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KOA: 'n Kijk Op Afrika! ................. A VIEW, vision on Africa! 

This article: INADEQUATE ADMINISTRATION ... in Africa

Developing a modern administration INTEGRATES AFRICA:


Drs E.R. van Riemsdijk
Lecturer in organization & management and researcher into culture

Gradually, the notion is growing that Africa has reached a point where it has more chances for real development. After roughly thirty years, it appears that independence alone has not been a guarantee for better administration and increase in prosperity. Former administrators focussed on old relationships and concurred in them. The western coastal states are therefore now in a state of crisis. The Sahel states, eastern and southern Africa have already had their crises and improvement can be hoped for. In eastern Africa, past experience has shown that after a crisis, administrators tend to assume responsibility themselves and start to focus on their own people. An emerging middle class in countries such as Senegal, Ghana, Birkina Fasso, Kenya and South Africa is now demanding this cultural change process. In addition, it has become evident that modern organizational culture and quality of labour are more important for productivity and progress than independence in old structures alone. However, in the administrative process (a service process) this transition has not been made. There is over-centralization in administration.

For West Africa, the change process means a new modest governmental structure with modest administrators. Administrators should focus on their own population. At present, they conduce to exploitation and violence against their own population. A new balance is needed between, on the one hand traditional values and family structure and, on the other hand, a new modern organizational structure and procedure aimed at stimulating economic progress and market forces for the benefit of the population.

1. Anti-violence

Africa is no longer dependent on aid. Famine is exclusively caused by destabilization resulting from wars on the continent. Otherwise, it is very well possible to produce all the food that it needs and to increase productivity. Violence is harmful to the population.

2. Economy in African context
The aim is to involve the growing pool of unused and well-educated Africans. This requires organization of labour and organizational structure, which at present is still chaotic in Africa, while the family organization does have a clear structure. Africa lacks a traditional culture of protestant work ethic and work division which, according to organizational theory, forms the basis from which, through working hard, one gets ahead in this world and effective organizations are created.

According to the Nigerian H. Ukpabi, Africa has values which have a negative effect on modern organizational structures. First, there is a traditional family structure with over-centralization of money and power with the leader. Second, there is an African (family) context with several non-business mutual services. The Kenyan Mazrui adds a third: a lack of knowledge of planning (hoarding up for the winter) and, consequently, a lack of a change process in human behaviour in this respect. These are prerequisites for creating effective organizations.

Empirical facts were gathered in West Africa through contacts with a town in Cameroon, Batouri. We have been involved in many meetings where non-business arguments led to suspicions of unfair treatment of individuals or groups within the organizational structure. A manager at Vlisco (a textile firm in Helmond which only trades in West Africa) confirms our experience. He states that managers who are not afraid to take decisions are frustrated by the leader by these non-business criteria, which play a role in the decision making process. Families in West and East Africa are very well structured, whereas organizations and administrations are not.

The Africa Institute in Leiden, the Netherlands, says that there is a lack of added value through labour and therefore jobs in Africa. In their experience, due to lack of stability the African entrepreneur will choose to spread his risks over different sectors. However, what Africa needs right now are investments in one single direction with more added value in order to be able to provide for the pool of educated workers in agriculture, industry or services. The increasing quality of labour increases productivity. Modern and up to date information is essential to the new African entrepreneur but is missing right now.

Working hard yourself
Yet, the notion is growing that parts of Africa are about to start their own successful development process. The Kalenjin (Kenya), Oromo (Ethiopia), Zulu (South Africa) and others have successful languages which are uniting many different tribes into people and this process is continuing throughout Africa. After thirty years of independence, there are more than enough well-educated people. In this way an isolated traditional culture is transforming into the direction of more modern groups in Africa. Protestantism has been common in many countries in Africa for a long time, and the notion that Africa should integrate into the world and should work hard itself is gaining ground. This what our friends in Batouri experience with the COOP-SAAD organization and similar stories can also be found in recent newspaper articles of people exercising influence on policy from Mali, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Botswana.

