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[Perspectives] Leadership and health in Africa

“Fragile and weak” are perhaps the two most common words one encounters when reading about African health systems. With the recent Ebola outbreak in west Africa, African leadership in delivering health care to its population has been called into question. Indeed, the absence of such leadership is often seen as contributing to the continent’s health challenges. In a piece in The Economist last year, Dr Margaret Mungherera, a past President of the World Medical Association, wrote: “Developing leadership capacity should therefore be the main emphasis of any effort aiming to reduce Africa’s disease burden.” But what is leadership? One view comes from a former US President, John Quincy Adams, who reportedly said: “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”