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In order to achieve Africa’s socioeconomic transformation, the continent’s leaders have to embrace new thinking, and break with the past, according to Donald Kaberuka, President of the African Development Bank.
Kaberuka urged leaders to follow in the footsteps of Ethiopia’s late Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi, whose zeal to reform his land saw him assess the country’s experience, create a growth plan while establishing viable policies to enhance development.
“He had the determination to build upon the country’s own experience, assessing any outside advice against that experience, not vice-versa. He had the stamina to see through a strategy, even if unpopular in the short term. These are all traits of a transformational leader,” observed Kaberuka. The Bank President made the remarks during an inaugural lecture on January 29 at the launch of the Meles Zenawi Foundation on the sidelines of the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa.
Kaberuka noted Ethiopia’s steady growth over the years, a result of the radical steps undertaken by its late leader. “In 1991, Ethiopia was one of Africa’s least developed economies, exhausted by communist ideology after decades of feudal rule; a poster child of poverty and recurrent famines.” But by the time Meles passed away in 2012, Ethiopia was a net exporter of food. It was already a net energy exporter, attracting massive investments and laying a basis for industrialisation.
According to Kaberuka, Meles’ legacy is a challenge to other leaders, illustrating what happens when a country takes charge of its own destiny.
“While we know what can impede development, our knowledge of how development happens requires a deep level of modesty not assisted by a fundamentalist approach to complex political economy issues,” Kaberuka said.
“At the end of the day, therefore, every nation has to ask the simple question: What is it that works for us?”