Trends and transformations in African political leadership since 1960: Some evidence
There has been some noticeable improvement in rates of economic growth and the stabilization of a variety of different political orders in some parts of Africa over the last decade or so, even if this has not as yet always been translated widely into significant reduction in poverty, as the UNECA’s recent Economic Report on Africa shows.
In a recent speech, the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Mr Tony Blair, has suggested that this can in part be attributed to the role of leadership. To suggest that individual leaders, on their own, can directly transform the economic and political life of a country may well be a claim too far, since the evidence is abundant that any such transformation always requires both formal and informal coalitions of reform and consensus both within the public sector and between it and a wide range of interests and organizations in and beyond the national society.
Nonetheless, new research about African political leadership since 1960, commissioned by the Developmental Leadership Program (DLP), provides some interesting evidence in support of Mr Blair’s claim. In this thought-provoking paper, Monique Theron provides statistical trends and patterns over the last 50 years with respect to the profiles of different types of ruler, their educational qualifications, their field of tertiary study, their career histories before becoming Heads of State, their political backgrounds, their length of incumbency and how they gained and lost power. More work, drawing on the DLP database, will follow.