Over decades Africa has gone through bouts of rapid economic growth, stagnation and contraction resulting in development that has been halting and patchy. In the event, other more consistent regions have overtaken and passed it. In the 1960s and 1970s the average per capita income in sub-Saharan Africa was almost twice that of East Asia and Pacific countries, but reduced to less than 70 percent of the same group of countries in the 1990s. While both Asia and Africa were recipients of vast development aid flows, the latter had the added advantage of unparalleled amount of natural resources that should have enabled Africa to be amongst the world’s most developed regions by now. Instead, the continent’s development has lagged all other regions: Africa is the only region unlikely to meet the MDG on halving poverty by 2015; the continent lacks the basic infrastructure; and it still relies on fortuitous events such as periodic high commodity prices, occasional good rains for its food and export needs, and whimsical aid and financial flows to meet financing gap.
How can leadership be re-engineered in Africa in support of a developmentalist agenda and vision? How possible is it to build a developmentalist public service that has not only the expertise but commitment to a developmentalist project? What could be the influence of external forces either in promoting or undermining a developmentalist vision? These are some of the questions this conference will seek to address within the context of Southern Africa.