Preparing Africa's Future Leaders by RyanWinterswyk



            The quality of a society’s future leaders – in govern-       poverty, and high rates of civil conflict, among others.
       ment, business, communities and families – determines             In addition, the gap in living standards between Africa
       its capacity for survival. Africa’s future leaders are            and other continents is widening, in spite of Africa’s
       today’s youth. Former United Nations (UN) Secretary               abundant natural resources.2
       General Mr. Kofi Annan once wrote, “No one is born                    The role of leadership is to transform the adverse
       a good citizen; no nation is born a democracy. Rather             circumstances that people face by inspiring hope
       both are processes that continue to evolve over a life-           and empowering them to achieve the desired results,
       time … A society that cuts itself off from its youth severs       which ensure stability and sustainable growth. But
       its lifeline.”1 The type of future leaders that Africa gets       Africa’s current situation renders its young people more
       will reflect the kinds of investment we are prepared              desperate, vulnerable and hopeless. The continent needs
       to make in developing our future leaders. Leadership              future leaders who will help unleash its potential for
       is a management-based competency that is not just                 socio-economic and political development, and recreate
       discovered, but must be identified and developed.                 its image as the cradle of civilisation, peace and social
             This article examines Africa’s development chal-            harmony.
       lenges and suggests a framework for preparing Africa’s                  Africa’s challenges in the 21st century include
       future leaders. The suggested framework is based on               overcoming poverty, diseases and hunger. In addition,
       the idea of emotional intelligence, or what the Akans of          it must overcome challenges arising from the fast pace
       Ghana refer to as ‘efie nyansa’, meaning ‘home wisdom’.           of technological advancements, which not only renders
       ‘Emotional intelligence’ refers to the ability to reflect on      Africa incapable of competing in the globalised world
       one’s self and others, and using this insight to learn and        of business, science and technology but also creates a
       to solve problems in an efficient manner, including the           great divide socially between Africa and the rest of the
       ability to manage relationships effectively. This article         world. Future leaders must be aware that Africa’s current
       identifies four main pillars for developing the emotional         predicament is partly self-inflicted, due to poor leader-
       intelligence of the future leaders of Africa, namely:             ship and mismanagement, and only Africa’s own leaders
              leadership with results, that is, the principle that       and people can address this predicament. For Africa to
              leaders must produce optimal results;                      keep pace with the rapid changes in the world innovative,
              national values, that is, leadership guided by a           flexible, dedicated and responsive leaders are needed.
              common understanding of where we are coming
              from, where we are going and how we can get                Leadership is about Taking Society to
              there;                                                     Mutually Desirable Ends
              capacity development, that is, expanding under-                  Leaders are not always identified by their positions
              standing of the fundamental issues and the                 on the national, social or economic ladders. They are
              mechanisms for addressing them; and                        also identified by the capabilities they possess: being
              participation, that is, creating effective space for all   role models; empowering others; being proactive;
              in the development process.                                driving change and continuous improvements; showing
                                                                         courage in pursuing agreeable solutions; and developing
             Given the long history of mismanagement, not only           relationships that are sustainable, inclusive and mutually
       of resources but more so of its people, this approach to          beneficial.
       leadership is perhaps the most appropriate for Africa                   Usually leadership is envisioned at only one level,
       today.                                                            namely the national-political level. For a nation to forge
                                                                         ahead, it needs not only a capable national-political
       Context                                                           leadership but also capable leadership at the regional,
            Africa is a continent with vast resources and count-         district, community and family levels. Furthermore,
       less opportunities. But currently it is the continent with        a nation needs as much leadership in business and
       the worst socio-economic conditions: high rates of under-         economics, education and culture as in science and
       employment and unemployment, low literacy rates, high             technology; as well as leadership in peace-building and
       rates of mortality, high poverty statistics including food        conflict resolution, among others.

44 I conflict trends
                                                                                                                            AFP / GALLO IMAGES
A summit of African Youth Leaders held in Abidjan, Ivory Coast (2006).

