by Khulekani Magubane

Leadership vacuum

Grooming one million African leaders by 2030

Africa is expected to have the world’s youngest population by 2030
Grooming one million African leaders

A goal of grooming one million African leaders by 2030 has been set by the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad) Business Foundation and the Centre for Creative Leadership to address the 'leadership vacuum' on the African continent.

The pace of development in Africa, which is expected to have the world’s youngest population by 2030, desperately needs a lift, and this initiative aims to develop the right calibre of leaders across the private sector, public sector and civil society.

Nedbank chairperson and Nepad Business Foundation vice chairperson, Reuel Khoza, said that African nations needed to commit themselves to co-operation to enhance the continent’s development and productivity.

He said some African leaders had met challenges with "an empty basket of knowledge", which had a limiting effect on development and productivity on Africa. "We need to commit to actions that lead to Africa’s competitiveness. We also need to support leaders, while holding them accountable, and be aware that we cannot distance ourselves from events in the rest of this region."

Khoza added: "Internationally, we must select allies carefully and recruit only those who acknowledge that Africa must have the ultimate say on its own future."

Nepad was established in 2001 after former South African president Thabo Mbeki and former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo called on private sector business to contribute to development in Africa and reaching Nepad goals.

But, for some time, the business sector has been frustrated with the slow pace of Nepad-driven reforms.

Now, the Nepad Business Foundation and the Centre for Creative Leadership have reached out to sponsors to assist in funding the initiative, called '1 Million African Leaders Connect' (1MALC), and candidates with senior management experience of five years or more have been invited to apply for the course.

Nepad chief executive and former prime minister of Niger, Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, said Africa’s governments and business environment needed leadership that could deal with the complexities and uncertainty of the global economy to push African development forward.

"The long-term goal is to amass critical leaders, and to do this we need an inside-out approach. There are significant geopolitical changes in the world. In a world going through these challenges, Africa needs to have common views and reach a consensus on common positions to benefit not just countries, but the entire region."

Mbeki started a pan-African, non-profit organisation called the Thabo Mbeki African Leadership Institute (TMALI) in 2010, a partnership between the Thabo Mbeki Foundation and the University of South Africa. TMALI is dedicated to political, social and cultural renewal of leaders in Africa.

He said Africa was battling to address economic and security challenges on its own terms, adding that the continent failed to "dictate the global response" when challenges arose. He was speaking to new TMALI students.

Another institution, known as the African Leadership Academy, was formed in 2008. Situated in Johannesburg, it functions as a secondary school, teaching entrepreneurship skills, leadership and African studies to young learners from around the continent.

American media mogul, Oprah Winfrey, launched the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in Meyerton, Gauteng in 2007. In January, the academy recorded a pass rate of 100% for both matric and bachelor’s students.

Lynette Chen, CEO of the Nepad Business Foundation, says a new generation of leadership is crucial in Africa because good initiatives and projects in Africa often fail because of a lack of leadership.

"We wanted to convert hundreds of thousands of African leaders in order to effect the impact we wanted with a converted mind shift of individuals on how they perceive Africa and the responsibility to make the right decisions for the communities and countries," she says.

The inaugural 1MALC programme will be devoted to the business tier, after which it will target the youth and communities. It will take place throughout Africa through experience-based learning, web events, coaching and e-learning.

It is intended that delegates enrolled in the programme will, during the first year, visit Addis Ababa where the African Union headquarters are housed, while another African country will be visited at an additional cost.

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