Africa Needs CEOs NOT Presidents
Mr. Romney makes a compelling case for the U.S. presidency against Barack Obama. The former Massachusetts governor has been in business ever since his father’s days as governor of the State of Michigan and has amassed a small fortune in multimillion dollar terms. And he made most of this money as a wise investor, an aggressive business man and of course, a ruthless capitalist. Mr. Obama does not have this much experience in business and is even on record for bearing disdain towards corporate America. Under the circumstances, many are not surprised that a majority see Romney as better placed to return the U.S. to the roaring 1990′s when America was a great economic power. But in making his pitch to the American people, Mitt Romney and his Republican brethren misunderstand the role of the American presidency and especially misconstrue the true role of government and public administration. Just like it is not easy to shrink the government to size you can drown in a bathtub, there is an ocean of difference between being in business and running a country.
In the U.S.’s case, that country’s deficit financing might work something like a major corporation’s business operation operations financing: but a country is not essentially motivated by a profit. Neither does a country need to be as frugal as a family with the proverbial credit card. America – with the world’s most secure investment vehicles – is the ultimate in corporations that should especially be kept away from capitalists and from those that do not see the essence of public expenditure. In fact, if the U.S. government under Obama had not reacted in the classic Keynesian sense, the world’s largest economy and most powerful nation would have brought the rest of the world down to its belly. Thus, America can actually recover from this recession without having an executive type president.
In regard to not needing an executive president to reach the promised land, the same cannot be said for most of the countries in Africa and in the Caribbean. No other place in the world needs business men with a full understanding of investment and venture capital like the black world. What can simply be described as chaos runs the streets of these various political entities and a combination of smart public policy and business acumen can reinvigorate these economies into the preconditions to take off into a brighter economic future.
Unfortunately, those young people from middle class families who might actually understand business and even know the essence of planning away from subsistence consumption usually end up as mid level executives in different corporate institutions while many of those with the tenacity to stay in public service usually end up holding the reins of power and public management. This is not to say that the public service departments of various black lands are staffed with incompetent people. No. Many of these mid level executive and members of the ruling apparatus are well educated, have progressive philosophies and would like to see their countries functioning like the countries in the first world – countries they, themselves, might have lived, gone to school or at least visited. However, if anyone has worked with a Third World country’s leader, they will understand that one cannot give free advise to his or her president. You cannot be smarter than the president. The president is like an old school chief. He is the one who has to eat first, copulate first, reproduce first. Everyone else has to live in his shadow [mostly males anyway]. Simply, if the President wants to buy a new fleet of 4X4 wheel drive vehicles, woe be tide to the one who tells him different. Sadly, the modern world does not have space for dogmatic rule. In these days when even the Chief Executive Officer can be checked by his board of directors, it helps to have an African ruler who is answerable to something bigger than the proverbial electorate, the gods in the shrine or even the God in either the church, temple or mosque.
That is why it should be a simple requirement for a black leader to have business experience. In fact, we should be adventurous: African leaders should come from a middle class families. If they are peasants, they ought to demonstrate an understanding of what it takes to understand forward and backward linkages. Many of those African leaders whose parents were peasants have managed to make a mess of things in Africa. Yes … Much to their own chagrin, we are not playing class warfare or anything of the sort. The facts are there for everyone to see and the one common denominator for the most corrupt leaders and for those members of the legislature of public administrators who have ripped their own countries off is that their families were peasants. Look at Zimbabwe under Robert Mugabe. Analyze the core of Uganda’s problem. Decipher the underlying reasons for the Democratic Republic of Congo’s history as Zaire under Mobutu Sese Seko. The most colossal failures of public administrators emanated from leaders who did not know the difference between macroeconomics at work or the malfeasant aspects of moving a capital city from the most commercially active town to their own village. Various leaders have tried their level best to give back to their own village mates and some have even gone ahead to uproot government to their own backyard.
But business people understand the essence of forward and backward linkages. They know that potholes on the roads prevent investors from coming to do business in the country. They also understand that there is a direct correlation between stable electricity supply and more revenue for the country. They also know that there is a major difference between purchasing a $ 30,000 watch and actually investing resources wisely. Again, this is not to say that there is anything wrong with goods of ostentation or not having proper road networks as a result of a lack of monies or no support from the business sector or the international community. However, there is a testament in not actually working to ensure that the infrastructure of your country is up and running if you are promising your people growth and development. It is just an oxymoron to preach freedom and prosperity and also, foreign direct investment if you are going to start the process of systematically eliminating your rivals.
Interestingly, many black leaders take comfort in knowing that China has developed under the above circumstances. Even worse, others look to Vladimir Putin and see a man who has been able to hold his country together. However, the main argument here is that Mr. Putin is not a business person and neither does he understand the essence of what liberal democracy means. This is what every middle class young person wants: the freedom to determine their economic or financial future. Mr. Putin, like countless African and Caribbean leaders, understand raw power and the unbearable lightness of political survival. And in forgetting that their countries are major corporations in the global marketplace, they ought to be fired.
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