Thursday, 29 March 2012: 4:50 PM
Africa’s economic growth and development was remarkable pre-independence and during the 1960s when many countries became independent. This trend which continued into the early 1970s gave analysts and growth theorists the impression that the African continent was on a sustainable economic growth path which should lead to better and improved standards of living. The reversal of fortune came in the late 1970s and 1980s when Africa’s long-run economic growth performance became anemic, and in some countries, the growth rates of per capita real GDP became negative. This paper demonstrates that the poor or negative growth rates in many African countries can largely be attributable to dysfunctional leadership. For African countries, we postulate that dysfunctional leadership emanated from the frequent changes in leadership which manifest into “scramble” for leadership and/or infrequent leadership changes which corroborate the strongman sit-tight leadership syndrome. We argue, based on historical evidence, that many of these leaders destroyed the economic, political, and social institutions that are necessary and required for sustainable economic growth. Furthermore, we argue that institutions, ethno-linguistic and religious fractionalization, which studies found to impact economic growth are merely symptoms of dysfunctional leadership because, in African countries, leaders can build and/or destroy institutions with total suppression of the media and press; and they can also engage in clandestine promotion of ethno-linguistic and religious fractionalization as long as these mechanisms enable them to retain a stronghold on power for life. Based on these arguments, the historical records of leaders in African countries, and the empirical evidence, we posit that dysfunctional leadership is the fundamental cause of Africa’s economic and development tragedy over the past four or more decades.