     Africa needs leaders who can achieve sustain-          rule and the detention of his political opponents. He relied
able results in terms of broad-based socio-economic         on his authoritative skills in the face of mounting difficul-
progress and development. But the issue is which            ties to sustain the momentum of economic progress, and
precise leadership behaviour can generate these results?    failed to use the best of his emotional capabilities.
Researchers categorise six types or styles of leadership,         Leadership styles emanate from the particular
namely coercive, authoritative, affiliative, democratic,    components or capabilities of emotional intelligence the
pacesetting and coaching leadership.3 Coercive leader-      individual possesses, namely:
ship is one that demands immediate compliance with                self-awareness (self-confidence, understanding
the leader’s instruction; authoritative leadership is one         one’s emotions and the fact that they impact on
that commands people towards the leader’s goals;                  personal performance);
affiliative leadership is one that attempts to create             self-management (self-control, trustworthiness,
harmony and builds bonds among groups of people;                  initiative, achievement orientation and adaptability);
democratic leadership is one that forges consensus                social awareness (service orientations, empathy
through participation; pacesetting leadership is one              and organisational awareness); and
that sets high standards for performance; and coaching            social skills (being visionary, having influence,
leadership is one that develops people for the future.            good communication, teamwork and team-
      African leaders have often been associated with             building, being a change catalyst).
a leadership style that is more coercive and authorita-
tive than democratic or pacesetting. The achievements            Therefore, to improve emotional intelligence,
of many past leaders were made at high social, polit-       these capabilities (and their associate competencies)
ical and economic costs to the nation, and thus could       must be developed. Specifically, future leaders must
not be sustained in the long run. For example, the          have the desire and ability to achieve results; the desire
many achievements of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah (the first           and ability to self-manage by being guided by national
president of Ghana) in terms of economic development        values; the desire and ability to create social awareness
were clouded by his unfortunate resorting to one-party      and understanding; and the desire and ability to create

                                                                                                       conflict trends I 45
                                    space for the participation of others. These competen-             intellect and test their beliefs – for example, by
                                    cies are fundamental in determining the leader’s ability           engaging young people in decision-making in their
                                    to formulate and implement the development policies                homes as well as their personal choices in educa-
                                    required for creating a virtuous circle of hope: because           tion, work and health, amongst others, rather than
                                    there is a vision, work: because there is capacity,                treating them merely as a group of beneficiaries of
                                    satisfaction: because there is effective participation, and        others’ decisions.
                                    development: because there is a focus on results. Unlike
                                    intelligence in the ‘IQ’ sense, emotional intelligence can    Fostering an Understanding that Values
                                    be acquired, that is, transferred or taught.                  Matter
                                         How do we help the youth – our future leaders –              By distinguishing ‘good’ from ‘bad’, ‘right’ from
                                    grow their emotional intelligence?                            ’wrong’ and the like, values define the demand and
                                        Coaching. This could take several forms such as           supply conditions that determine the type of leaders we
                                         counselling on leadership in schools, colleges and       will have in the future. Where values are weak, such as
                                         universities; and internship and apprenticeship          in corrupt societies, there will usually be corrupt leaders
                                         programmes in workplaces, both in the formal and         who have the upper hand; but where values inhibit
                                         informal economies.                                      corruption, more upright persons have the opportunity
                                         Forums for organised interaction among young             to rise to positions of leadership. Donald Charumbira
                                         people – such as student associations, voluntary         has argued that, “if national development is to be
                                         work camps, debating societies and development           achieved by any nation, this requires the instillation of
                                         clubs – should be broadened and strengthened.            national values [in young people] which are in line with
                                         These days such activities, which have normally          development goals.”4 The struggle against slavery and
                                         provided the opportunity for young people to             colonialism succeeded because they were based largely
                                         apply skills and competencies acquired through           on the ‘values’ of respecting human dignity and the right
                                         coaching and learning, have been scrapped due            to self-determination. Hence, the challenges of disease,
                                         to cost-cutting measures. We need to rethink their       hunger, joblessness, poverty and others can be tackled
                                         role in shaping our future leaders and building          successfully if they are pursued on the basis of respect
                                         solidarity amongst them.                                 for human values.
                                         At the family and community level, our future                 Tomorrow’s leaders must be imbued with values
                                         leaders need to be given the space to exercise their     – personal values, cultural values, social values, work-

                                    Gender considerations need to be a significant aspect of any leadership preparation framework.

