"Invest in the change you want to see"

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Business Class: Thought leadership – Towards a Bank of Hope for Africa

Posted on October 28th 2015

Thought leadershipI AM part of a pilot project that seeks to discover, collate and showcase some of Africa's thought leaders on a variety of issues that matter to our common future. I also belong to a "what's up" group that serves as a platform for participants to share ideas, insights and experiences.

One of the issues that sparked a spirited debate last week in my social media network was the question of leadership and the role that leadership should and ought to play in changing the development trajectory of Africa. One view that was well supported in the network speaks to the need for Africa to have a leadership that is people-centred and forward leaning.

Starting with Sudan in 1955, post-colonial Africa has had many leading actors in the enterprise of statecraft to allow us to draw lessons from on not just the incumbents' leadership capacities and their limitations but to critically examine the processes that produce leaders from whom so much is expected.

In South Africa, it so happens that the first post-apartheid President to have no matriculation is the incumbent, President Zuma. Jokes have been made about his seemingly inadequate academic credentials yet even his ardent critics would accept that he is the product of the same processes that produced Mandela and his intermediate successors.

We all value the power of formal education in changing the life possibilities of human beings but, in truth and fact, education plays its own necessary but insufficient role in delivering the promise of enlightened and caring leadership. Even the most educated persons cannot rise above the human limitations of subjectivity and inability to know what the universe holds.Jacob Zuma

The idea that the earth's greatest treasure lies in the human personality is so profound in that it is the human actor who is capable of converting the earth's God-given resources into a usable and marketable form. The power of the human spirit subtle as it may appear is what makes some nations appear to be progressive and others stagnant.

An idea was asserted in the circle that I belong to that Africa deserves better leaders than its current main actors. Another point that was also forcefully asserted is that democracy has its own consequences especially in nation-states that are dominated by illiterate and economically disadvantaged persons.

Independence promised the right to vote to all eligible persons irrespective of their economic and academic standing. It is the case that the law of majority always works in the favour of the majority. It is the majority who have the ultimate responsibility to create a government. The act of creating such political office bearers is not sophisticated as it requires the voter to express his will on a piece of paper and the result is the list of ordinary citizens who then assume offices in the state.

The state is nothing more than a stage used by actors to deliver the promise of services to all. It only exists to the extent that there are warm bodies who then assume state positions. However, in between elections, the actors on the stage called the government often pretend that the power they hold is a consequence of some intelligence yet the process used to acquire the power has no relationship with intelligence.

A lot has been said about president Zuma's literacy challenges but in reality no President in the world has to pass through any form of tests prior to assuming the highest office in the land. The idea that leaders, especially political leaders, need to be educated and knowledgeable is not new as the colonial actors sought to justify their system on the basis that extending the right to vote to savages as they called the black majority would undermine the idea of democracy.

I have participated in numerous discussions where this leadership question is interrogated using blurred and distorted lenses. Africa has the leaders it deserves and it is high time that we seek to appreciate the promise and limits of leadership in any quest to deliver a life that is inspiring. On the question of inspiration, is it not ironic that when one asks his or her closest friends to name just ten people who inspire them, one is always shocked to discover the missing names?

Most of the names that are often put forward as sources of inspiration tend to be political actors suggesting that limited or no knowledge exists about the diversity of Africa's inspiration agents. In the non-state sphere, religion often plays a big role in the inspiration game.

In relation to the question of inspiration in the context of the 1873 Network, a not-for-profit member-based organisation that I belong to, we decided that it was vital that we create our own bank of hope representing the individuals who possess informed opinions on issues of concern and the go-to people in their field of expertise or enterprise.

AFRICANSAs Africans, it is self-evident that we need our own trusted sources who can move and inspire people with innovative ideas; turn ideas into reality, and know and show how to replicate their success. There is no doubt that Africa has its own pockets of excellence that are rarely recognized. Most of the conferences about Africa's future have largely been organized and hosted in Africa by persons who do not necessarily reside in the continent.

The challenges and promise of Africa are matters that often occupy the minds of persons that do not even live in the continent. The fact that African voices lack coherence and unity is not a consequence of anyone's conspiracy but our collective inability to refuse to postpone this important debate in our conversations. Where can one find the banks that holds Africa's brightest minds from which leaders can be selected?

Most of Africa's business and academic leaders are allergic to politics leaving the political space to persons who often have no alternative ways of securing safe and happy lives without politics and, therefore, politics has provided a lucrative career ladder to a few that have no other means to sustain the enterprise of life.

