OPINION: A word on the making of leaders

Tuesday March 19 2019

The chairman of Trade Mark East Africa, Mr Ali

The chairman of Trade Mark East Africa, Mr Ali Mufuruki 

By Kasera Nick Oyoo

Tanzanians have theorised on leadership, and the country has several leadership training schools. But, they are mainly based on the East/West divide of the Cold War days, whereby they produce loyal ruling party apparatchiks. Of course, there is nothing really wrong with that.

The problem that Tanzanians face in this digital era is that the challenges have become much more than how people can be whipped into toeing the political party line and salute the party hierarchy.

We are faced with an overwhelming youth numbers; youth who have had education, with some of them attaining varsity degrees –never mind the quality or relevance of the degrees to today’s market needs.

It boggles the mind why so many of our problems refuse to go away and, instead, seem to multiply when we have so many degree holders walking around with dog-eared brown envelopes. Indeed, quite a number of them have lost hope of ever finding gainful employment.

It is a sign of failure of our education system... But that’s another story.

The mchakamchaka-type of training leaders was relevant for about 40 years post-independence. Today, while we still need good leaderships, these have been turned topsy-turvy by global changes that we can do nothing about. We must adopt and adapt.

The paradigm has shifted so much that the people we were training to lead a nation of workers and farmers today find themselves in an unreal situation where they are now led by their followers – in terms of feelings, desires and instincts.

Take technology, for example. It has brought the global village to Tanzanians. From the comfort of their homes, Tanzanians can now know what agriculture practices are in use in Ukraine, and the price in London of cocoa produced in Morogoro.

These changes can be adverse for rulers with yesteryear’s mind-set who may still believe that mchakamchaka – paramilitary training – is all that one needs.

In real time, Tanzanians today need solutions to the many challenges faced by the nation; challenges which call for creative, inspired, out-of-the-box thinking leadership. In fact, leadership has changed so much that today’s problems call for the masses to come up with solutions themselves to the problems they face.

We are grappling with monumental challenges which in the eyes of many create untold upheavals, unlike how the Tanzanians of 1978 were united and committed to the same course – and were easy to manipulate, I dare say.

Today, leaders need to be equipped with a lot more than garrulity, and the ability to corral into line their followers; make them to outshout the enemy. Today, we are out of our depth – and, like fish out of water – we are clueless regarding what to do about leadership.

The chairman of Trade Mark East Africa, Mr Ali Mufuruki – who is also a former chairman of Mwananchi Communications Ltd (MCL), and owner of the Infotech Investment Group Ltd – last week shared with a few of us his views on why we are failing in this leadership game.

In his view, Tanzanians have failed to develop the key skills necessary for nurturing leaders. It is as if we believe that leaders just happen.

Give leaders targets and enough rope with which to hang themselves, then walk away. Come back in six months to find out if the set targets were met. In our very political system, this is the very thought that those who are in party politics would not want to hear.

Strathmore Business School in Kenya has started a Tanzania Leadership Academy in Tanzania aimed at developing leaders. It will teach, coach and mentor future leaders to prepare them for market needs.

Look at it this way...

An otherwise commendable project like the Dar es Salaam bus rapid transit is grinding to a halt, being derailed through mismanagement by the very nationals who should take pride in it. This is in spite of what politicians say: “Watanzania tunaweza!” Labour disharmony, delayed workers’ salaries, lack of mechanical, administrative, technical and financial capacity to judiciously manage and take forward this very futuristic project intended to decongest Dar es Salaam roads are threatening to derail an important project of the Fifth Phase government of President John Magufuli.

What more can the president do after initiating the project, elbowing the cartels out and ensuring it takes off? It is up to the rest of us to ensure it works. Yet, all signs point to management failure by walewale the very same proponents of Watanzania tunaweza.

What we need is more than catch-phrases – beautiful as they are. What Tanzania needs is to recognize that our attitude to work is stymying our potential – be that in railway and road networks, tourism...

We need to stop now and have this conversation if we are to meet our national development goals.