Visionary leadership in the 21st century


By Gibril Saine, London

Meanwhile, the single most recurrent theme on various discussant platforms amounts to a question of leadership. In my own life, at least since the advent of coalition-government, one has often wondered what visionary leadership truly means, the qualities or skill such a leader should possess?! I write in the knowledge that no single opinion does justice to the topic in view of unintended geopolitical considerations. Without doubt, the 21stCentury is a time for great leadership given rising challenges in a fast-changing world. The power of globalisation is such that those countries or people that fails to take heed, stuck with short-sighted leaders shall be left behind, enduring cycles of poverty.

As I see it, a visionary leader is one with problem solving skills and knowledge of the world in tackling future, but present-day challenges. He or she must possess the right judgment to call on politico-economic issues concerning the state. As showcased throughout history, good statesmanship is the ability to articulate profound ideas on national and international platforms that advance humankind. It means leading from the front, unafraid to stand-up for values and belief-sets one holds dear, even if others may find objectionable. Nelson Mandela was one such great leader, bold, intelligent, unselfish, humble, standing tall on principle & value-sets he lived ready to die for. Burkina Faso’s Thomas Sankare, Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere, Gambia’s own president Jawara were such greats of regime-past shining transformational pathways with peace at the core. How very strange then Africa almost never again produce great politicians of that magnitude? Correction – the countries of Ghana, Botswana, Tanzania & Rwanda are under the cusps of major change.


In president Barrow terms – visionary leadership is the ability to unite and lead a distressed nation just rescued from the shackles of tyrannical rule, civil service reform with impartiality + neutrality at its heart, uphold rule of law ensuring that traditions & norms of democracy are home to stay. For the coalition-government – it means the ability to program and project transformational change capturing the pool of talent cross-department to streamline unmitigated challenges facing the country. In this century, successful leaders shall be those with foresight to translate crisis into solutions in thoughtful ways beneficial to all.
Still, visionary leadership means a government making best use of public finances & donor aid, and that contracts are procured on merit without bribes; to institute a permanent anti-Corruption Commission keep oversight & watch against corrupt practices. Appearing on CNN, Singaporean Urban expert, Parag Khanna, outlined, ‘leadership today is about who provides the infrastructure financing, technical assistance, construction equipment & other essential underpinnings of modernisation most of the world still needs to achieve’.

There are various dimensions to the presidency which has come to define The Gambia’s situational challenges – national security strategy, economic planning, diplomatic engagements, Trade + Industry + Jobs masterplan + diaspora strategy. How vexing then to see the exploitation of Gambian high seas, telecoms industry, petroleum sourcing, timber resources & others, as if a presidency under sleep, compromised or both. The government needs to diversify economic activity away from the confines of Banjul and stretches of ‘Kombos’. That may involve incentives requiring banks and telecoms providers in the country to set up customer service centres further inland creating jobs spread employment opportunities, address rural-urban drift too. There is a need for all banks to open branches in local towns and villages with internet ‘Wifi Free Zones’ help uplift an otherwise underclass into the modern.

In new Gambia – leadership is much more than sitting at the ‘palace’ to be seen out when it suits the agenda. A visionary leader is one who problematise a country’s situation, brainstorm remedial ideas at cabinet but departmental level experts to arrive at best solutions. The ‘Coalition’ appears as if a flat tyre devoid of ideas or programs to excite the citizenry into nation building. ‘Mann summa Giss Giss Moii’ of a ‘reactionary crew’ content with slow pace, instead of the ‘proactive machine’ the people had voted in to transform their lives.

Rising to the highest office in the land with a simple message of ‘HOPE’, history shall judge President Obama to be one of the great leaders of the 21stCentury. During his reign, he didn’t buy cars, build homes but governed in America’s national interest. Nelson Mandela came and went just to unite & raise a new South Africa. We also saw former Liberian president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, won the $5 million Mo Ibrahim Foundation prize for good leadership. Are those great legacies not bright enough for Gambia’s politicians taking oath to serve national interest at all times – the ‘Holy Quran’ or ‘Bible’ in hand:

I think the president should travel across the land eye up concern and struggles of everyday Gambians, chronic poverty & depravation ordinary folks are grappling with. But I suspect he already knew hence a poor man himself barely two years ago. Although not pointing fingers at the administration for the everyday woes, blaming ‘Jammeh’ should now let up for the courts; hence The Gambia’s successes and failures squarely rest with the Barrow-government. The main task was to dig us out of the economic mess inherited, jobs+jobs+jobs, yet national debt has ballooned except for a finance minister unable to strategise the revival of domestic industry!!!
The Governor of URR, Fatou Jammeh-Touray, deserve congratulations showing great leadership in that region. No offence to the youth folk, but three million dalasi was thrown down the pan at NAYCOF with no industry or jobs to show for it. Young people need to be critical in thought, question ideas & normalised situations inherited from ‘dictator-years’. Moving forward, the country’spoliticians need to equate vision to optimal beneficial gains in terms of prosperity for all. A Visionary leader, therefore, is one of immense intellect, who reflects, embark on assault, NOT to harm, but better livelihoods for all under govern.