46 I conflict trends

place values and ‘national values’ – without which no         experiential terms, the values they have learned and the
individual person or nation can advance. According to         skills they have developed through direct participation in
Charumbira, national values are the result – the sum          national, business and community affairs.
total – of four types of values: patriotism, social respon-
sibility, unity and economic productivity. The starting       Encouraging Participation and Networking
point in inculcating national values is understanding the         Future leaders must be given the opportunity to
national vision. Future leaders must be prepared with         learn to share relevant information with the cross-section
the national, business or community visions in mind,          of stakeholders. The buzzword these days is ‘partici-
based on the examples of model leaders, through school        pation’. What does it mean, and what is its essence?
curricula, and especially through community and family        Empirically, participation is simply a way to bring young
interactions.                                                 people together and cause them to pronounce on an
                                                              issue. This implies that participation is an end in itself, in
Infusing Broad-Based Scholarship and Critical                 contrast with ‘productive participation’, that is, engaging
Thinking                                                      youth not only on the basis of their self-interests, but
      Africa’s future leaders must understand a wide          also informed perspectives and comparative advan-
range of issues: climate change and its implications          tages as a group that has physical claim to the present
for local livelihoods, poverty reduction, the Millennium      and the future, with a view to establishing consensus on
Development Goals (MDGs), regional integration,               development processes and their expected outcomes.
market access, corporate governance, gender and more.              The lack of socio-economic development in Africa
Leaders who made significant impacts in the past were         is partly ascribed to the over-centralisation of power
those who understood the evils of their time – such as        and the impediments to effective participation of the
colonialism and apartheid.                                    population in national and community affairs. Thus,
     Investing in human capital is a basic requirement        participation of future leaders – young people – is seen as
in preparing future leaders. Education provides the           a strategy for securing broad-based development.5 The
instruments for such investment. Yet Africa’s educa-          Lisbon Declaration on Youth Policies and Programmes
tional and other training institutions largely produce        emphasises participation as a way to promote educa-
individuals with degrees (reflecting the level of knowl-      tion and training in democratic processes and the spirit
edge transferred and/or received). Many believe that          of citizenship and civic responsibility. The World Bank
these institutions do not develop the kind of capacities      notes that focusing on the youth makes sense because
required of Africa’s future leaders, namely capacities in     it is a demographic urgency, it has implications for
relation to emotional intelligence and national values.       the MDGs, it is economically efficient, it is politically
Educational institutions are currently structured to be       imperative, and it has a demand.6
autocratic, inflexible in the application of standards              Productive engagement entails three main pillars
of excellence, and driven by private revenues – and           of preparation:
therefore cannot be the best vehicle for transmitting         1     productive communication, which recognises
values to young people. Hence the first step towards                and respects young people as partners of today
using educational institutions for leadership capacity              and leaders of tomorrow, and thus facilitates role
building purposes is to transform these institutions and            learning;
make them more democratic and more value-oriented.            2     constructive engagement, which provides the time,
      Furthermore, leadership capacity building insti-              resources and nurturing tools that enable adapta-
tutions should develop curricula that aim not only at               tion to and application of norms and values; and
creating carpenters and masons out of unemployed              3     long-term commitment, which ensures accessibility
youth, but also at creating awareness of shared values;             and accountability and facilitates individual and
helping individuals align their personal values with                group devotion to mutually beneficial end-results.
community and national values; encouraging account-
ability; developing communication skills; and providing            Currently, in an attempt to promote youth partici-
an atmosphere for healthy debate, among others.               pation in decision-making, parallel institutions have
      The next step would be to develop and expand            been established at national and regional levels, such
opportunities for future leaders to apply, at least on        as youth parliaments, youth councils, and regional and

                                                                                                          conflict trends I 47
       sub-regional youth forums. The impact of these parallel      with sufficient government and private sector financial
       institutions for preparing future leaders is yet to be       support are needed.
       systematically evaluated. But it could be said that amidst        The InterAction leadership programme is one such
       the constraints of resources, geography and timing, they     transformational programme, designed by Africans for
       have been marginal in providing leadership to the youth      Africa in partnership with the British Council in Africa.
       at large. Perhaps the time has come for greater focus        The programme works with dynamic and innovative
       on community and locally-based approaches to leader-         individuals who want to make a positive difference in
       ship development, especially leadership through service      their organisations and communities. The programme’s
       rather than only leadership in the exercise of political     methodology is based on the principles of “goodwill and
       authority.                                                   good intent”. By adopting an appreciative approach,
            Service programmes that engage young people             participants can activate their leadership potentials with
       in responding to community needs also provide the            renewed confidence. They are encouraged to challenge
       opportunity to build skills whilst gaining work experi-      the assumptions they hold about themselves, others,
       ence. The governments of Nigeria, South Africa and           their environment and their continent, whilst creating a
       Egypt recognise the important benefits of youth service.     soothing opportunity to think and act differently, so as to
       In South Africa, through the efforts of 420 individuals      make a positive difference. In essence, the programme
       working under the National Youth Service Programme in        aims to empower participants to engage with the
       2001, 25 hospitals and clinics and over 100 government       challenges that Africa faces by learning from “what has
       buildings were made accessible to disabled people.7          worked and is working in Africa”.8
            Another avenue for preparing future leaders is                Besides current approaches like the InterAction
       through sport, art and music, which help strengthen the      programme, there are other examples of excellent
       ‘inner person’ through continuous personal rediscovery,      traditional leadership preparation programmes in Africa.
       discipline and healthy competition. Such participation       In the Akan societies of Ghana, for example, leadership
       also builds competencies in communication and team-          training is part of individual and social development.
       work.                                                        People assume formal leadership roles – including
                                                                    marriage – only when they are judged to have sufficient
       Leadership Preparation                                       levels of emotional intelligence, besides other factors
           Institutions, defined to include all the norms           such as age, gender and lineage. Leadership training
       and standards that guide behaviour as well as the            involves lessons in history, culture, knowledge and
       programmes and processes through which these norms           wisdom, imparted through proverbial (‘Ananse’) stories.9
       and standards are reviewed and applied, are important        These lessons are reinforced through step-by-step
       matters in developing leaders at all levels. The role of     participation, according to age, in various community
       governments at all levels is also crucial – creating the     and family activities and assemblies. Thus, when an
       environment within which national values are given           individual is accepted as a ‘chief’ or ‘queen’, he or she
       practical expression. But all sectors of society have a      is deemed to be a complete embodiment of all personal,
       role to play in identifying and helping to monitor future    cultural, social and workplace values.
       leaders.                                                           Good leaders are not found by accident. They are
             There are many leadership programmes in Africa         made. Africa must decide now (and make resources
       today. In many African countries, one may find formal        available) to develop the future leaders needed, to assure
       institutions devoted to leadership training. Even inter-     stable, peaceful and progressive societies.
       national organisations based in Africa are involved
       in leadership development. For example, the United           A Gender Perspective and Concluding Remarks
       Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization          Gender needs to be a significant aspect of any
       (UNESCO) in collaboration with the United Nations            leadership preparation framework. However, Africa is a
       Development Programme (UNDP) established a                   largely patriarchal continent, even though women form
       project in 2004 called Foundations for Africa’s Future       at least 51% of the population. Women are responsible
       Leadership, in response to the need for improved lead-       for 90% of the social care (in families and households),
       ership across all segments and sectors of society. The       70% of farm labour (as unpaid workers), and 80% are in
       project, with pilot programmes in countries such as          petty trading, but they form a low percentage of leader-
       Liberia and Tanzania, had training modules that included     ship in businesses or in national and local governments.
       positive mental attitudes, developing self-esteem, goal      In the education sector, for example, the ratio of women
       setting and achievement, communication excellence,           to men who serve as teachers and administrators
       managing conflicts, negotiations, public speaking and        declines with the level of education – the ratio is highest
       time management. More of such leadership courses             at the primary level and lowest at the tertiary level.

