Monday, 06 December 2021

In Governance

Credibility Diplomacy: A Necessity for Pan-Africanism

In order for Pan-Africanism to work, there is need for Credibility Diplomacy. Simply defined, Credibility comprises the objective and subjective components of the believability of a source or message.

Credibility is one of the greatest emotional assets that has seen the rise and fall of economies and businesses across the world, yet so subtle and achievable, Nelson Mandela being a very good example of its power. 

In August 1952 Nelson Mandela and, his friend Oliver Tambo established South Africa’s first black law firm, Mandela & Tambo. These two lawyers, with the help of thousands of other black leaders in South Africa and across Africa, went on to spearhead the largest economic revolution in recent history, to establish the second largest economy in Africa, and the most advanced one in the continent of 54 countries. Such an achievement was possible because of the consistency in character of Nelson Mandela and all his fellow leaders and juniors, whom are still continuing the economic war as it were.

One of the most difficult decisions that Nelson Mandela’s ANC had to make to end the dark age, was that of sharing and sitting on the same table with those who discriminated and oppressed black people in South Africa. This seen by others as a compromise, but carefully analysed, was the beginning of a new form of leadership in Africa, that which increased credibility of statesmanship in the continent. It is not easy to sit on the same table as those that oppressed you, and have meetings about building the future together; it takes maturity, and that establishes credibility even in your enemy’s camp. 

In statesmanship, no one has to like the other, but for profitability’s sake, there must needs be a peace cultivated and promoted in order to sustain investor confidence. Good statesmanship, has a growth effect on economic development. For example, in 1994, South Africa’s GDP was about US$140 billion, and in 2018 it was about US$370 billion, all made possible by the ability to sustain an atmosphere conducive to productivity and investment; that is the power of credibility all forged by Nelson Mandela’s leadership model.

What made Nelson Mandela so globally acknowledged as one of the greatest leaders in modern history was that simple aspect of him being credible because of the leadership he demonstrated. He was credible. 

Credibility has two key components: trustworthiness and expertise, which both have objective and subjective components. Trustworthiness is based more on subjective factors, but can include objective measurements such as established reliability. Expertise can be similarly subjectively perceived, but also includes relatively objective characteristics of the source or message (e.g., credentials, certification or information quality). Secondary components of credibility include source dynamism (charisma) and physical attractiveness.

Nelson Mandela demonstrated both components of credibility from entering the stage of political leadership, to exiting it. From back when he joined the African National Congress in 1944 and when he helped to form the ANC Youth League (ANCYL), Nelson Mandela has cultivated and sustained a credible leadership character. It is not that such leaders do not want retribution or total control, but credible leaders realise that the cost of attaining totalitarian objectives includes lives of citizens, time, and unnecessary economic dramas that can all be avoided by creating a third option. 

Most African economies are failing not because of lack of resources, corruption, or bad leadership fighting against western media per se; they fail because the leaders are still stuck in fusions of greed and bitterness that causes them to hold on to position and assets required to build the economies. 

Many African economies have fallen prey to external scavengers, hyenas and vultures of economic resources, only because these African countries placed themselves at vulnerable positions on the international market. Statesmanship has table manners, these dictating how economies are developed, in partnership with foreign investors. Now African leaders of falling or fallen economies, often have little or no table manners enough to establish investor confidence, a credibility factor that then determines the inflow of working capital to develop the economy. 

Having such a scenario then forces these leaders to “look elsewhere” for alternative sources of foreign direct investment; this creating situation of desperation that those who would have been look toward, will manipulate in their favour. 

Enter Debt Diplomacy.

It has now become common knowledge in international trade and investment that African economies are said to be in Debt Diplomacy traps set and sustained by China. Whether this is true or not, it is openly discussed and analysed, and there must needs be solutions to avoid such traps. Only credit can cancel debt, and the first place is in the mindsets of citizens, leaders, investors, and academia. 

