Ugly faces Of African Leadership That Need To Change



Ugly Faces Of African Leadership– Often when we broadly categorize the problem with African leadership as corruption.

Tagging it as corruption may not necessarily give a vivid picture of what Africa suffers from. Every country of the world has traits of corruption. The only difference is the rate and how publicly acknowledged they are.

However, the impunity at which corruption raises its ugly faces in African leadership is rather alarming and disturbing.

Aside the corruption tag, African leadership has a handful of challenges. While the global refugee crisis and insurgency are not really the faults of African leaders, they have shown lapses in other expectations.

From nepotism, to incompetence to mediocre institutions (amongst others), these are the several ugly faces African leadership should be rid of.

1. Nepotism/Tribalism

Nepotism and tribalism are two divisive and destructive traits found in African politics and leadership in general.

You can hardly talk about nepotism without mentioning tribalism in African leadership. Both seems to go in hand in hand.

Nepotism is a precursor of kleptocracy and the sit tight syndrome. This is where leaders make political appointments out of personal preferences. They see to the installation of people to whom they share close ties and goals with; usually friends and family.

Such things as ethnicity, race, and tribe are natural concepts that were supposed to afford humanity the beauty of versatility and variety. Sadly they have become highly divisive principles that plays ugly roles in leadership all over the world.

In many African countries battling with violent and deadly power tussles often has tribalism as an underlining factor. This could be seen in the recently concluded Kenyan general elections. Beyond the historical rivalry of the political candidates- Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga- the election was a battle between their respective tribes- Kikuyu and Luo.

Often times tribalism goes as far dictating the turnout of votes. The candidate from the tribe that has a greater population often plays the tribe game to get the electoral mandates, majority of which comes from their tribe.

2. Incompetence/Mediocrity

As a direct consequence of nepotism and tribalism, unqualified persons take up positions in government. Many African institutions suffer milestone setbacks because the leaders in charge do not have the slightest clue how to improve the state of affairs.

Another factor that breeds incompetence is the mediocre mentality of the people. By default and given the economic instability, some Africans do not expect perfection. They would rather strive to get by and not get the best. Same attitude will be seen if a follower with this mindset assumes a leadership position.

Unfortunately Africa largely celebrates mediocrity with the utmost grandiose.

See Also: The Relationship Between Africa And The World: Who Really Aids Who?

3. Illiteracy

No one said you must be a Ph.D holder before attaining a leadership position. But then the truth is that not many African leaders actually understand their essence and duty to the people. Some just stumbled on it and crudely learnt on the job.

Well, leadership is a trait that should have been nurtured into potential leaders by virtue of both formal and informal education.

For what it is worth, formal education makes you enlightened and exposed to both near and far off world views. These days we hear of African leaders with questionable educational certificates.

It is really primitive when self-aggrandizement takes the place of purpose and service to humanity. Not being knowledgeable about leadership reduces a leadership position to a mere money spinning title.

4. Misplaced Priorities

The lavish government expenditures with tax payer’s money is a major example of misplacement of priority.

Often times leaders are torn between expectations of their political parties and the expectations of the people. This brings the curiosity to what really influences the establishment of political parties. Are they really out to uphold national values or just one of the other parties?

In most cases the first half of their tenure is usually allotted to pay back political favors from the party at the expense of nation building.



The ability to prioritize what the nation needs does not solely depend on the leaders but the people as well. In Nigeria for instance, the economy was technically in recession but government officials still had excess to flaunt exotic cars worth millions of dollars while shamelessly defending their actions.

With the rate of insurgency and refugee crisis in Africa, some African leaders have not really seen the need to address the situation. Instead, the work has been indirectly abandoned to volunteer health workers and non-profit organizations.

A certain case presented itself where instead of providing basic needs for the refugees, a shocking sum of N280 million was allegedly used by officials in charge “to clear grass” for the accommodation of the displaced persons.

5. Biased Legal System

If the legal system is faulty then criminal justice is threatened. More than once you find scandalous and shady top government personalities who should be facing legal sanctions, acquitted and set free by the judiciary.

What is even more disheartening is that these shady top personalities are sometimes rewarded with higher positions.

The essence of having an independent judiciary is to ensure that justice is served to all. Today, the legal systems of some African countries are one-sided and biased. Rules are conspicuously bent to suit the rich, high and mighty persons in the country. The common man pays more price than the affluent who commits a greater offence.

In Africa, some people are in truth above the law. They can do whatever they want and get away with it.

See Also: Penury Amidst Plenty – How African Rulers Keep Failing At Wealth Management

6. Lack Of Political Will

Political Will still stresses on the conflict of party and national interest. It can be said to be the leader’s refusal to compromise on what he ought to do for the good of the nation.

This is the force that pushes the leader into genuine action. African leaders are heavy on gigantic manifestos but have not the will to bring them to fruition.

7. Poor Communication

Leadership is not a one man show. We have the administrators and the governed. When Africa opted for democracy, it was expected to be a leadership style that represented the people’s interest. The reality in Africa is that the people are only needed for their electoral votes. At the end of every election comes a very long break in transmission.

There should be platforms where the people get the chance to communicate one on one with their leaders outside campaigns and rallies.

8. Political Apathy

This occurs when the governed loose all interest in political matters. Political apathy often arises when the citizens feel sidelined and irrelevant to the political course and governance of the country.

The unfortunate outcome of this scenario is that an already bad government gets worse because no one cares.

Political apathy shows itself most in an environment where people are distant from their civic rights and responsibilities. Getting acquainted with civic responsibilities; following and participating in the course of leadership is a powerful way of checking the excesses of leaders.

Due to a high rate of frustration and hopelessness, most Africans especially in rural settings just care about what comes to their table and pockets. Such ignorance of their civic power makes it easy for African leaders to buy their way into power.

9. Weak Institutions

How possible is it that Mugabe has ruled for so long against the mandate of the people?

It was a relief to know that the AU had the power to contribute to the ousting of Yahya Jammeh early this year. Africa has always battled with weak institutions. From the highest to the lowest institutions, mediocrity and nonchalance have taken over.

Weak institutions equals stalled development and growth. What else is the proof of good governance if the people do not trust health institutions, education, legislature and government-related services?

10. Financial/Resource Management

Financial and resource management is one of the major reasons why Africa’s economy lacks stability.

Africa is home to most of the world’s mineral deposits. Ironically we wallow the greatest in poverty. Thanks to the global oil price decline, African nations have gone back to the drawing board to redefine their economic outlook.

Topics: