Good Leadership in Africa and Educational Qualification

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Often, a specific level of educational attainment is required in many (African) countries for certain leadership positions. More often than none, a university degree, for example, is a minimum academic prerequisite for senior political leadership positions. Recently, Ali Hassan Joho, the Governor of Mombasa, Kenya found himself in a political hot soup. Mr. Joho is not being accused of conniving with Al-Shabaab to bomb Kenya. Nor is he guilty of treason or child abuse. No, far from that. Rather, Ali Hassan Joho is being investigated by the Kenyan police for alleged forgery of his Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE).

It is not the position of this article to support forgery of any kind, which is illegal and unacceptable. If eventually Mr. Joho is implicated for certificate forgery, he should for sure dance the sweet music of the law. However, the whole Joho brouhaha makes one wonder whether academic qualification for the leadership position, can sometimes be counterproductive. Could it discourage or send some aspiring and able leaders to political wilderness? Could it force potential leaders to sometimes take illegal steps in the process of trying to jump the certificate huddles? Furthermore, one might be tempted to wonder whether or not academic education alone is the solution to (African) leadership deficiency. In other words, is the acquirement of an academic degree indeed the solution to African leadership problems or lack of visible achievements in the area of leadership?

Definitely, education helps a leader make quick and good decisions; an educated leader knows the value of education as such, they are inclined to encourage education amongst their people. Moreover, education enables a leader to know how best to tackle rigorous challenges in the area of leadership as well as find more cost effective solutions to the problems facing their nation. German Chancellor, Dr. Angela Merkel has been a Scientist before she became a politician. Her pragmatism and analytical approach to (solving) problems have been praised by many. This unique leadership quality has been attributed to her educational qualification.

Interestingly, years of the colonial rule over Africa resulted in agitation for self-rule. Many African leaders who fought for their country`s independence were well educated. Even though African independence from the colonial masters came with much hope and optimism, many of the so-called educated African leaders disappointed and squandered all the pyramidal hopes and aspirations of their people. Corruption, mismanagement and abysmal depth of human rights abuses and other undemocratic acts became a norm amongst the educated African leaders. The story is not different amongst many of the current African leaders. Many have argued that Some of the worst cases of blatant abuse of power and other undemocratic acts have in fact been committed by highly educated African leaders. This makes many wonder whether education is really the mother of good governance.

Would it be right to speculatively conclude that uneducated individuals cannot make good leaders? Definitely, education helps a leader to make good choices, however, imagine a country where many are illiterate, wouldn`t education as a condition for leadership deprive the majority of the population their right to vie for positions of leadership? In India, for example, the only qualification required for one to run for political positions is an Indian nationality. Interestingly, having in mind that India is striving to become a superpower, some are questioning whether or not educational qualification should be a condition for political leadership in the country.

Definitely, a good leader is that visionary individual, who is able to take better decisions, understand the needs and desires of the people and know the best way to achieve those needs without subjecting the citizens to undue hardship. It means, therefore, that a leader should have   “a heart, emotions, practical knowledge, ability to judge people and the burning urge to serve his nation honestly.“   Does one really need an educational qualification to achieve these demanded leadership qualities? This is where the difference between intelligence and wisdom comes in. Or to make it easier, it is all about differentiating social intelligence from academic intelligence. As a leader, you might not be highly educated, but if you are transparent, incorrigible (well, no one is totally incorrigible in the real sense of it. Not even Mandela or the Pope), committed, selfless and have the ability to take good decisions, you definitely will achieve more than a professor who lacks those basic leadership qualifications. One of the most famous British Prime Ministers, Winston Churchill, was not only half educated, he never made good grades in school. Indira Gandhi of India did not have the best education one would dream of, but she was a great leader. The current president of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, does not have a university education, but he is, to me, one of the most visionary leaders in Africa today. Let`s leave political leaders and go to their business counterparts. The man who brought the revolution into the computer industry, the founder of Apple, Steven Job did not have a university degree to build the Apple empire. The same would be said about Bill Gates of the Microsoft, the richest man in the world.   Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook equally dropped out of the school to build one of the richest and most amazing companies in the world today. What of Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Atlantic Airways, Virgin Records, Virgin Mobile and other Virgin brands, who is worth $4.9 billion? Branson, who dropped out of school at the age of 16, neither completed high school nor had good academic performances.

Of course, one must differentiate between good leadership and personal achievements in life. Successful business accomplishment does not always translate into good leadership, however. But the border between the two is not too far. In business, education is important as a stepping stone, however, if education becomes an obstacle, often, those with entrepreneurial instinct, use their personal qualities to achieve their aims. Likewise, an educated leader needs more that education to become a good leader. This does not mean though that education is not necessary for a leader. It is absolutely necessary and in fact a big plus.

Clearly, to be educated as a leader is good and desirable, however, many other qualities are very important if one wants to become a good leader and bring meaningful changes in the lives of others. Education without qualities like incorrigibility, selflessness, ability to make right judgments and decision, foresightedness, love for the people, humbleness, moral values, no criminal records, etc will achieve little or nothing.

Wouldn`t it be right to argue that although an educational qualification for leadership positions is very good and important, it, however, should not be a mandatory condition to vie for leadership?