Debt-trap diplomacy is a term used as criticism of foreign policy of the Chinese government, that claims China intentionally extends excessive credit to another debtor country with the alleged intention of extracting economic or political concessions from the debtor country when it becomes unable to honour its debt obligations (often asset-based lending, with assets including infrastructure). The conditions of the loans are often not made public and the loaned money is typically used to pay contractors from the creditor country. However, research on the issue is disputed, some universities ascribing the accusation of China to the Trump Administration in the US.

China’s government, banks and companies lent some $143 billion to Africa between 2000-2017, much of it for large-scale infrastructure projects, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. By some estimates, Chinese lending now dwarfs World Bank loans in Africa.

This is a huge challenge in Africa.

Whilst on one hand Africa does need investment, on the other hand it does not need the debt, and to balance the equation, there is need for sober and sound leadership to stir the economic ship from red to blue oceans. This can be done by credible leadership in politics, and also in business. 

Bear in mind that the business leaders are the recipients of all investment that comes into a country, and it is on these leader’s shoulders, that the state of the nation moves from good to great or from bad to worse, as their character is made visible by their decisions. The decision-making of credible leadership is seen by growth of businesses and development of economies. 

Enter the CEO and Credibility.

CEO credibility is made up of two factors: knowing what one is talking about, or expertise; and being able to be trusted, or trustworthiness. Credibility of a person and the power they wield over others are somewhat key to relating in these fast-paced days of the internet of things, and the fourth industrial revolution. 

Power is sweet, credibility is tasteful; their mastery has exponential relational derivatives, as many people seek to acquire more followers, more partners, and more friends, in a bid to increase influence and profit, and much more so for the CEO. In such a quest, there arise the dynamics of management of all such relationships, just as is with customer relationship management and investor relations. 

There is need for Credibility Diplomacy for the CEO and for the Politician for the sake of the local business and the local economy. 

Credibility Diplomacy is the promotion of relationships centred on the strengths of entities wanting to engage in economic activities with each other, with an aim of strengthening the strengths and weakening the weaknesses or perceptions thereof.

Africa is a solution unto its challenges, and the economic messaging of Africa must revolves around not only identifying the challenges, but going a step further to point out working models and innovative solutions through our expert opinion, in order to establish credibility of Africa's homegrown solutions at community, country, and continental levels. 

The only way to cancel Debt in Africa is to create Credit (productivity), and that only coming from ability to leader economic entities in a manner that creates value and generates income, all used responsibly to sustain operations and lives. Economic development has nothing to do with Charisma, but Character with a splash of Charisma in every leader, business or political, as they manage an environment conducive to productivity and livelihood. 

For anything to be credible, it must be seen in action, and judged based on what it demonstrates, and this applies to leadership as it does to technology like websites. 

Borrowing from the Prominence-Interpretation Theory, that suggests that people determine a website’s credibility by judging prominent attributes of the site that grab their attention; thus, so in leadership credibility, whether business or political. 

This theory has two key components: prominence and interpretation. Prominence refers to those salient elements of the site that stand out and that the users are likely to notice. Interpretation refers to how people judge those elements. For example, a colourful animated banner ad will be very easily noticed (prominent) and people may judge the site credibility based on it (e.g., by assuming that the site should not be trusted because it has obnoxious ads).

According to this theory, Nelson Mandela was a credible leader because he was prominent, someone that stood out, had the charisma, whilst all leadership demonstrated was interpreted great leadership by both parties of the South Africa Apartheid War. Black people loved his prominence as much as white people did and still do. Black people loved Mandela, as do white people, an interpretation that is even well celebrated during Mandela Day. 

Nelson Mandela was a good negotiator, a good advocate, a good communicator, and a good decision maker, on behalf of a people that needed such leadership. That is credibility developed over time, a diplomatic mission that even a start-up must master.

In order to start and grow a business, the founder must forge credibility with partners, customers, and that sustained over the duration of the growth; failure results in the fall of that business. Credibility Diplomacy matters. 

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation, Reuters, TheBehaviourReport, Nelsons

Cabanga Media Group is a media and business services company with interests in Botswana, Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.