As Chief Executive Officer of the NEPAD Agency, I worked under former Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi for three years, in his capacity as Chairperson of the NEPAD Heads of State and Government Orientation Committee.
The most striking feature I remember of him was his capacity to grasp complex issues and simplify them; beyond intelligence, it was fundamentally the translation of a vision into ordinary processes that was a constituent part of leadership.
Our meetings were regular, brief and always ended in two steps: with a clear conclusion and a moment of humour!
Africa in its transition today is in dire need of responsible, strategic and caring leadership; I am not among those who think that Africa is rising; but rather among those who believe that Africa has all the potential to rise under capable and adequate leadership.
Ethiopia’s transformation is the product of his thinking – ownership of strategic orientation; organization of the state in order to achieve the intended goals, and resolute determination to implement. These three factors can be considered as essential preconditions of success in our continent.
Today as we remember his memory, it is needless to say that we miss him. We were lucky to have him with us in the African Union because he made a difference by lifting our imagination out of boring debates and entrenching our will with clear perspectives.
“Formulate any diagnosis in your own terms…,” was one of Prime Minister Meles’s favourite expressions. Today most of Africa’s diagnosis is formulated within the continent. He encouraged us to take ownership of our development strategy. This was an essential criterion for him. And Nepad , now over a decade old has shown the way of not relying on external thinking
The late Ethiopian Prime Minister showed us an intelligent way to enhance our interest, particularly in three critical areas: trade, industrialization and climate related issues. Wherefore, it is vital that Africans remember that the only way to make progress is to enhance systematically the interests of our people and translate these into adequate policies. It is a long term process paved by many obstacles – mainly human and subjective one that cannot be resolved without a prospective focus.
By making complexity affordable and strategy indispensable, Meles Zenawi showed us effective leadership of a not-so-easy task.