Presidents Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone,Macky Sal of Senegal,Joyce Banda of Malawi and Prime Minister of Cape Verde Jose Pereira Neves unanimously agreed that the only way Africa can attain its full potential of development is through strong institutions.
Banda,one of only two female presidents on the continent,was sworn in as president last year after the death of Bingu Wa Mutharika. She fell out with Wa Mutharika and formed her own party but could not be sacked by the president because the Malawian constitution did not allow that.
“For three years,it was about succession. The focus of the president was his brother succeeding him instead of development,” Banda said.
She said this brought the country to a halt. There were food and fuel shortages. When the president died,it was difficult for Wa Mutharika’s brother to take office because the constitution did not allow it. Since assuming office,she cut her salary by 30 percent and cut government spending. As a result,the economy of Malawi is expected to double this year. Banda paid tribute to the Malawian people for the support.
“True leadership is a love affair between you and the people,” she said.
Sal took office last year after former president Abdulai Wade changed the constitution to extend his term in office. Sal beat Wade in a runoff election. He has started a number of reforms,including putting two presidential jets up for sale. He said he is willing to continue with reforms.
“I am in favor of a reduction of the term of office of the president from seven years to five years,” he said. “We have understood that democracy is everybody’s business.”
Koromah won elections in Sierra Leone last year for a second four-year term. Sierra Leone is putting itself back together after more than a decade of war that ravaged the country. He said the first thing he did was to unite a divided nation.
“We took the first step establishing a Truth and Reconciliation Commission,which was geared towards ensuring that the communities and people within the country are reconciled,” Koromah said,“because,it is important for a country that has been at war to be a reconciled country.”
He said he has committed his presidency to building institutions. Koromah said there is also freedom of speech,and no journalist has been arrested since the war was declared over in 2002. “When there is democracy and stability,it will open investment opportunities,” he said.
Neves has improved the economy of Cape Verde. The literacy rate in the small island nation has risen. He said it is very important to give women the opportunity to be a part of leadership.
The leaders earlier met President Barack Obama at the White House. He praised them for their exemplary leadership.
“What we’ve learned over the last several decades is that when you’ve got good governance — when you have democracies that work,” Obama said,“sound management of public funds,transparency and accountability to the citizens that put leaders in place — it turns out that that is not only good for the state and the functioning of government,it’s also good for economic development because it gives people confidence,it attracts business,it facilitates trade and commerce.”
Reach reporter Eddie Ameh at [email protected] or 202-326-9868. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire.