/ 2 November 2009

Leadership for development

Millions of people in Southern Africa are trapped in a poverty cycle. The region’s liberation struggle will not be complete until this changes.

Responding successfully to this challenge is everyone’s business: governments, businesses and civil society organisations. As political and economic integration in Southern Africa advances, we need to advance the region’s social integration agenda.

A new approach is needed to make progress in the region, which needs equitable integration to transform the high levels of inequality within and between the Southern Africa countries.

The Drivers of Change award celebrates the early signs that things are beginning to change. The award applauds remarkable people and organisations for pushing the frontiers and leading the charge to a new way of doing things in the region.

This year’s award-winners represent the new kind of leadership that is needed to change our situation for good.

Malawi’s President Bingu wa Mutharika is changing the way public policies are shaped and implemented in the region to reduce poverty. He is building a new confidence in governments among the citizens of Africa.

The Eastern Cape Red Meat Project run by WBHO Construction, the ComMark Trust and Dr Xolile Ngethu is driving change in the way corporate social responsibility is practised. The project is making markets work for the rural poor.

The Luanda Urban Poverty Programmen demonstrates the real change that comes with partnerships. It is working to change the way local service delivery and poverty reduction programmes are run in Angola and the Southern Africa region through cooperation between communities, governments and development organisations.

Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane has worked tirelessly to drive change in the way leadership is exercised. By placing the poor at the centre of social and economic policies, he reminds leaders of rich countries to meet their commitments to the poor in Africa. He also works to ensure that development aid reaches the people it is meant to benefit.

Others commended through the awards are leading change. Emma Kaliya independently drove the ’50-50 Campaign” to increase the number of women parliamentarians in Malawi.

Women now constitute 22% of the new Parliament, up from 14%. Bishop Kevin Dowling has made an extraordinary contribution to pro-poor social change, as much in broader society as within the churches and at local, national and regional levels.

We celebrate these heroes of our new liberation frontier. They show us that a new way is possible out of the poverty trap. New liberation movement governments in the region have faced many national challenges with almost no human security and increasing poverty and inequalities.

Governments have spent most of their energy addressing inward-looking internal issues, examining the region as a whole very narrowly. This has not facilitated easy cooperation and pro-poor integration in the region. As a result, the regional economic model constructed by apartheid remains almost intact.

There is now a fundamental need to revisit the common history of Southern Africa to remember the dreams that galvanised the common struggles across the region and again unite new leaders for change towards a future free from poverty.

It is time for a new regional vision to be articulated. This should include all social actors. But the relationship between governments and civil society has been tricky.

Governments find it difficult to share what they are accustomed to. Many challenge the interests of civil society organisations, questioning their legitimacy, integrity and accountability.

However, there is a great disparity in today’s world that leaders in our region need to come to terms with. Economics, trade, communications and culture are becoming more regional.

Yet participatory democracy remains essentially national and local. As more decisions are being reached in international forums, it is more important to build a better framework for regional governance with democratic accountability to citizens everywhere in the region.

The emerging pillars for this framework must include civil society, regional roles for parliamentarians, public opinion and the media. In this sense civil society and business leaders must be as much part of today’s Southern African regional governance and development architecture as governments.

Through such inclusive leadership for change, voices can be heard so that a powerful social force is established to sustain a new phase of progress in Southern Africa.

In their unique ways and contexts this year’s Drivers of Change award-winners show each of us how possible this is.

Neville Gabriel is executive director of the Southern Africa Trust