48 I conflict trends
                                                                                                                                      GETTY IMAGES / GALLO IMAGES
Addressing Africa’s poor socio-economic conditions, despite its abundant natural resources, is a major
challenge for the continent’s current and future leaders.

      Young women must be prepared as future leaders             2   Average per capita gross national income in purchasing
through the provision of quality education, skills training          power parity (PPP) terms for sub-Saharan Africa was below
                                                                     $2 000 in 2005, compared with the world average of $9 420.
and the provision of financial capital to complement
                                                                 3   Goleman, Daniel (2000) ‘Leadership that gets results’
their willingness to nurture the nation’s human capital.
                                                                     in Harvard Business Review, March-April 2000, Reprint
Educating women is a vital part of educating the nation.             R00204.
When women are prepared for future leadership, then
                                                                 4   Charumbira, Donald T. (2007) ‘Revitalising values for youth
the nation is prepared for future social cohesion, stability         in the context of national development’, paper presented at
and prosperity.                                                      the International Workshop on Youth Values Development,
                                                                     International Youth Centre, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia,
                                                                     19 March 2007.
Dr. Kwabia Boateng is an Economist and currently
                                                                 5   Okojie, Christiana (2006) ‘Youth participation in decision-
heads the Monitoring and Evaluation section at                       making in sub-Saharan Africa’, paper presented at the Youth
the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA),                         in Development Expert Group Meeting for Africa, organised
based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. He was also                          by ECA and the UN Department of Economic and Social
an Associate Professor of Economics at the                           Affairs (DESA), Addis Ababa, June 2006.
University of Ghana. He coordinated the Fifth                    6   The World Bank (2005) Children & Youth: A framework for
African Development Forum (ADF-V) for youth,                         action, HNDCY No.1, Washington, D.C.
that was organised jointly by the ECA and the                    7   Douglas, Aimee and Alessi, Brett (2006) ‘Youth engaged in
African Union in collaboration with UN agen-                         service: A strategy for combating youth unemployment’,
cies and associated organisations, in November                       Innovations in Civic Participation, New York, USA, Summer
2006 in Addis Ababa. He is currently assisting in                    2006.
drafting the premier edition of the African Youth                8   This paragraph was taken from ‘InterAction leadership
Report 2007, to be published by the ECA.                             training for youth participants of the ADF-V’, a project
                                                                     proposal developed jointly by the British Council, Addis
                                                                     Ababa, and the Economic Commission for Africa in
                                                                     November 2006.

Endnotes                                                         9   Ananse is the Akan name for ‘the spider’. Ananse stories
1   (2006) Quote from the Concept Paper for the United Nations       are fables that portray the spider as the most clever of all
    Global Youth Leadership Summit, UN Office of Sport for           beings, but because it uses its unique gift of intelligence to
    Development and Peace, October 2006, New York.                   cheat others, it’s always in trouble.

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