Problems in West Africa
West Africa has many problems which deeply frustrate the decision making process; over-centralization and power are overvalued. Publications by two renowned Nigerians support our experiences in the group of friends as well. Achebe writes about power (title: Termite Hill) and P. Enahoro shows self-mockery and humour in his work (title: The Complete Nigerian). In the West African macho society, power is expressed more sharply in unfriendly behaviour among each other. As a consequence, Ukpabi says, exploitation is imminent again and again. Liking from Cameroon and Tansi from Congo confirm this in their writings. New governments in East Africa claim that their culture is more characterized by modesty and respect (Eritrea). This is supported by Professor Hofstede in Maastricht (title: Allemaal Andersdenkenden) in his generally recognized cultural research. West Africa appears to have a macho culture (as the USA), East Africa is more feminine with more opportunity for consensus and modesty (as the Netherlands). Uganda, Eritrea and Ethiopia are now experimenting with their own African political-administrative solutions. According to organizational theory, this sense of responsibility and evidence of self-respect are prerequisites for motivation and the development of modern structures.

3/4 Human rights and environment
A general design process has been formulated by SID (Society International Development) which the author transformed into a circular model. For Africa, this process is taking shape in East Africa where it is generating the necessary stability. Only within this framework will economic development have a chance throughout Africa and will African societies as a whole be better managed in the next decade. In addition, human rights and environmental issues are part of this design process. We will now present solutions as to how change in behaviour can be accomplished in this organizational change process in Africa.

Towards decentralization of power
Over-centralization in Africa frustrates the country's administration, province and municipality as well as successful organizational structures. A methodology is essential in the change process of behaviour but this requires good management. This is why we describe good management (for each administrative level) and formulate the goals as applied to the situtation in Africa. The model shows institutions in an international context.
Goals and country's institutions

An attitude of anti-violence and respect for human rights promotes stability and creates the least exploitation. This also means that care for the society is a state priority rather than care for one´s own group only. This is immediately followed by a priority to economic development by stimulating professional organizational structures in Africa. This leads to stimulation of business transactions and better decisions in modern African organizational structures.The result can be that African entrepreneurs may opt for more investments in one single direction, such as investments in the environment. The four goals apply to each type of organization and at each level of administration. Environmental aspects are part of the decision making process.

Furthermore, in the model we illustrate that Africa can now catch up on information and communication by making use of the latest computer and communication networks as of 1999 when the telecom industry will have finished installing glass fibre cables around Africa. The telecom companies in Africa are the richest in the world at present. As of 1999 this will benefit the exchange of ideas in human networks on the African continent and to other continents.

In the model good administration also means having and respecting independence from the country´s institutions, i.e. the legislative body (the council), the controlling body (the aldermen) and an independent judicial power (including the police force). In Africa the fight between the opposing parties has in many cases not yet resulted in a good balance in respecting these values. Not only in Africa but also elsewhere this is a continuous developmental process, which especially now is requiring more guidance of the accompanying behavioural change process, which we discussed before.

Behavioural change is reached by better planning as part of good management. Planning means in the organizational discipline "giving direction to (focus) and achieving participation of personnel". This requires behavioural change in Africa. The only right way is for African administrators to set an example in their respect for the institutions and in this behavioural change process. If administrative and corporate organizational structures are to function well, an accompanying cultural change process in essential in Africa.
That´s why I now continue to give a systematic supplementary discussion of power, money, organization and culture in Africa, from the book by the Nigerian Ukpabi:

Power and culture:
This is a matter of "territory". African culture does not allow control of the family eldest. Yet, the following will have to be learnt: "restrict yourself to your territory in corporate and government positions". Thus, space is created for different pressure-groups and for consensus and compromise. This fits into African culture well. In this way the political structure in every organization is improved.
Power is also "consolidating the interest of the family" by transferring power from father to son. The combination of these things makes it difficult to tackle higher positions. It is not about the power itself, but power is the means to serve economic interests. The eventual problem is overconcentration of power in one person and of all jobs in one capital/region.
The solution is to share economic interests and spread them over the regions. Training in modesty then becomes important. This applies specifically to the culture of West Africa.

Money and culture:
The problem is "control of money". In Africa there is "no difference" between "private and public life". This in combination with the big family and the family eldest results in the problem that funds intended for a company or the government flow to the family eldest. In difficult circumstances this is even worse: one must take care of each other.

