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Former African Heads of State Obasanjo and Branco on Inclusive Leadership


Inclusive development must include equity, equality, transparency, popular participation in politics and the economy, former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo said on October 30, at the 7th edition of the African Economic Conference in Rwanda’s capital, Kigali. 

It must be measured against the extent to which its agenda is set by the population; its ability to listen, dialogue and establish compromise among disparate interest groups in society; and how much it engages the most competent in society in the implementation of its programmes, added former Prime Minister of Sao Tomé and Principe, Joaquim Rafael Branco. 

Obasanjo and Branco were panellists in a plenary session focused on the impact of leadership on inclusive development. 

The people who are governed, Obasanjo said, must believe and have confidence in those that govern them the net effect of which is a change in economic circumstances, stability in politics, and social cohesion. 

“If politics matters then political leadership also matters because good governance is a direct product of good leadership. So if politically the leadership is right there is no doubt that that leadership will focus on inclusion in almost everything it does,” Obasanjo said. 

“If there is no framework where there is truly participation in decision-making, then I think you are not in the presence of an inclusive leader,” noted Branco. 

According to Obasanjo, inclusive leadership needs to approach advancing economic growth and deepening democratic governance as concurrent activities – not a question of prioritizing one over the other. 

“You cannot say as a leader that ‘Look, I’ll first face the political aspect of my responsibility and come back to deal with the economic or social issues later.’ They have to go together concurrently.

Of course within that concurrence, there may be a particular item or matter that will be more urgent than others. In that case, you may have to prioritize.”

Obasanjo further noted how inclusive development requires a balance between national needs and supranational interests because nations are interdependent and none can afford the cost of alienation. 

“The first thing is to realize you are not an island yourself and that you are living in a village in a global context...Your job as a leader is first of all to determine what is your objective and that objective you must be able to set it clearly and also communicate it very clearly and simply.” 

Branco cautioned against what he termed as a dangerous trend between corruption and bad leadership, which he said has a direct impact on effective leadership.

“Money from corruption is financing many elections in some African countries. If there is not a way to stamp out this corruption, it will be very difficult to find leadership that is truly committed to national development because many [political] campaigns in Africa are being financed by corruption money, drug money and some other illicit sources of funding,” Branco said. 

Obasanjo equated the levels of corruption Africa is struggling with to outright looting or unarmed robbery, which shouldn’t be allowed to go on. African countries, he said, must focus all their efforts to stamping it out. 

“Corruption should not be allowed to be a way of life,” Obasanjo said. 


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