The Big Man, the Cheetah and African Leadership

In Emerging Africa: How 17 Countries are Leading the Way by Steven Radelet, the author poses different eras of leadership styles by using metaphors of “the Big Man” and the “Cheetah.” The “Big Man” approach is based on a lot of individual power given to one leader, usually of an elitist class producing a ruthless dictatorship of one ruling man.  A prime example of this is Robert Mugabe and Zimbabwe. Despite the civil war, economic destruction, high inflation rates and sky-high poverty, Mugabe remains in power and remains one of the wealthiest men in Africa. It is ironic that the Big Man politics came directly following many African nations separation from European colonialist ties. Their new government mocked the suppressive and heavy handed power that European countries had demonstrated over them for so long.

Additionally, the Cheetah generation is the metaphor given to the model of a younger generation focused on individual rights and freedoms. This is directly opposite of the Big Man model. The Cheetah generation is seen as younger, more peaceful, idealistic, and hopeful of liberty, justice and freedom for all Africans. This generation is gaining support for its ideals, but gaining power in such an imbalanced social structure is nearly impossible.

cheet Unknown images

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