Explaining Africa’s Poor Performance and What to Do about It

While attending a conference on the status of women at the United Nations in New York in February 2008, African Ministers organized a side event which I attended. The Ministers wondered why Africa especially the Sub-Saharan region was performing poorly in spite of its vast natural resources and resilient people. The debate continued informally in small groups at coffee and lunch breaks after the side event had ended.  The various explanations for poor performance included the adverse effects of structural adjustment programs; lack of industries, brain drain and capital flight; the marginalization of women in the development process and political instability and armed conflicts. While these explanations are legitimate, some participants felt that the leadership issue which is the root of the problem was not discussed, even mentioned.  The omission was hardly surprising because most of the participants were ministers or senior government officials.