South Sudan Mirrors Africa’s Leadership Woes

By Masimba Biriwasha | Op-Ed | @ChiefKMasimba | January 10, 2014

The bloody mayhem in South Sudan is a specter all too familiar in Africa. The continent is home to approximately 40 per cent of armed conflicts in the world. These conflicts stand in stark contrast to the economic development which has been emerging in Africa over the past decade.

Like a recurrent disease, these conflicts have seriously undermined efforts to ensure long-term stability, prosperity, and peace. Since the end of the Cold War, over 9 million Africans have died and hundreds and thousands displaced due to conflict. Continue reading

Zimbabwe’s Education System Endangers Students

education1It’s official: Zimbabwe’s educational system is now in the morgue. The state of our education system is clear testimony to how self-destructive Zimbabwe has become. In a word, Zimbabwe is structurally deficient and in a desperate need for repair and construction.

The idea that we have a generation of young people who are receiving a half-baked education is at best, preposterous, and at worst, downright mindlessly stupid.

The failure of the education sector, like many other sectors in Zimbabwe, is a mere revelation that our country is going down the tubes. And in the process, we’ve become like an alcoholic bent on hanging onto to self-suicidal behaviour.

The picture is grim, to say the least. Teachers have abandoned schools. There are no books in schools. Infrastructure is delapidated, and in the erstwhile so-called elite schools such as Prince Edward etc. standards are going to the dogs.

Students have to make do without appropriate meals in our boarding schools. In some parts of the country such as Manicaland, entire schools have been abandoned as both teachers and pupils have joined the melee to the bloody diamond fields. Continue reading

Visionary Politics: Saving the Environment for Future Generations

Visionary

Visionary

Political leaders have a key role to play in developing and taking action to combat the world environmental degradation, according to a recent survey of 1,350 professionals in position to make or influence large climate-related decisions in their governments, companies, or other organizations across 120 countries.

The performance of key actors – particularly national governments – has been inadequate to date with rhetoric at much feted climatic conferences over-dominating action states the survey.

Continue reading

Africa’s Quest for a Green Revolt

Early in the morning, Mary Kanyaire, 33, collects water and firewood, and then prepares a meal for her two school-going children before she heads out to the fields, approximately 3 kilometers away from her homestead.

 

Alone, under the hot sun, she weeds groundnuts in a sandy field with a hoe. Although she knows she will not get a good yield, she strives on, buckets of sweat pouring down her face.

 

For Kanyaire and millions like her, subsistence farming is the only source of survival and is practiced with absolutely no support from the government.

 

In recent years, climate change, which has resulted in an inconsistent rainfall pattern, has dealt a heavy blow to the prospects of subsistence farming.

 

Yet in Zimbabwe, as in many parts of Africa, the government offers little or no support to subsistence farmers, leaving them to the vagaries of the elements and economic and political shake-ups.

 

Agriculture in Africa is primarily a family activity, and the majority of farmers are smallholders who own between 0.5 and 2.0 hectares of land, as determined by socio-cultural factors.

 

Women provide about half of the labor force and produce most of the food crops consumed by the family.

 

Many of the men leave for urban areas in search of better opportunities, and when they make it in the city, they invest little in their rural areas.

 

In order to make agriculture work in the fight against poverty, African governments and donors must reverse years of policy neglect and remedy their underinvestment and misinvestment in agriculture.

 

According to the World Bank’s 2008 World Development Report titled “Agriculture for Development,” the “agriculture sector has been neglected by both governments and the donor community, including the World Bank.”

 

Despite rapid technological progress, in the 21st century, agriculture continues to be a fundamental instrument for sustainable development and poverty reduction, states the report.

 

“Three of every four poor people in developing countries live in rural areas — 2.1 billion living on less than $2 a day and 880 million on less than $1 a day — and most depend on agriculture for their livelihoods,” says the report.

 

Although agriculture alone cannot resolve the problem of poverty, “it has proven to be uniquely powerful for that task.”

 

“Agriculture contributes to development as an economic activity, as a livelihood and as a provider of environmental services, making the sector a unique instrument for development,” says the report. “Agriculture can be a source of growth for the national economy, a provider of investment opportunities for the private sector and a prime driver of agriculture-related industries and the rural nonfarm economy.”

 

The report emphasizes that the time has come time to place agriculture afresh at the center of the development agenda because “agriculture and its associated industries are essential to growth and to reducing mass poverty and food insecurity.”

 

However, in sub-Saharan Africa, a combination of technical, economic, social and political challenges have to be overcome to make agriculture key in reducing extreme poverty and hunger.

 

“Using agriculture as the basis for economic growth in the agriculture-based countries requires a productivity revolution in smallholder farming,” states the report.

 

“To influence Africa’s green revolution, a key priority is to increase the assets of poor households, make smallholders — and agriculture in general — more productive, and create opportunities in the rural nonfarm economy that the rural poor can seize,” adds the report.

 

Political willingness will be critical to making agriculture a source of empowerment for the often-marginalized rural smallholder farmers.

 

Also, Africa needs to take advantage of the available new technologies to boost its agricultural productivity. Although Africa can learn from the agricultural systems of other continents in the world, it is clear that a new paradigm will have to emerge in the continent — a new paradigm that takes into account the challenges such as climate change, as well as the new opportunities presented by technology.

 

African governments in partnership with donors need to invest heavily in the infrastructure of rural areas, which will include building new roads, access to electricity to improve access to markets among other issues. Without a green revolution, Africa will remain forever locked up in poverty.

 

And for Africa’s new generation, such as Kanyaire’s children, that green revolution is something that should be fought for to expand opportunities.

5 Leadership Lessons: Charles Handy’s Wisdom

Charles Handy’s memoir, Myself and Other More Important Matters, is full of candid insights from a thoughtful life.  

Here are a few lessons to take away: 

1. If all your expectations with life work out well then you probably haven’t pushed yourself far enough. There may be lives out there that you could have lived had you dared more.  

2.  I learnt that in most human situations there is no textbook answer, that everyone is different and that you have to make your own judgments most of the time, make your own decisions and then stand by them. Only in technical matters does the expert know better.  

3.  Schools, at every level, prefer to teach what can be taught, rather than what needs to be learnt.

4. Organizations are not machines. They are living communities of individuals. To describe them we need to use the language of communities and the language of individuals.

The essential task of leadership is to combine the aspirations and needs of the individuals with the purposes of the larger community to which they belong. You do not need to be a genius to see that the task is much easier if the leader knows what the purpose of the community should be and can convince everyone of its importance.  

5. My belief is that most people have a fundamental understanding of what makes organizations work. They just need to be reminded of it and encouraged to apply their understanding to their own work. The late Sumantra Goshal of the London Business School once described Peter Drucker as practising the scholarship of common sense.  

I would like that said of me. For example, it is only common sense that people are more likely to be committed to a cause or mission if they had a hand in shaping it. That does not need research to prove it. Nor do you have to see the research to know that groups are likely to produce better results than the same individuals acting on their own.