Having established that all our people want is development, it follows that someone has to lead the charge. What kind of development do we need and want? In what sequence do we implement the different aspects and levels of development, and at what pace?
We have established in our Development series that at the technical level, development means different things to different nations. The priorities will differ. That means that every nation-state has to define development for itself. We cannot import Nation X’s definition of development. Although we may borrow elements of it, those elements have to be prioritized according to our needs and the context of our environment. Blanket formulas for development handed down from elsewhere will not work. They cannot be super-imposed on us – not even if a few million dollars are thrown at us. One cannot pay a Liberian woman a million dollars to wear an ill-fitting lappa suit to church.
So how do we determine how we implement development? We need leadership. Our solutions will have to start from within. We will need to first clean house at home and set some priorities for ourselves. We will need to better manage what we have before we go elsewhere to bring anything else in.
Economically, it would behoove us to determine our opportunity costs. Wouldn’t it be less expensive for us to grow our own food than to import it? Shouldn’t we begin to prioritize the Made-in-Liberia brand?
There’s just one problem. CORRUPTION, the mindset of our people. Corruption was never just a government thing. Government simply became a showcase for corruption. The disease is a national pandemic, and this is where the leadership aspect will apply most forcefully. This is where THOUGHT LEADERSHIP will rule the day.
When we say Thought Leadership, we talk about inspiring change in the mindset of the people. That means from corruption to brand integrity. From dependency to self-sufficiency; not just in food but in everything. From foreign domination to Liberianization. From indiscipline to discipline. From African Time to Universal Central Time. From consumerism to production-ism. From apathy to collective commitment. From receivership as a nation to leadership as a nation. Yes, it will be a rebranding of ourselves and of our nation-state.
Thought leadership will need to be the new foundation upon which we build any development. Otherwise, any development will be unsustainable, and breakdowns will become a daily occurrence.
Looking forward, though, these phenomena must go on to apply continent-wide. Thought Leadership must inspire intra-African trade. Brand Africa must become a priority. And why do we need Thought Leadership now more than ever? Because the battles that divide us are psychological before they manifest as physical. We need leadership that will inspire the continent-wide realization that we sink or swim as an African continent.
This is a very exciting prospect for the future of the African continent. And yes, it is absolutely possible in our lifetime! But who will those leaders be that will collaborate to form a Consortium of Thought Leadership focused on the unity and advancement of the African continent?
Then again, while collaboration will be crucial, it may just take one man or woman to lead the charged. That is not strange. We think of Madiba; Martin Luther King; Barack Obama; Joseph Jenkins Roberts, our own first Liberian thought leader; William V.S. Tubman, father of the concept of African Unity and of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) that is now the African Union (AU). It is not that these men were flawless. No. It is that they had a leadership-worthy vision in their time. They inspired and built foundations for nations; continents.
Who will Liberia’s next thought leader be? Who will lead the continent of Africa into the greatness for which it is destined?