

“Africa has many deserving projects. The AfDB is championing a new initiative, the Africa50 Fund, a credible and innovative vehicle for infrastructure financing in Africa to support Africa’s economic transformation,” Ncube says.

“The focus will be on trans-continental infrastructure, including priority projects under the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA) that will deliver bankable, growth supporting regional connectivity mega projects, building on the momentum created by existing initiatives and facilities.”