• If it is not a wife or a husband, it is a son, a daughter, a brother or a close family member who will be given a senior position in the government just because they are related to a leader in that sector. And majorly, that is what has been going on in many African nations.

    From Africa’s leading economies to the least developing ones, nepotism, the practice among those with power or influence of favoring relatives or friends, especially by giving them jobs, is a wide-spread vice that curtails development by ensuring that power and money remain among few members or groups.

    In this article, we look at some of the African leaders who have been caught up in controversial appointments of some individuals who happen to be family members into key ministerial or leadership positions in parastatals.

    Liberia’s Sirleaf family

    In 2012, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was accused by some members of her own party of favoritism- appointing close relatives in top government jobs.

    Apparently, the President had at least 17 of her relatives in leading positions in the government, which fueled the scuffles among party members who called for her resignation claiming that she had “become unpopular in the party.”

    According to the opponents, the Nobel peace laureate was accused of assigning sons and other relatives key positions in the government including the central bank, state oil company among other agencies.

    Speaking to Reuters, Patrick S. Tiah, party chairman on the youth policies that Johnson-Sirleaf put at the center of her winning campaign in 2011, said her son Robert Sirleaf was chairman of the National Oil Company, son Charles was deputy central bank governor and son Fumba head of the National Security Agency.

    As if that was not enough, in February 2016, Liberian central bank appointed Charles Sirleaf as interim governor after serving as deputy bank governor of the apex bank. His appointment aroused fresh allegations of nepotism against Sirleaf, who is expected to step down in 2017 after the expiry of her term. Robert Sirleaf was forced to resign as the chairman of the state oil company in 2013 after succumbing to heavy criticism.

    The Zuma’s in South Africa

    South African President Jacob Zuma was accused of nepotism after appointing his 25-year old daughter, Thuthukile Zuma, as a public liaison officer to the powerful position of chief of staff in 2014.

    Thuthukile, Zuma’s youngest daughter’s appointment to the key position sparked outrage and allegations of nepotism from many citizens. Despite having the qualifications needed for the job, what irked South Africans was the fact that the 1m rand ($65940) job was allegedly not advertised.

    Apart from nepotism, the President has also been accused of corruption. He is said to have spent taxpayers’ money to upgrade his family homestead. Other than the 2014 appointment, there are other Zuma's holding different positions in the different companies which have won contracts with the government in manners that have aroused suspicion of favoritism.

    Angola’s Santos family

    Most recently, President Jose Eduardo dos Santos appointed his daughter as head of the state-owned oil company Sonangol.

    Having major stakes in the oil fields, in a country that is best known for its oil deposits, is considered power in itself. As such, by strategically placing Isabel dos Santos, 43, at the helm of the state oil company, Santos move is seen as a strategy to control the country even after he steps down in 2018.

    Isabel, who is also nicknamed “the princess” has had dealings with the state including being involved in a deal between a government-owned mining company, and an international diamond company. She is worth $3.3 billion, has assets (25%) in Angola’s largest mobile telecommunications company, some 19 percent of Banco BIC, the country's fourth-largest bank, and a 7 percent stake in the Portuguese oil and gas firm among others.

    Meanwhile, Isabel’s half-brother Jose Filomeno dos Santos is the chairman of Angola’s Sovereign Trust Fund Company, Fundo Soberano de Angola.

    In addition to the above-mentioned leaders, others accused of nepotism include President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, whose son’s recent appointment to the position of Major General, heading the Special Forces Command (SFC) ignited controversies. The Bongos of Gabon have also been blamed for furthering nepotism in the country. Other leaders are from Libya, Senegal, Equatorial Guinea, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Togo.

    Development in Africa is partly pegged on how quickly we rid our continent of hierarchies of convenience that curtail our efforts to reach the Agenda 2063.


    Image credit: AFP/Paballo Thekiso