What Africa can learn about family from European leaders

Tony Zakaria

ONE of my contacts recently shared a note with a list of European leaders who have no offspring. As a Tanzanian I was like, what?

This cannot be true. Maybe it is one of those things shared on social media that people never bother to check for accuracy before forwarding. So I decided to find out for myself. After all, what goes on in the lives of political leaders is public knowledge.

This was not a fact checking organisation verifying what Trump said about his political opponents during a campaign type rally in Florida but me doing a bit of research on the internet. And when I found there was some truth to it, I decided to make comparisons with our own leaders in Africa.

Truth is elusive these days. What is good for Europe must be super good for Africa, right? So here is my head to head comparisons of some of them leaders from the two continents.

Germany is the economic powerhouse of Europe and the origin of my favorite car purportedly named after girlfriend Mercedes. Perhaps if our African scientists and entrepreneurs worked hard to discover new inventions with girlfriend names, Africa would be super rich.

The Chancellor apparently has no kids of her own. She stood firm and took in thousands of refugee kids, families and individuals from Syria and North Africa, something that is costing her politically.

Oh well, she has a big heart and an enlightened vision for the world. And is well educated with a doctorate in physical chemistry. I used to love organic chemistry. Anyway, she has step children from her current marriage.

According to Forbes, the salary of the chancellor is about US $ 234,000 per annum. South Africa is the engine of economic growth in Africa. Nigeria may be the richest African nation but that is mostly from oil, whereas the land of Madiba has a lot of wealth in manufacturing, service provision and mining. Perhaps this is why the president’s salary is a staggering $ 223,000 and among the top ten of the world leaders pay.

The current SA president has had a half a dozen wives, four are current and according to Wikipedia, 20 estimated children. I think my grandpa Naleo would have approved of his family size. Naleo was busy as war general for his people, otherwise my grandpa would have a few wives too. He managed to produce 11 offspring from his Maasai bride though.

Now the South African leader must have a lot of family on his mind and perhaps this influences his political decisions or policies. When I hear of Italy, I think of Ferrari, Lamborghini, Fiat, the Pope and Cicilian clans. Italy has been at the forefront of technical innovation for decades especially in the motor vehicle industry. The current head of the Italian government, Paolo has no kids.

Is that a big deal? He is my age, a fully fledged prime minister in the seat of the Catholic church for two millennia. Paolo Gentiloni has no children? He was once the leader of the Catholic electoral union.

Now he earns about $194,000 annually as PM, enough to feed and clothe many kids. But that is the African in me speaking. The Catholic in me says no family planning so many children. Capisce? I don’t know of any Catholic nation like Italy in Africa. Maybe Nigeria? Nigeria has been led by many men of stature.

If we put together all the children of past Nigerian presidents, their number may be higher than the offspring of all current prime ministers in Europe and Soviet republics. A Nigerian president now earns a princely sum of about $120,000 per annum.

President Buhari is a retired major general, with the US army war college in Pennsylvania as his alma mater. Has been married twice and has eight surviving children. This is all in the public domain.

The $10,000 salary is more than double the salary of the current Tanzanian president Magufuli. But I digress. You would expect Buhari would earn more given the fact Nigeria is Africa’s number one economy, right? The Nigerian political boss has a big family by world standards.

Tanzania had a good friend and supporter called Sweden since the time of Mwalimu Nyerere. The current prime minister, Stephan has no eh, children. Hopefully Sweden is still as generous to populous countries like ours as it was during the reign of Olaf Palme.

As we count down the prime ministers without babies we include Xavier Bettel the current prime minister of Luxemburg, Mark Rutte of Holland and Nicola Sturgeon First minister of Scotland.

These are well respected leaders of the free world. I would like to think Zanzibar is our version of Scotland, it being part of the United Republic of Tanzania the way Scotland is part of the United Kingdom.

The leader of Zanzibar is Alli Mohamed Shein. Dr Shein is a medical biochemistry specialist who became a politician. Chemistry seems to run in the top political family of the United Republic. The president John Pombe has a masters and a PhD in chemistry from his alma mater, the university of Dar es Salaam.

And is married with two children. You see the few African presidents I have mentioned have more children than all top European leaders combined.

Even JC Juncker the president of the European union has no children. How did it happen that the such a good proportion of leaders of Europe have no biological children?

They were voted into office by much more educated and economically well-off electorates than many of Africa. Not to mention more technically advanced and presumably spiritually enlightened before Africa..

How will a leadership with no personal stake realise the right of children to be protected from poverty as espoused in the European commission’s pillar of social rights? What is the future of Europe with diminishing child population?

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