Leadership: Key to Africa’s Development
The African Development Bank (ADB) Group Annual Meetings symposium opened on Tuesday in Shanghai. Opened by Bank Group President, Donald Kaberuka, the symposium was also attended by the Presidents of Madagascar, Marc Ravalomanana; Cape Verde, Pedro Pires; as well as the Governor of the Chinese Central Bank, Zhou Xiaochuan, and the UNECA Executive Secretary, Abdulie Janneh.
Madagascar’s President, Marc Ravalomanana, who in his speech indicated that a leader must be willing to talk straight and tell the truth, even if people did not like to hear it, said that it was unacceptable for poverty to exist in a world of abundance and that people, especially in Africa, were dying of hunger, malaria and HIV/AIDS. He underscored that Africa was a complex continent with 53 countries, with each country being in a different development stage and having its own set of problems and challenges. Given this picture, Mr. Ravalomanana focused on his country’s realities and its aspiration to eradicate poverty and move towards abundance. To achieve this, he said good leadership as well as creativity and discipline were necessary. The lack of opportunities and leadership were pushing African reformers and talents to seek greener pastures elsewhere, he said, adding that the concept of absolute power for power’s sake was no longer useful in a modern context. We need reformers and leaders who can deliver results, Mr. Ravalomanana stressed.
Changing the Mindset
The Malagasy president also indicated that since our values and mindsets retard progress, the challenge for now was to preserve good aspects of the continent’s culture and change those that stand in the way of progress. He also pointed to colonialism and imperialism as factors that have helped to keep the continent in poverty. "The legacy of colonialism was like a weight tied to our legs. We want to run fast, but the weight slows us down. Colonialism has left our people feeling inferior," he said, indicating however that he was not in China to blame colonialists.
Trade Barriers and Conditionalities
Talking about globalization, a concept equally important, the Malagasy President sought to know how Africa could compete with other continents when there were huge trade barriers against the continent. He also questioned donor conditionalities, adding that donors should not be contented with just providing financing, but should also provide some assistance in the drawing up of ambitious development plans. In this regard, he commended the Bank Group for the support it has provided to his country over the years.
The Cape Verdean President, Pedro Pires, for his part, underscored that his country, a chain of islands, which was part of initial globalization efforts, attained independence with just US$300,000. Despite the numerous challenges his country is facing, he said, his country had never lost hope and confidence. We started off with a policy of proximity, political realism and diversification of our external relations. We are committed to building a credible nation, with efficient institutions, which enjoys the confidence of the people, he stressed. Cape Verde’s experience, he said, had been characterized by enlightened committed leadership based on inclusive policies and efficiency. He however warned that Cape Verde’s success must not be a reason for partners to disengage, adding that the Bank Group has always stood with his country.
Bank Group President, Donald Kaberuka, used the occasion to commend the government, the people of China and, especially, Shanghai authorities for hosting the Annual Meetings. He also thanked the Presidents of Cape Verde and Madagascar – countries which constitute what Africans should do to help themselves.