Paul Kagame and Filipe NyusiDecision Makers Leaders 

The real challenge to Africa’s leaders

2017 is an important year for Africa, marking the transition from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and from the New Economic Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) to Agenda 2063. But, say analysts, achieving these goals will require a tight network of collaborating leaders.


With Sub-Saharan Africa expected to represent approximately 20% of the world’s population (and 65% of its poverty) by 2030, the pressure is on for the new generation of African leaders to develop solutions that break down barriers rather than reinforce them.

One way is to work together and find solutions to real problems in a questioning environment, says Dr Marianne Camerer, member of the LeAD Campus faculty and Programme Director of Building Bridges, a policy-focussed research and outreach programme at the UCT Graduate School of Development Policy and Practice (GSDPP).


She says only a minority of political, social and professional leaders are afforded the opportunity to network with their peers at a deeper level, across sectors and in different locations. This level of focus is extremely valuable both on an individual and broader social scale, as well as to effect change, she adds.


“There is a growing understanding that there is a need for different solutions. We need intellectual rejuvenation. It’s about building trust and new networks, being in conversation with people who are African and committed to development, as well as professional leadership,” Camerer argues.


According to the MDGs Agenda 2063/SDGs transition report launched in Kigali, Rwanda recently, African leaders were advised to strive for inclusive leadership and an integrated approach to driving growth.


But is this happening on the ground? The report indicated that Africa demonstrated solid economic growth over 15 years, with several countries averaging 5% or more. Those surviving on less than $1.25 dollars per day decreased from 56% in 1990 to 48% in 2010. The continent also progressed in five of eight MDGs, namely net primary enrolment, enhancing gender equality, empowering women, reducing child mortality, decreasing the spread of HIV and AIDS and driving environmental sustainability.


Still, other challenges remain, particularly economic and social inequality, with over 40% of the population still living in poverty.


“A barrier to achieving sustainable and inclusive growth in Africa remains that many of the continent’s emerging leaders work in insular environments,” Camerer says.


To achieve this next level of growth and do so sustainably, inclusive leadership, which incorporates input from multiple levels of stakeholders, is the way forward. “This is a call to leadership — the type of leadership evidenced by one’s ability to learn from others, develop a shared vision, and build cultural bridges,” Leadership Author and Civil Rights Attorney Dr Artika Tyner recently wrote in the Huffington Post.


Camerer is one of a number of movers and shakers attempting to answer this call by developing Africa’s leaders from the ground up. She and other members of the LeAD Campus faculty are passionate advocates for this cause. In coordination with African corporations, the certificate-awarding programme is coordinated by four African and French institutions: Sciences Po (France), the Higher Institute of Management in Dakar (Senegal), the Graduate School of Development Policy and Practice (GSDPP) of the University of Cape Town (South Africa) and the CEFEB, the corporate university of the French Development Agency (AFD). LeAD Campus’s goal, say its mentors, is to identify the current and future leaders of Africa, develop their skills and projects, and help them to contribute to a sustainable and inclusive growth across the continent.


In practical terms, this means helping emerging leaders expand their professional networks, pursue their professional goals, master the fundamental skills needed to structure and develop their business, actively contribute to the development of the continent through their professional projects, and ensure their business properly addresses issues of sustainable and inclusive development. They’re also assisted in strengthening their leadership skills – including the fundamentals of management – their vision and ability to innovate.


This, believes Camerer, is a business imperative in Africa today.


She’s not alone. The African Leadership Academy’s Lorem Aminathia – a campaigner for greater representation of the agricultural sector in Africa’s growth plan – shares these sentiments, arguing for inclusive leadership and the building of relationships between sectors to drive sustainable growth in Africa. Should this occur, he argues, “growth will trickle down to the most disadvantaged: youth and women”.


Camerer says this type of leadership requires substantial mutual trust and respect from all parties. “One way to do this is through bringing diverse emerging leaders together in a classroom environment through tertiary education or executive education, where they can learn from each other,” she says.


But these opportunities are not always accessible or scholarships are not always available. There may be financial barriers to networking and travelling opportunities for emerging leaders, or female leaders may not always get away from their domestic obligations.


“Despite this, there is increasing interest in building cross-sectoral relationships amongst leaders, and foreign investment in such initiatives is increasing because there is a desire for Africa to work. There is a thirst for knowledge, for seeing how things are done elsewhere in the world,” Camerer says.


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