Scenes of Nigerian President Bola Tinubu’s Britain return in the last week of June raised many eyebrows when a 100-car convoy accompanied the head of state. The flashy display sparked much debate among citizens, which many felt was unnecessary and distasteful.
Given Nigeria’s current state, the overt display of wealth by the 71-year-old leader felt like a slap in the face of the citizens who currently deal with exorbitant fuel prices courtesy of the subsidy removal enacted by President Tinubu upon election.
African leaders’ tendencies to present themselves in a manner far removed from their country’s realities can cause a rift between those in power and the citizens. The increasing levels of extreme inequality and poverty are a sobering reminder that the haves continually hoard wealth to the detriment of the have-nots.
Let’s look at some potential consequences of African leaders flaunting their wealth.
Flaunting excessive wealth can reinforce public perceptions of corruption among African leaders. When leaders display opulence while their citizens struggle with poverty, it can create a sense of injustice and deepen mistrust in the government. Stories of government officials eliciting funds in exchange for contracts are shared across the continent. Most recently, the pandemic created a conducive environment for dodgy dealings like bogus companies, PPE scandals and illegal tender awarding.
Beyond domestic perception, international perceptions can be adversely affected too. A country’s international image can reinforce stereotypes and lead to decreased confidence from foreign investors, affecting economic growth and development.
One of Africa’s biggest problems is inequality and poverty. When leaders flaunt their wealth, it highlights the vast disparities between the ruling elite and the general population. This can exacerbate social tensions and increase resentment among the people. Statistics state that the wealthiest 1% of people have captured 63% of all new wealth since 2020 and that 369 million people live in extreme poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa.
However, leaders like King Mswati, the sole monarch of Eswatini, continue to line their pockets and splurge on million-dollar timepieces. Mswati and his family regularly make headlines for their extensive multimillion watch collections like the Jacob and Co Billionaire Ashoka, which costs $3 million and converts to 56 171 100,00 Swazi Lilangeni. King Mswati continues to splurge on and show off his collection even though 69% of Eswatini’s population lives below the national poverty line.
The misallocation of resources, compounded with a lack of accountability, continues to plague the continent. Leaders unashamedly divert funds meant for the betterment of their countries for personal gain, further plunging them into poverty and increasing the lack of quality education, healthcare and infrastructure. Perpetrators often succeed in this practice because transparency is merely suggested but not enforced. Those in power protect each other’s interests in exchange for monetary compensation or advancement within these institutions.
A continuous lack of good governance leads to brain drain, a colloquial term that describes the loss of human capital from one area to another. More young professionals endeavour to seek better work opportunities where their talents and skills will be better remunerated and where they will experience a higher quality of living. An estimated 70 000 skilled workers emigrate from Africa annually, leaving science and technology sectors vulnerable.
The level of wealth hoarding and flaunting at the hands of African leaders often sparks public backlash and unrest. Mishandling of state funds can cause a rapid decline in service delivery and skyrocket the cost of living therefore, citizens are left with no choice but to protest which often results in violent clashes between armed forces and demonstrators. Lives are lost and infrastructure is damaged, yet there is never any improvement or chance of reform.
What Africa needs is leaders who prioritize public service, poverty reduction, and the development of their countries to curb the state of corruption and embezzlement. There is an overwhelming amount of leaders willfully taking away livelihoods from their people by being selfish and greedy. Africa deserves a brighter future but will she ever get it?