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14 African Leaders Share Vision for Future in New Publication - 2004-02-17

Fourteen African leaders, from South Africa to Kenya to Senegal, have shared their visions for their own countries, and for the continent as a whole, in a report published by Boston University.

The report is not written about the countries' leadership, but by the leaders themselves.

The head of the Boston-based center that published the report, Charles Stith, said part of the goal is to show the world that there are positive things happening in African democracies, even amid the continent's wars, diseases, poverty and corruption that usually make the news. "Overwhelmingly, the insight that the average American has, as well as policymakers and investors, of Africa tends to be negative, because that's what tends to be the point of focus through the mass media. And what the report attempts to highlight is that Africa is more than the sum of its problems. Yes, there are some issues and challenges that face the continent, its leadership and people. But there also are some things that reflect well on the continent, and bode well for the future," he said.

Mr. Stith is a former U.S. ambassador to Tanzania, who now heads the African Presidential Archives and Research center at Boston University. This is the second year the center has published its African Leaders State of Africa report, and the number of countries represented has risen to 14, with the addition of Kenya. Other nations include Ghana, Cape Verde, Benin, Mali, Mozambique, Mauritius, Botswana and Zambia.

Ambassador Stith said the 14 countries are at vastly different levels of development, both politically and economically, but each one has demonstrated a commitment to democratization and free-market reforms. "You've got a country like Tanzania, which is in its fifth cycle of democratic elections, and you've got Nigeria, which is making its third try at trying to make democracy work. So, there is diversity in terms of development and the democratic governance on the continent. And that reality should not be lost. Again, having said that, our sense is that the 14 countries included in the report do have the potential to be anchor states, in terms of moving the continent forward," he said.

The ambassador says it is important to get the perspectives of the people leading Africa's most progressive countries, because it is impossible to separate good leadership from successful development.