In a span of less than 40 years, Africans have migrated from one thing to another! They have migrated from "nduma" to bread; skin to cotton cloth, queuing at phone booths to mobile phones; analogue broadcasting to digital and from snail mail to email and short message service (SMS) among others. In spite of this, leadership content in Africa is not "migrating" at the same pace.
Sometime in the early 90's I was stranded in Eldoret, a town in Kenya's Rift Valley Province. I had no money on me because a travelers mishap that swallows one's money had hit me! Here is how I was rescued: I had a phone number of somebody based in Ortum, another distant town in the Rift Valley. I went to a public phone booth, called the operator and requested for a reverse call. The operator called the Ortum number. The gentleman on the other end accepted to call back. By that time, a long queue was building outside the booth. It was not clear what time the fellow would call me; but I had the motivation not to allow those queuing to make their phone calls (but didn't succeed because of snarling users). Finally, the phone rang, and I explained my story. The fellow on the other end knew someone in Eldoret. He asked me to wait at the booth as he contacted his friend in Eldoret. His friend finally called me and whew I was rescued! The process took an estimated four hours.
Kenyans have migrated to mobile phone technology that turns my Eldoret predicament into a "stone age" narrative. If one is stranded, he/she can send SMS, a "please call me" and even request for monetary assistance which arrives at the touch of the button either through M-Pesa or ZAP.Mobile phones have not only gotten Africans talking to each other, they have literally opened Africa to itself.
In the 90s going back to the independence time, obtaining contacts for
universities abroad was in itself a challenge; professors would not release such information at will. Those were dyas when swanky talk such as: "I am the only professor in this and that!" prevailed. Now, with internet, all one needs to do is to "Google" and "Yahoo" among other search engines for information. At the touch of the button, one can access similar information to that which experts posses. It is happening to those who want to know about the weather, types of soils, and even disease symptoms and their causes.
Unfortunately for Africa, political leadership content is not "migrating" at
the same pace with technology. Whereas technology is liberating Africans to sample fresh breath of economic freedom and information, leadership is sustaining the majority in bondage. While technology is making individuals to "own their destiny" through the power of choice, political leadership on the hand is pushing for "my people." Consequently, people cannot own themselves. They have to belong to someone! The democratic system of governance in Kenya, for example, recognizes the role of one man-one-vote on paper whilst in practice; it is one ethnic-community-one bulk-votes!
Politically, many African countries are stranded in "Eldoret." Each citizen is forced to make a "reverse call" through its "leader." Citizens have been waiting for over four decades to grasp aspects of the national and international agenda. Outside the "booth" are Chinese, Indians, Brazilians, and Malaysians among others keen to make their direct calls to prosperity. African citizens must push for the "migration" of leadership content from ethnicity and short term focus to long term focus.
James Shikwati, email@example.com is Director of Inter Region Economic Network
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