Ubuntu (/uːˈbʊntuː/ oo-buun-too; Zulu/Xhosa pronunciation: [ùɓúntʼú]) is a Nguni Bantu term (literally, “human-ness”) roughly translating to “human kindness.” It is an idea from the Southern African region which means literally “human-ness,” and is often translated as “humanity towards others,” but is often used in a more philosophical sense to mean “the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity”.
As is apparent, Africa is a large continent with quite a few countries that are very rich in natural resources but poor in quality of life. A lot of these countries are still classified as third world even with the lot of resources; talent and physical. I read this article that attributed the real problem in Africa to a lack of love, empathy and humanity among the people. I will expand on this a little bit and explain why I think that love, empathy and humanity is a larger scale problem, but is a problem that was created, and is directly impacted by leadership and good governance.
A lot of the challenges we experience as Africans coexisting with other Africans is as a result of the society that we are bound to survive in. We survive in a society where transparency and good nature are foreign traits. A typical African finds it hard to trust and is always looking out for themselves and themselves alone. The typical African has a me against the world attitude. Even when the typical African finds allies, they are not committed to the alliances wholeheartedly. Even when a typical African finds themselves in a new society, they have to work leaps and bounds on their character to trust, earn trust and be transparent.
We are bound to live in a society, torn by civil wars in the past that could have been avoided by leaders who could have focused on the good of everyone as opposed to themselves (ubuntu). We are bound to live in a society where transparency barely exists and most of our leaders are still more interested in the amount of wealth they can amass for themselves as a priority, before they lend a thought to how they can seriously focus and be more strategic about instilling a sense of faith, hard work and hope for a better future to the people, and back it up with actionable plans that yield measurable results and impacts society positively. When corruption thrives at the top of a society, corruption trickles down to the nooks and crannies of the whole totem pole, because people look up to the top to get an example on how to live their lives.
So, if you ask me, “What is the problem with Africa?” I will tell you its the people, as a result of the leadership. Reason being that, past leadership has created a society that cannot create a new generation of leaders to turn the failed society in a new direction. If a people cannot be guaranteed that their hard work will result in fair recognition and rewards, it will take an extraordinary force to get them to work hard or feel the necessity for change, since people who make it to the top in the society don’t have to work hard for their rewards. Nobody wants to change in such a society. Everyone wants to work their way to the top and steal their own share. Change does not happen, till the cost of not changing is higher than the rewards of not changing. So, if the leaders we look up to are being rewarded handsomely by a dysfunctional society because it is dysfunctional, the people are conditioned to believe that it is how society works, just like it is hard to know just how bad your room smells if you’ve been inside for too long.
It is true, Africa’s leaders are some of the highest paid in the world, yet, most of them are the most underperforming leaders in the world. If the people we look up to are rewarded for poor results, why should we expect the people to work hard? Why should we expect tomorrow’s leaders to be better by default?
So if you ask me, “How can we turn Africa around?” I will refer you to this quote:
If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” – John Quincy Adams
We need leaders whose actions inspire our people to be different. We need leaders whose actions inspire our people to be better. If ubuntu were to be a possibility without good leadership, we wouldn’t need leaders in the world. Africa needs good leaders. Africa needs leaders who believe in ubuntu, and will take action in leadership, governance and decision making that earn people’s trust, and then effectively steers them in the right direction. Action that enables our people know that they matter, so, every decision they are taking effectively matters in promoting the greater good of everyone. If our people cannot understand how their every day actions impact the society, they cannot be empowered to take better decisions.
For how far we have come in a questionable direction, our leaders need to innovate in government to earn trust. They need to be willing to be more transparent than their peers in other forward looking countries, it is the price they have to pay for steering in this direction for so long. If their peers in the west are doing x to make leaps and bounds in enabling their people be more confident in the government, African leaders need to do 100x. When transparency happens, every decision, every transaction that impacts the people comes to light. Then we can work on enforcing the rule of law since everything is out in the open.
I stand to be corrected because there is so much more that I don’t know, even more that I don’t know, I don’t know. But from my humble perspective, this is what I see. We are the problem, yet, we are the solution. We need leaders.
Image Credit – 123rf