Op-ed: Is Thought Leadership for a development of Africa a possibility? by Kholekile Mnisi

K Mnisi

Thought leadership as an entity for a renewed Africa is important as it can enable the continent to realise a renewed socio-economic development paradigm. Africa is in need of ideas that are relevant, adaptable, transformational and specific. Such an approach to a renewed and emancipated Africa is a critical first step towards addressing the varied African socio-economic failures such as corruption, poverty, disease, famine and poor resource management.

In his writings, Biko reiterated the need for Africans to tackle the challenge of “mental slavery”.  A very powerful statement in context of the development conundrums Africa is confronted with.

A colonised continental mindset has produced a colonised approach to African development. Thought leadership alone is not enough for a renewed continental outlook. To create a positive and sustainable development outlook that addresses both the economic and social conundrums confronting Africa, at the core of this process, African institutions, communities, current and emerging thought leaders and civil society need to be intricately involved in the process of unlearning, relearning, unthinking and rethinking the oppressive and dominant thought philosophies and patterns of their interactions with colonial forces over the last five centuries. African leaders should understand that thought liberation is equally so an opportunity for Africans to realise that embracing such a philosophy can assist Africa in reaching an understanding that socio-economic as well as political development should be a shared responsibility.

In the pursuit of thought leadership for Africa’s renewal, the continent has both an opportunity and responsibility to tap into the unmined wealth of Africa’s former leadership experiences, Lifaqane Mfecane, the Great Trek, the youth, newly emerging trends such as African feminism and African digitisation which prove that African societies have the strength to encompass and engage the process of thought leadership for a renewed continental future, agenda and agency. We need leaders who will evaluate legacies such as dependency on foreign aid and foreign interventions.

Teodoro Obiang Nguema

Post-colonial African leaders have lacked the capacity and vision to procure and trust the role of thought leadership for a renewed Africa.  Our African leaders have suspended their powers to the Global North and betrayed the hopes and aspirations of the very people that elected them into power.

Pan Africanist solutions centered on the African development problem need to be crafted, implemented, monitored and constantly re-evaluated

Pan Africanism has the opportunity to decolonize the colonized African mind.  However,   it is sizable to embrace newly emerging trends as positioned above that can see an Africa vested in the interests of its people while also remaining globally relevant.  For further analysis, the role of culture, language and gender needs to be looked at as part of a new Africa.

Africa has no homogeneity in terms of its development approaches and practices.  Development in the continent is arguably Western centric. In the same likelihood when looking at the trends of most development in Africa,   these prove inconsistent and that Africa is unique and needs uniquely African solutions to move the continent forward.

Thought leadership, thought liberation and critical consciousness should be the main ingredients and anchor aspects for the economic and social development of Africa.

Inarguably, varied development approaches (from the Global North and West) have been implemented for Africa’s case.  However, one may still attest to the philosophy that Africa needs more than just the solutions of the Global North and West.


Evident to this day from a developmental perspective in Africa, colonialism has misled African history, marginalised African creativity and did away with native critical thinking approaches. The impacts of this have been a continental psychology dominated by an inferior expression of African and Pan Africanist ideas, a consuming and not producing continent and unliberated thought class of African political leaders.

Leadership at the core of shaping up Africa’s future should inform the basis of where the continent is currently and where its citizens see it heading towards. It is not just economic models that can shape the future of where the continent is headed.  As African citizens, we need to be vested in what innately makes us African and tap into these indigenous systems to realise the possibilities of where and how they can move continent forward.

Africa, its people and its resources are capable enough to change the current shape of how we are being viewed. It is in the interest of the continents’ future for leaders to be accountable and have a keen interest on the role that communities in both rural and urban settings can play alongside institutions such as the African Union and marginalised groups such as women and the youth.

With a developmental backlog when contrasted with the rest of the world, numerous leaders have presented that Africa is capable and aligned to achieving goals such as those set out in the African Union’s Agenda 2063.  However, Africa needs not Agenda 2063; Africa needs Agenda now-now!


Foreign forces to this day still exploit African weakness to their advantage due to an inconsistency in planning. Significantly though, not all underdevelopment is the result of Western doctrines. Africans still feel inferior, inadequate and less intellectually capable to their white counter parts. This consequentially leads to a Eurocentric way of thinking, acting, cultural dilution and necessitates the various attempts by Africans to look, speak and act European.

Doing away with traditionalist approaches and embracing “modern ways” is not the core development solution for Africa. Instead, the modern ways are very limiting and contradictory.  It is not just modernisation Africa needs. It is a renewed and emancipated sense of thought that can liberate its people. Modernisation centric approaches to development have propelled a significant gap between the haves and the have nots in the continent.  African nations that have rapidly modernised becoming hotspots for Global North exploitation thus resulting in the unfair distribution of income and a repetition of the poverty cycle.

Acute to deliberate on-the limitations of Western centric approaches to development overlook the building blocks which form the core behaviour traits and characteristics of the lesser developed nations such as cultural beliefs and religion which the Western approaches  deem as less important.

Oliver Pete | OStudio Post

A typical example in the case of Africa is an evaluation of the Western centric prescriptions of the linear stages of growth model approach.  In some African countries, the massive injection of capital coupled with government intervention has meant an increased rate in corruption and unfair distribution of wealth and income particularly in the case of South Africa and notably, the rest of the African continent. Structures such as the social welfare, the political emancipation of citizens, increased literacy rates and gender parity as well as gender agency in African countries to name a few should be seen as building blocks that need to be present to foster and track development.

A continent of many and a land rich in vast resources, Africa needs more than political systems to guide its future. Strategic leadership is needed as the core building blocks towards economic, political and social emancipation.

Kholekile Mnisi is a marketing communications specialist, blogger, writer and gender activist






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Kholekile Mnisi is a Marketing Communications Specialist, Blogger, Writer and Gender Activist

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