African leaders “have no right to blame colonizers” for some of the challenges they face, Shell South Africa chairperson Bonang Mohale said on Wednesday.
The former president of the Black Management Forum told the Africa Energy Indaba that African leaders have failed to live up to the hype of the Rising Africa narrative, in which the 21st century would belong to Africa.
“Africa’s problems have nothing to do with our resources,” he said. “We can trace it down to a lack of management, planning, leading, coordinating and organizing.”
Mohale said poor management has resulted in African leaders failing to take advantage of a continent endowed with some of the best resources in the world.
The Africa Rising narrative is only a mirage because of the choices Africa has made.
“We can’t blame God,” he said. “We only have ourselves to blame. The reality is that in the days we have been free, we have seen some exponential improvements as well as draconian repression,” he said. “Africans in most countries out of the 54 are poorer today than they were when we were not free.”
Challenged by an audience member for being an Afro-pessimistic, Mohale replied: “If we are not self-critical, then other people will do it for us. If we say it ourselves, we hold ourselves accountable. Let me continue on the pessimistic front.”
However, Mohale said he is working with the South African government to solve some of these problems.
He pointed to solar, wind and hydro energy as an example of where Africa has not capitalized on a basic, clean and renewable resource.
“The best solar project is in Germany, where they get three months of sun,” he said. “We have labels of the Dark Continent, even though the wind blows rigorously, but we are not harnessing it enough.”
Mohale criticized Africa’s power utilities, including Eskom, for their lack of management. He said they failed to become adequately capitalized, did not plan for maintenance of their generation units and did not create solid corporate governance.
Mohale wants leaders to return to a compelling vision for Africa.
“We have had nine economic plans, yet none of them were given enough time to gain traction,” he said.
“We also need space to put our best foot forward and not remain beholden to a bush [guerrilla warfare] leader,” he said. “Then we expect these people to assume the cockpit of a Boeing 747 full of people and fly them from OR Tambo airport to London for 10 hours. When leaders are elected, they need to use that office to put our best foot forward, and not use it to pay back their cadres.”