Newly elected African presidents have the habit of either wanting a pay rise or pay cut once they resume office. But the big question is: Do they actually take home the amount they make public? And whether or not the answer is affirmative, the next question will be ‘are they worth whatever they take home? Plus, is it necessary they receive such amount compared to their country’s average earning? Though many African leaders are beginning to live by example as good leadership is now gaining deep ground in the continent, but some other African countries are still brimming with bad leaders.
Presidents Who Opt For A Pay Cut
Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari recently put out that he and his deputy would accept a pay cut and it nevertheless didn’t come as a big news because for a man famous for his plainness and simplicity and somebody who is facing a huge challenge of cutting down the excesses and corruption in the country’s finances or resources, he is expected to do even more.
President Buhari is not the first African leader to make public a pay cut as several other African presidents have done the same things at one time or the other in the past. As a matter of fact, it is a common practice especially to African politicians seeking to climb higher in their ladder of fame or ones whose countries are facing rough economic times.
President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and his deputy William Ruto once issued a statement about a voluntary 20 percent salary cut and urged other leading government officials to follow suit. Some actually did even though they were unenthusiastic about it.
Ex President Moncef Marzouki of Tunisia, when faced with a huge economic crisis in the post-revolution period, gave a formal public notice of a two-thirds pay cut, slashing his yearly salary from about $176,868 (Ksh 17m) to only $58,956 (Ksh5.8m).
Presidents Who Would Rather Up Their Pay Grade
While some newly elected or old sitting African leaders opt for pay cut, some other presidents increase theirs either when they come into power or years after.
Ian Khama, who has been the president of Botswana since 2008 received a three percent salary increase in 2012 and now earns $66, 713 per annum without giving any consideration to other benefits and perks accruing to his position. Ian Khama is not the only African who has demanded for a pay rise.
In Egypt, for example, the president’s pay hiked from a paltry $280 per month, put in place by the austere Mohammed Morsy administration, to $5,900 (Ksh584,000) per month only before General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi predictably won election.
Also, salaries of the President of Ghana and his ministers were hiked in 2012 and the President’s monthly salary went up from $4,240 to $6,357.
How about African Countries where leaders enjoy almost all the country’s resources because it can not be debated in the parliament? Example, in Morocco, the Treasury spends, by one account, $1 million a day on King Mohammed VI’s 12 royal palaces and 30 private residences. That is on top of the $7.7 million spent on an entourage of royal automobiles, and a monthly salary of $40,000 (Ksh4m) paid to the monarch.
Also, in Swaziland, King Mswati in 2014, hiked his personal budget, including his basic salary and the welfare of his extensive family by 10 per cent to $61 million, a significant amount of the kingdom’s overall budget. Since the royal budget isn’t contended over or passed by Parliament, it automatically became effective.
This simply suggests that African leaders not only conveniently enjoy power, they also enjoy extreme wealth. Despite the fact that politicians are supposed to be fair, objective and fully dedicated to their work of serving their Nation, the mentality of some of the African leaders only says they are both power-hungry and money-grabbers.
Meanwhile, most of these African leaders often pledge to stop corruption during their inaugurations, but when they resume office, they forget all their pledged goals and objectives, then move motion for a pay rise that gets them earning even higher than some of the world’s best leaders.
Countries where The leaders’ Salary is Too Large for the Country’s National Income
President Paul Biya, the president of Cameroon seems to be among the African leaders that are guilty of this. President Biya is the highest-paid known African president earning about $610,000 (Ksh61m) as his annual salary which is nearly three times higher than the salary of South Africa’s Jacob Zuma, even though South African economy is 10 times bigger than Cameroon’s.
A comparison done using President Biya’s salary and what an average Cameroonian earns shows President Biya pockets 229 times what an average Cameroonian earns. This is followed by Liberia where President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf earns 113 times what her average citizen does. keep in mind this is mainly based on their basic salaries’ as different presidents heading different countries have varied recipes or ways of making large money in form of benefits and perks outside their basic salary. This suggests that African politicians turn politics into a profitable business rather than being accountable to their subjects.
