15 feb On African leadership
To be an African leader is probably one of the most difficult jobs in the world. In Africa, more than, say, in the United States or Europe, life is about belonging to a tribe, a village, a region. Forget boundaries: they were more often than not designed by Europeans. What counts is your roots. From these roots you grow, you learn, you fight. If you want to become the leader of a mixture of tribes (which is almost always the case) you need to be shrewd, strong and a tactical genius. And as soon as you are on the throne, you will have to depend on your antennas, day and night, the rest of your life. If not, you will find death very quickly. African leaders must almost always live in fear of a coup, a rebellion, poisoning, lies, treason, all due to jealousy and natural lack of trust in the ‘other’ tribe. Leaders are only leaders because the other powerful men want them to be. Someone has to do the job, but being a leader in Africa is much more than that. It is an extremely advanced survival course. In order to stay in power you need to feed, pay and serve your court. In some countries the court consists of hundreds, maybe thousands of people. They have to be privileged in order to keep them on your side. Imagine that you would like to see your family and close friends at leat once a year: your days are already half filled with visits, talks and gatherings. In the country where I am now, the president is said to have 198 children. That is a little more than one birthday each day of the year. Family need advice, money, jobs. This will take most of the mornings, the nights and the weekends. But leaders travel at least one third of the year, if they feel safe enough at home that is. No wonder time is always short. No wonder time in Africa means very little. I will see you sometime in the afternoon is a better way to describe an appointment than hoping to be met at three. Everybody is always late, while the rest is always waiting. You sit and wait and wait. If you get irritated the African will smile at you in a pittyful way: relax, man. True, very few people die of stress in Africa. To be patient and to accept your fate are truly beautiful talents. Only the leaders seem to be nervous and visibly running out of time. They would like their people to work harder, to achieve more, to be ambitious. But the people know that the rewards will go to the leaders, so why bother. While Africa is the new promised land for business, resources and workforce, it will always stay slower than we are used to. The first man came from Africa and the last will without any doubt also be an African. The advantage of slow living is long living.