Africa needs leadership by Africans of high calibre

BMJ 1998; 316 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.316.7142.1457a (Published 09 May 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;316:1457
  1. John Lwanda, General practitioner
  1. Airdrie Health Centre, Airdrie ML6 0SU

    EDITOR—Logie et al have produced a thought provoking paper on African hopes for the 21st century.1 They point out many causes for Africa's underdevelopment and “retrodevelopment”—among them the colonial legacy, World Bank policies, dwindling and “yo-yoing” aid (which returns to its source almost as quickly as it is given), the brain drain, and the role of industrialised nations and multinational companies in the destabilisation of Africa.

    In its emphasis on what the West is doing to Africa, however, rather than what Africa is doing to itself, the paper falls slightly short. 2 3 It is only when this aspect of the problem is faced squarely that African dependency can be reduced. Weak corrupt governments lacking commitment cannot stand up to the World Bank and the multinational companies.4 Even if $100 billion were pumped into Africa tomorrow, without the necessary protocols, safeguards, and leadership the cycle of debt would soon start spiralling again because of borrowing by the new elite and skewed priorities.

    Many of Africa's poor nations have hundreds of development goals and targets; many of these remain aspirational. Yet many of Africa's poorest nations are blessed with an abundance of natural resources. Unless the leadership deficit in Africa is addressed the United Nations' special initiatives will join a containerful of hopes and aspirations for Africa that never get implemented.5 Africa needs leadership of a high calibre: leaders who will facilitate national and grassroots development. Many doctors have influential roles in many governments and non-government organisations.


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