What about the unknown salaries? One thing noticed during this research was that most African leaders never allow the public to know their actual annual salaries. They hold their monthly and annual earnings strongly as a top-secret and give the big excuse that when it is disclosed it would only cause various controversies. Just a few countries make public the amount their leaders take home – a key finding itself that shows a clear lack of ‘openness’ in their leadership in general.
President Robert Mugabe claimed that he was bearing the main weight of the economic hardships in Zimbabwe and last year claimed he was earning $4 000 a month, but revealed recently that he is earning a mega monthly salary of $12 000 (a US$10,000 basic and US$2,000 in allowances) per month without revealing how his salary had multiplied three-fold in less than 12 months without being gazetted by the government.
Still in Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe described his salary as ‘meagre’ even when his expenses are largely footed by the State, including his numerous foreign travels, food, medical bills, accommodation, security and transportation. However, latest statistics showed that 76 percent of adults in the country earn less than US$200 a month and the majority of civil servants are said to be getting less than $300 a month, an amount that is well below the poverty datum line.
Come to think of it, why would a leader commonly known as public servant hide from the same public how much he or she earns? If you ask me, I might say that there is something tricky about it.
We will not overlook other African presidents or leaders who present a misleading small salaries but control a huge proportion of their country’s overall resources either by themselves or through family members.
Citing a popular African president, President Eduardo dos Santos, whose monthly salary is somewhat a modest one of about $5,000 (Ksh500,000) but is heavily said to be in control of tons of proceeds earned from Angola’s oil-industry, and his family members own some of the largest enterprises in the country. So where did selfless obligation of dragging Africa as a continent into a greater height go to?
Teodoro Obiang’ Nguema Mbasogo
Considering the salary of Teodoro Obiang’ Nguema Mbasogo, the long-serving president of the Equatorial Guinea, one would think the country is enjoying a corrupt-free leader. The country which is richly blessed with oil, and has one of the highest per capita incomes in the world that is more than US$30,000 and also a very small population that is less than a million should be a first-world nation, but Equatorial Guinea is still struggling to join other countries that are developed in all ramifications simply because one family takes almost everything earned from the country’s resources.
If we want to go deeper then we won’t overlook also the worst human rights records in the world the authoritarian regime ruling Equatorial Guinea is known for. The country is consistently ranked among the “worst of the worst” in Freedom House’s annual survey of political and civil rights. Human trafficking is another significant problem in the country that is known as one of the highest oil producers in Sub-sahara Africa. The US Trafficking in Persons Report, 2012, states that “Equatorial Guinea is a source and destination for women and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking.”
The report ranks Equatorial Guinea as a “Tier 3” country, the lowest (worst) ranking: “Countries whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so.”
To prove further how the notoriously corrupt leader is enjoying the wealth of a whole nation alone, the US Department of Justice, in an indictment of the younger Teodoro Nguema Obiang’ Mangue, said the first son had spent about $315 million on property and luxury goods between 2004 and 2011, in spite of the fact that his job as a government minister enriches him with less than $100,000 per year.
Robert Mugabe is another African leader that is somewhat involved in this kind of act. Not only did Mugabe’s recent revelations concerning his earnings in sharp contrast with the figure that he disclosed last year when he said “he only earned $4 000”, the First Family owns a multi-million-dollar business empire in Zimbabwe, which include farms, dairy business and exclusive schools. So could it be that this maegre salary according to him covers for all these investments mentioned above.
Well, not all African leaders are insensitive, ‘hungry’ and money-grabbers. If not for anybody but for Cape Verde’s President João Carlos Fonseca who in April 2015 rejected for the fourth time, a Bill that would, among other things, have hiked his salary and that of other political officials.
Instead of ranking just the salaries of African leaders, the annual salaries of each president are rather compared with each country’s Gross National Income which is basically measuring the difference between the leader’s pay and what their nationals, on average, earn.
In all, it seems that leaders of poor countries tend to pay themselves higher salaries than those in richer countries.
The questions I keep asking myself are: When will money and looting stop being the attraction in African politics? When will African politics ever going to be regarded as one good politics instead of a lucrative business? And the answers seem so far away from my reach.