And this is just the beginning! There are many factors that have contributed to this surge in Africa’s influence on global political and economic issues. The emergence of new leaders whose democratic credentials are unquestionable and whose commitment to good governance has seen a shift from the west’s refusal to include Africa on the world Agenda, to one where Obama and Cameron are in close contact with Africa’s new dynamic leaders, have meant Africa now has a big say in how the world is managed.
Africa’s influence on how things are done around the world have changed dramatically. Africa is now taken more seriously. This sudden change has been compounded by several reasons. The most important being: the west’s increase in demand for energy and mineral to power their industry and economies. Another factor is the discovery of oil along the west coast of Africa. But more important is the new breed of leaders who have emerged to move Africa to a new phase in its engagement with the rest of the world. From Sierra Leone to Tanzania, the world has witnessed a new kind of dynamic leadership that has put good governance at the heart of domestic policies. Africa is slowly turning its back on its horrible past of corruption, civil wars and oppression, instead what you now see is the embrace of a new spirit of commitment by leaders to their people’s welfare. This is a significant shift from what the west knows of African leadership. And the rest of the world seem to be responding well.
Former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair has played a significant role in changing the west’s perception of Africa and has also helped introduce good governance in some African states. Blair had been well prepared to do this because as Prime Minister he had direct dealings with some of these leaders and was well conversant with how they administer their governments. Blair had been impressed with Sierra Leone’s President Ernest Bai Koroma and President Paul Kagame of Rwanda. After leaving office, Tony Blair established the Africa Governance Initiative to help pioneer a new way of working with African countries, and to equip visionary African leaders with the capacity to deliver on their reform agendas, tackle poverty and attract sustainable investment. The AGI was also recently introduced in Liberia where President Ellen Johnson- Sirleaf now leads a government committed to transparency and an ambitious Poverty Reduction Strategy. Tony Blair is the single most important advocate for Africa to have an important voice in the international community. He has done remarkably well in raising the plight the continent faces and has helped in attracting investors to do business with African democracies.
But the following leaders stand out as exemplary in their determination to end the poverty-stricken environment their people have endured for decades.
1) President Dr Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone: For his outstanding contribution to the welfare of his people by dramatically improving their standard of living within two years of assuming power. Introducing new attractive policies for potential investors. Enhancing the country’s power sector by installing an efficient hydro-electric generated system that has significantly boosted the country’s economy. By constructing new road networks to ease the flow of business from one part of the country to another. By implementing an overhaul of the country’s tourism potential which has seen a 25% increase in tourists entering the country. President Koroma has been the recipient of International awards from governments and NGO’s across the world for his remarkable leadership and commitment to fighting the graft culture that has plagued his country’s civil service and government for decades. Under the Koroma administration, there has been an increase in salaries for civil servants and health workers and farmers in the agricultural industry have received continuous assistance from the government towards empowering them to produce more crops. Self-sufficiency is the ultimate aim of the president for his country.
2) President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania: For his outstanding role in transforming the educational system in his country: In the past two years of Kikwete’s presidency, a remarkable 1,500 new secondary schools have been built and a new 40,000-student science university is being built in Dodoma. President Kikwete’s governing philosophy and political views are influenced by those of Mwalimu Julius Nyerere whom the President was privileged to be close to. Kikwete’s government has received accolades across the country and in the donor community for fighting corruption, investing in people, particularly in education, and push for new investments.
3) President John Atta Mills of Ghana: For his outstanding contribution in improving Ghana’s economy and enhancing the exploration potential that has seen the discovery of oil along the country’s coastline. Atta Mills is a no-nonsense Head of State whose intolerance of corruption in high places has meant him having to clash with some of his close confidants. A pragmatic leader who has shown he can handle the pressures of leading a country with a strongly divided political class and bridge the gap to enhance unity among his people. Ghana was chosen by U.S. president Obama as his first African destination on assuming office. Obama was impressed with Atta Mills leadership and offered more U.S. assistance in trade and continued bilateral relations.
4) President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf: You have to admire this lady. She has taken on her male counterparts in a country that is known for its ruthless war-lords and ensured that law and order is maintained. Sirleaf has brought in a new spirit of hope to her people, who for the past two decades have only known the sound of gunfire as a way of life. Infrastructural developments have taken off across the country to rebuild the ravages of its war past and position its economy for growth and once more take its place in the international community of nations. Sirleaf has been keen to promote regional peace across the sub-Saharan African region, and recently urged the parties in Guinea to ensure a free and fair democratic process in the country’s elections.
5) President Mwai Kibaki of Kenya: The distinguished gentleman who never seems to be phased by the arrant political makeup of his closest rival, Raila Odinga. KIbaki is not your typical politician. He smiles even when his opponents are planning to dethrone him from power. Raila Odinga has single-handedly masterminded several ousting of Kibaki and each time failing miserably. Kenya’s economy has grown under Kibaki’s leadership and the country is now the powerhouse of the East African economy. Most major international organisations from the U.N to the IMF, have their regional headquarters in Nairobi, and the country is booming with tourists as its unique safari landscape continues to lure visitors in numbers. Kenya has enjoyed relative stability although Odinga’s Orange party were alleged to have been behind the recent post-election violence that nearly brought serious ethnic divisions in the country. Kenya is Barack Obama’s paternal homeland.
As Africa moves forward in establishing itself as major force in global issues, we as a people must support those at the helm who have made us so proud. Infighting and tribal acrimony will get us nowhere. Corruption can only reduce our potential as a people. We must hold those who manage our resources to full account and must demand complete accountability and even distribution of our continent’s wealth. We have reached this far because of the selfless efforts of these leaders who have challenged themselves to put their people and country first. We must commend them not condemn them. We must encourage them to do more. The press has a vital role to ensure that the people are informed of the fantastic opportunity our continent has this time round. We should all not lose our focus: which is to see Africa occupy its rightful place in the community of nations.
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