African leaders need a “bold vision” for their countries, but they need more than that to make real progress, according to ACET President and Founder Dr. K.Y Amoako. They need the awareness that economic transformation is a long journey requiring pragmatism and other key attributes.
Successes and shortcomings in African leadership were among the many topics Dr. Amoako addressed on the Afronomics Podcast, hosted by World Bank Chief Economist for Africa, Albert Zeufack. The conversation drew from Dr. Amoako’s book, Know the Beginning Well. An Inside Journey Through Five Decades of African Development, a historical memoir that applies past lessons to current challenges.
For example, Dr. Amoako described the tension that existed between Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s first president, and Sir Arthur Lewis, a Nobel Prize Laureate in Economics who worked with Nkrumah’s government. Nkrumah, who wanted to transform Ghana and Africa, had bold ideas and a compelling vision that he wanted to realize through aggressive—and expensive—government action. Lewis, on the other hand, was a pragmatist who believed in taking time to craft smart policy, develop knowledge, and build institutions and capacity—all things that could not be rushed—to achieve a prosperous and sustaining economy.
Naturally, the president’s approach won out. But Ghana did not have the foundation for Nkrumah’s eagerness and soon sank into deep economic and political distress, stunting Ghana’s growth for decades.
“Transformation is a long-term process,” Dr. Amoako said. “And leadership matters a lot.” He explained that Africa will benefit most from leaders who set a bold vision but also allow policies to be implemented smartly, inspire others to greater heights, and govern selflessly.
“All these factors have to come together, along with the vision, to be able to make the progress needed,” he stated.
Dr. Amoako also shared insights on why Africa needs to invest in women, improve implementation processes, engage the growing youth population, and use the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to institute smarter and more effective long-term policies alongside recovery efforts.
“Don’t let a crisis go to waste,” he advised.