The solution is a good registration in companies and the government and a regular recording of money flows and accounts. Large amounts of money must be recorded and "checked" on method of spending. This requires training, because it conflicts with the informal nature of the African. Also, reports are necessary in which these money flows are accounted for. In this way control is achieved indirectly. Culture, however, says that the family eldest does not accept any control, for he himself controls. This means a new learning process. Taxation is also unusual and rules are often not accepted. Taxes are necessary as an instrument of the government to share economic capacity. Expenditure strengthens the social structure, as it stimulates "the formation of a nation".

Organization and culture:
The problem is that African administrators in companies and the government do not accept transfer and delegation of responsibility, because they equate responsibility with authority. The solution is to provide training in organizational concepts. "Transfer of responsibility" is not equal to "transfer of authority". The slogan "close the gap: close it" to get feedback .... "in meetings". Again, this fits in well with African culture.
The aim is also the transition from an "entrepreneurial/family organization model" to other organizational concepts, which do allow space for people outside the family. If management succeeds in this process of change, they will only then be able to reach and control more economies of scale in organizations. African governments would be subservient to the population and increase the social structure of their countries. This would result in a transition from a traditional to a modern structure in many African countries. Executives in modern organizations would then be the new professionals. However, decision making would still in many cases be the prerogative of the traditional groups at the top of the organizations. Both groups would have their own role.

Economic democracy

Governments should set an example in decentralization and sharing money and power. Eventually it is all about money, including building up of power in Africa, which, according to Ukpabi, often centres around the family and the family organizational structure. In managing any organization other than the family structure money must be administered optimally by professionals. Empirical fact is the African context for these managers and a too central role of the highest leader in the administration. The learning process in the new organizational structure is to avoid these African context problems.

This experiment seems to be working in Botswana, but the question is whether the miraculous phenomenon of "sharing" outside the family is structural in this country. There is a well functioning government. Also Senegal, Burkina Fasso, Ghana and Uganda are doing well according to recent growth statistics. Many other African countries, however, are still hesistant to steer a clear course for decentralization. Examples are Cameroon and Kenya, which are continuing to hold to too much central political authority with too little respect for people of a different mind. In these countries this is therefore still hampering economic democratization (delegation of responsibility to professionals).

Moreover, according to the Kenyan Mazrui in his book "The Africans", Africa has been important for Europe throughout the ages because of the subsequent procurement of tropical colourings and flavourings, rare minerals, labour for the plantations in the Americas, raw materials for foodstuffs, oil and natural gas, and, unfortunately, for dumping waste. There is hardly any value added by labour in a production process in Africa itself. In other words, .... is not in Africa´s interest. Mediocre economic achievements in Africa are therefore also caused by not choosing to deploy labour in production processes. That is why Africa is sharing insufficiently in added value and prosperity. Also, the culture of profit maximization in simple processes restrained investments in industrial processes in Africa. In East Africa there is a more feminine culture which is more suited to trade and services.

Yet, there are success stories. The major example is BATA shoes. As BATA manufactures a useful product that gives jobs in any country it is located, there is no lack of possibilities for this manufacturer in Africa. African countries hold good prospects for small and medium-sized companies in local (and regional/national) industrial processes. Often exporting is not feasible for several good reasons. This goes for Africa and is universal. Experience shows that in Kenya, according to the Africa Institute in Leiden in the Netherlands, these smaller companies nevertheless have to learn to focus more on exporting, as they will otherwise lose out to the competition on their home market because of lower quality. As it is, there is already strong competition between Europe, Kenya and South Africa on each other´s markets.
Larger companies are able to provide larger series in production, as well as products of larger complexity. Experience is that small and medium-sized companies can enter the export market if they offer a product in smaller numbers with additional value and professionalism. An example is the "Fair-trade" organization. Another clear example is rose exports from Kenya, while the canned fruit sector in Kenya is also exporting successfully. This was recorded in a research project conducted in Kenya in 1993 and 1997 by students under the supervision of the writer of this article (there were also press reports).

From interviews with CBI, the purchase department of Bijenkorf and importers of flowers it has appeared that importers/purchasers in Europe, after initial contacts, have often wanted to stop trading with Africa because promises were not kept and because "they do not want to make money by working", as people in China and elsewhere in Asia are accustomed to doing. So there are still a number of obstacles. The Dutch flower branch is also familiar with these problems, which, however, are corrected by immediate feedback by fax. The export of canned fruit from Kenya is going well, too.