Speaking at the Institute, John A. Kufuor gives his recipe for improved leadership on the continent.
Yesterday in a presentation entitled “Leadership for Africa’s New Tomorrow”, John Kufuor, former President of Ghana from 2001-2009 and Chairman of Interpeace’s Governing Council, talked about how he thinks a shift away from nepotism and military rule in governance in Africa will take hold by the next generation. “In due course Africa will move toward a regular selection of leaders”, he said.
In Professor Gareth Austin’s opening remarks it was pointed out that over his long political career, military coups provided the former President with the opportunity to also pursue business interests. President Kufuor countered opening his presentation by saying that the coups also provided him with the opportunity to see the inside of Ghanian prisons including a 15-month stint that was an “eye-opener” as he described it.
President Kufuor provided further background for his presentation by describing the battles for independence in African countries in the 1950s that were followed by widespread socio-economic problems. Disenchantment among the people ensued and military leaders took over and held on to leadership by the barrel of a gun into the 1990s in many places, he said.
Much of his presentation concentrated on the need to build better leadership in Africa through education and professional training. He said that leaders need to be educated to overcome tribalism, religious differences and other points of disagreement that often arise in Africa. President Kufuor also said that African leaders need to be trained to be able to get the most out of partnerships with countries who invest in Africa to extract natural resources, giving China’s activities in the continent related to oil and gas as an example. Leaders need to know how to accept new partnerships for development and create non-subservient relationships with countries which come from outside to exploit natural resources, he said. He went on to add, “they should know the peoples constituting their nations so they can get on top of their diversity and meet their expectations".
Addressing questions from the audience, President Kufuor said that Africans who have been educated and have worked abroad could have a lot to offer their home countries if they returned and pursued leadership roles in government or business. Answering a question about whether democracy is a Western concept, he said that “respect for human rights is universal”.
President Kufuor is one of the few African leaders that have been democratically elected in and then democratically and peacefully retired from the position. His winning of the presidential election in 2001 marked the first peaceful democratic transition of power in Ghana since the country's independence in 1957.
Gareth Austin is Professor of International History and Politics. His teaching and research focuses on comparative and global economic history in Ghana and other West African countries.Gareth Austin joined the faculty in 2010 from the London School of Economics and Political Science. Prior to his position at the London School of Economics, he lectured at the University of Ghana.
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