Who is your favorite polit­i­cal leader of all time? Many would say that it is Nel­son Man­dela because of the role he played in lead­ing South Africa out of the shack­les of apartheid. Inter­est­ing­ly, South Africa is not as unit­ed as it was when Man­dela was Pres­i­dent. Today, Julius Male­ma who was once youth leader in the Africa Nation­al Con­gress leads the Eco­nom­ic Free­dom Par­ty. He is now one of the ANC Government’s fiercest crit­ics. Does that mean that that the Foun­da­tion Man­dela built wasn’t strong enough? The jury is out on that.

For me, Man­dela was a great leader for his unique sea­son. He rose to pres­i­den­cy at a time when rec­on­cil­i­a­tion was one of South Africa’s deep­est needs. This need couldn’t be met through brava­do. He had to bring forth the diplo­mat in him, which might appear weak to some. How­ev­er, Man­dela was no push over. If any­thing, he was one of the most res­olute lead­ers. Mandela’s five years of pres­i­den­cy from 1994 to 1999 were char­ac­ter­ized by strong eco­nom­ic growth. He achieved this by tak­ing firm deci­sions like reject­ing nation­al­iza­tion, which was the offi­cial pol­i­cy of his par­ty. He also used his famed diplo­ma­cy to increase trade oppor­tu­ni­ties for South Africa.

Great lead­er­ship often hinges on firm res­o­lu­tion and com­mit­ment to val­ues. Although mil­lions admired the late Tan­zan­ian Pres­i­dent John Magu­fuli, oth­ers found his lead­er­ship style to be too author­i­tar­i­an. How­ev­er, the best way to judge lead­ers is by inter­ro­gat­ing their results. As Jesus said of His fol­low­ers, you will know them by their fruits.

In May 2016, six months after Magu­fuli took office, he had already secured a major vic­to­ry for Dar es Salaam the country’s com­mer­cial cap­i­tal. He launched the Bus Rapid Tran­sit (BRT) sys­tem that instant­ly turned Dar es Salaam into one of the few African Cities with an effi­cient pub­lic trans­port sys­tem. Magu­fuli went on to achieve a lot more, includ­ing stream­lin­ing pub­lic ser­vice deliv­ery and weed­ing out cor­rup­tion. He achieved all this through his leg­endary firm lead­er­ship style.

His­to­ry will be the best judge of Pres­i­dent Uhu­ru Kenyatta’s lead­er­ship style. Fac­tu­al­ly, Kenya’s econ­o­my is in its best ever state. In 2021, Kenya’s Gross Domes­tic Prod­uct (GDP) grew by 5%, mak­ing Kenya’s econ­o­my to be one of Africa’s fastest grow­ing econ­o­my. We are now Africa’s sixth strongest econ­o­my, only behind Nige­ria, South Africa, Egypt, Alge­ria and Moroc­co. In Sub-Saha­ran Africa, we are the third strongest economy.

Egypt and Alge­ria, the third and fourth strongest economies respec­tive­ly, were led by strong, no-non­sense Pres­i­dents for at least two decades. In Egypt, Hos­ni Mubarak was Pres­i­dent from 1981 to 2011. In Alge­ria, Abde­laz­iz Boute­fli­ka also led for two decades, from 1999 to 2019.

Although an elect­ed Prime Min­is­ter leads Moroc­co, the fifth strongest econ­o­my, its King has exclu­sive author­i­ty over the mil­i­tary, reli­gion, and the judi­cia­ry. Morocco’s King, Mohammed VI has reigned for 23 years, since 1999. This doesn’t mean that benev­o­lent dic­ta­tor­ship is a pre­req­ui­site for eco­nom­ic growth. After all, both Nige­ria and South Africa, the two strongest economies are gov­erned through democ­ra­cies. In South Africa, pres­i­den­tial elec­tions are held every five years while in Nige­ria, they are held every four years.

Back to Kenya, the evi­dence is clear that our econ­o­my is doing well even if many peo­ple are yet to feel the ben­e­fits of this growth polit­i­cal over­tones notwithstanding.

What has led to this unprece­dent­ed eco­nom­ic growth?

Kei­th Hansen, World Bank Coun­try Direc­tor for Kenya has an answer, “Kenya’s econ­o­my has shown con­sid­er­able resilience to the enor­mous shock of the pan­dem­ic, and this year is expect­ed to post one of the stronger growth rebounds in the region thanks to diver­si­fied sources of growth and sound eco­nom­ic poli­cies and management.”

The sound eco­nom­ic poli­cies and man­age­ment have been led by Pres­i­dent Uhu­ru Keny­at­ta. There is of course room for improve­ment, par­tic­u­lar­ly regard­ing job cre­ation and pover­ty reduc­tion. This improve­ment will need strong deci­sive lead­er­ship both at the pres­i­den­tial lev­el and the guber­na­to­r­i­al levels.

At the pres­i­den­cy, I only nudge Pres­i­dent Keny­at­ta to enact the Nation­al Cli­mate Change Coun­cil for Kenya to strate­gi­cal­ly face the future with con­fi­dence. Think green, act green!

About Dr. Kalua Green

He is the Chief Stew­ard of Green Africa Group, a con­glom­er­ate that was envi­sioned in 1991 to con­nect, pro­duce and impact var­i­ous aspi­ra­tions of human­i­ty through Sus­tain­able Mobil­i­ty & Safe­ty Solu­tions, Eco­pre­neur­ship & Agribusi­ness, Ship­ping & Logis­tics, Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Ini­tia­tives, as well as Hos­pi­tal­i­ty & fur­nish­ings sectors


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