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Mediocrity of African Diplomats is Unacceptable
Comments (10)

By Elizabeth Wangari Mwangi

There cannot be enough additions into the narratives and descriptions that already exist about how Africa is richly endowed with all manner of natural resources: from human resource, wildlife, minerals to beautiful beaches and sceneries. But the best I have heard being said about this continent is that it is full of potential. When will this potential mature? For now though, I will join in the accolades of other observers and say there is so much potential for economic and social development in Africa. Nonetheless, a spade should be called a spade; the international picture portrayed about Africa is not pleasant. Complaints from Africa about this negative publicity simply do not hold water. A people should be able to actually chart the course in relation to what and how they want to be seen by outsiders. This is however not to say that they should be hypocrites. The time for African states to play victims and cry foul over their treatment by other members of the International community should be long gone. African States have power and they should use that power to influence first hand all matters concerning them. One of the ways to do this is through their diplomats.

There is more than enough African representation globally through their diplomats. We only need to know what these diplomats do. Needless to say, the poor image portrayed of Africa internationally is a clear indication that African diplomats are not doing their work effectively. This of course is not to say that all of them are inefficient because they are a handful of excellent diplomats from Africa. It is also not that all diplomats from the Western and Eastern states are excellent. The deeper problem can however be viewed from the issue of selection of the top diplomats such as Ambassadors and High Commissioners. Most of these heads of diplomatic missions are political appointees who have been handpicked by the executive as a way of rewarding their efforts and contribution to help them take over leadership.

Most of the top diplomats from African states are not career diplomats and therefore lack the diplomatic skills and knowledge to execute effective diplomacy. Career diplomats are sacrificed to play second fiddle to these political appointees who have very little or no basics to deal with real diplomatic issues. There is need for real diplomats in our diplomatic missions; otherwise, how else will African diplomatic status ever change?

There is this popular phrase that Image is everything. It can secure a business deal, command respect and give way to many other opportunities. Our diplomats abroad represent us, what they say, how they carry themselves, how they negotiate on our behalf in the international arena speaks volumes about our continent.  In this regard, there is need to work on Africa’s image. The best people to do this are our diplomats who have access to all the diplomatic channels and resources to do that in the countries they are posted to. Other than this, we have no business sending over diplomats to just sleep, eat, party and chase after their personal dreams, in our diplomatic missions.

It is every African government’s role to reassess the roles of its diplomats and select the best qualified for the job. Only then will Africa’s image improve.  We don’t have to borrow or search elsewhere for the most qualified; we have them. They are in our schools and in our communities. My challenge to African political leadership is that they take time to go back to their granaries and pick out the most qualified diplomats to send abroad. Stop tribalism, nepotism and corruption in relation to selection and appointment of our diplomats and let the real diplomats be the diplomats. African legacy depends on our image and you are seated on the steering wheel of restoring our image and status.

Elizabeth Wangari Mwangi is a Kenyan citizen and based in Nairobi, Kenya. She holds a Masters degree in International Studies from the University of Nairobi.

Comments in Chronological order (10 total comments)

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Mon, February 20, 2017 05:59 AM (about 61442 hours ago)
I believe its high time African leaders chose diplomats on merit rather than their affiliations to the state. I believe that this is the main reason w
Mon, February 20, 2017 06:45 AM (about 61441 hours ago)
Well thought out piece that offers a critical look at our diplomatic practice. Time to reward merit rather than sycophancy. Macharia Mike
Mon, February 20, 2017 10:14 PM (about 61426 hours ago)
This article raises a real issue and a very practical solution. The big question is can African leaders rise to the occasion?
Tue, February 21, 2017 12:51 AM (about 61423 hours ago)
Well put. Corruption, tribalism, nepotism and rewarding is the order of the day.We have qualified people who have skills and knowledge but because the
Tue, February 21, 2017 02:28 AM (about 61422 hours ago)
Brilliant piece coherent solid argument short to the point. It brings out a new perspective into the whole issue of the role of African diplomats in s
Thu, February 23, 2017 09:06 AM (about 61367 hours ago)
It's true Wangari, A continent has good diplomatic scholars but corruption has eradicated professionalism. Even school dropouts have been send to rep
Wed, March 01, 2017 08:50 AM (about 61223 hours ago)
Great insight from the article. Africa has been singing the potential song for decades while the leaders are inept and corrupt. It is really time to a
Wed, March 29, 2017 07:01 AM (about 60553 hours ago)
Agreed- this is a critical issue that one doesn't hear enough about. Diplomats that are mediocre reflect on their countries too- and African countries
Wed, March 29, 2017 03:55 PM (about 60544 hours ago)
I couldn't agree more, meritocracy is key, not favoritism nor cronyism.
Mon, April 17, 2017 01:39 AM (about 60102 hours ago)
Interesting read, I must confess. Much as I agree with you that most of the African diplomats are not career ones, they not delivering to the yearning
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