Great African Leaders

220px-Nelson_Mandela-2008_(edit) Kofi_Annan_red

The two most respected statesmen in the world alive today? (Photos from Wikipedia.)

Tom Murphy recently posted some stats suggesting that many African leaders are impressively popular at home. (Or impressively worried about internal security agents to give less than 100% honest answers to opinion pollsters.) Meanwhile, over in the Guardian, Elsie Kanza was lauding African leadership and, importantly, African ownership of new agricultural development initiatives (though see here for a possible disconnect involving one of her cited examples). Such African boosterism may be justified amongst the prevailing negativity about the quality of leadership provided by many of the continent’s politicians. (As my parentheses imply, not always unjustified negativity; I’m more of a call-a-spade-a-spade kind a guy.)

But, whilst perusing the latest report on the Syrian crisis, it struck me as nonetheless a considerable feather in Africa’s cap that it is an African to whom the world has turned to try to mediate a solution to the brewing civil war. (Significantly in this case, a crisis outside Africa.)

Finally are there two more respected statesmen in the world today than Nelson Mandela and Kofi Annan? Talk of an African renaissance (or even an African century) must be balanced with the thought that few African leaders alive today are conspicuously following their example. Nonetheless 100 years ago, Europe was preparing to launch itself into a catastrophic, wealth-destroying war. Sometimes the bar is not all that high, and a visionary leader at the right time, bequeathed with favourable economic conditions, can catalyse great change.


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