How can we create a thought leadership culture in Africa?

The culture of thought leadership has regrettably been monopolised by political and state actors in Africa not necessarily because they have any capability to stop others from organising around the idea that a connected, equipped and inspired group of human beings, however small, has the inherent ability to make a difference to the quality of their lives and more importantly to the lives of others.

Colonialists came with no financial competency but the power to organise themselves in a manner that allowed commerce and industry to take place. Leaders all over the world find it beneficial and necessary to create a group of friends, fans and followers to help them replicate and scale those ideas into sustainable change not just in one organisation in which they have a personal interest but in an industry, niche or across the entire ecosystem.

It is not unusual for one to observe African billionaires trying to navigate through potholes to visit each other. They create a dedicated group of friends, fans and followers to help them replicate and scale those ideas into sustainable change not just in one company but in an industry, niche or across an entire ecosystem. We have a crop of African leaders who are changing the personality and character of Africa in meaningful ways yet the stories about such persons remain anecdotal and fragmented.

The creation of the proposed bank of hope will go a long way towards making evolutionary and perhaps revolutionary changes in the fields that have hitherto been a preserve of external agents. By investing in knowing what we have already i.e. the inventory this will encourage others to open new ways of thinking and acting.

Through the stories of those that have scaled the heights of opportunity, blueprints and reference points do exist on home grown solutions about how to convert dreams into products and solutions. By attempting to codify the steps necessary to follow in the steps of those we look up to, it is possible that a new generation will align and build on existing success stories that are uniquely African. This will add value to the process of creating a new culture of entrepreneurship founded on sound values and best practices.THOUGHT LEADERSHIP

It is the case that thought leaders come in every shape and size, they do come from any background or community and they can be any age, gender or ethnicity. However, it is also the case that, in life, not just anyone can be a thought leader. Indeed, thought leadership requires time; knowledge and expertise in a particular niche; a certain level of commitment and a willingness to bend the arc of the moral universe towards something of value or the way things have always been done.

The sooner we realize that thought leadership holds the promise that can unlock a whole new level of professional and business accomplishments and achievements as well as career and personal satisfaction. We simply need to increase the strategic visibility of African actors in a globally competitive landscape. By investing in the bank of hope, it is our hope that the inventory so stored in this synthetic bank can lead to exposure of new ideas and tried and tested methods of creating value from ideas and dreams.

Africa needs its own lobbyists who can persuade state actors to believe in African solutions for African problems and also to negotiate with often backward leaning political and state actors to think positively about the future and have confidence in the ability of fellow non-state actors to make things happen. It is a universal reality that people generally want to affiliate with those who are well known and in the know.
The movement to create portals of excellence and leadership can lead to the participants broadening their networks and in so doing raising their profiles at the national and pan-African levels. In reality, thought leadership is ultimately about exposing Africa's critical thinkers and drivers of economic and social change.

Africa, dark as it may appear, has an inventory that is growing every day of men and women who are making a difference but there exists no highway or portal that show cases these points of light. We have no alternative but to promote our own by increasing their visibility. We plan to acknowledge these men and women who have achieved extraordinary outcomes by just being ordinary and human. It has been said before that the faith in God provides the true meaning and purpose of life.

Many of Africa's unknown sons and daughters who are shaping the continent's new character and personality remain outside the radar screen but like all human beings have no institutional mechanisms that allows for meaningful answers to the deeper question that has to form the concern of all living human beings that - why am I here, what is the meaning in my work, what will I leave behind?

Any meaningful and sustainable change has necessarily to start with the man in the mirror, the individual, who wants to leave a legacy of good works and responsible citizenship. The pilot phase will involve discovering and showcasing about 1,000 individuals who, when put together, can create a significant impact on a larger scale in terms of inspiration.

Africa is rising but its native people have yet to take leading roles in the supply value chain.

This article was first published on Follow on Twitter @wamagaisa Contact at


Comments by Maylia (2015-11-30 07:57:09) from TBwqbmjZ

You can add up this:- Effective leadership is ptntiug first things first.प्रभावी नेत्रित्व महत्त्वपूर्ण चीजों को पहले रखना होता है.Without initiative, leaders are simply workers in leadership positions. बिना पहल के , लीडर महज़ एक श्रमिक है जो लीडर बन कर बैठा हुआ है.

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