One of the most exciting panel discussions at the recently concluded Harvard Business School’s 19th annual Africa Business Conference, has got to have been- “The Challenge of Leadership in Africa.” The panelists were of quite diverse stock and they each came at the discussion with motives and contentions rigged toward addressing the commonalities of bad governance that plague many an African country. The founder and C.E.O of Rise Networks, Ms. Toyosi Akerele Ogunsiji of Nigeria was quick to seize the day and announce her aspirations to political office, “House of Representatives in 2017… President in 2027,” but not before all in attendance spared a moment to bemoan the absence of one of the two women panelists, Ms. Yasmin Kumi of African Foresight Group, who could not attend the conference as a latent consequence of the “Trump Ban.”
Mr. Paul Trustful, Editor in Chief of Emerging Markets for Forbes Magazine New York shared his first sentiments on the seemingly non-issue status of the continent of Africa in as far as global coverage of wealth reporting is concerned, and this seemed to strike quite the chord with the members of the audience. These observations, however seemed only to be the logical corollary to the state of senescence of the ruling class in many African countries, and the dubious means by which, on average, this crop of individuals acquire their wealth, as later alluded to by Ms. Akerele. The latter argued for a two pronged erosion, first, of Africa’s “value systems” and also, of the continent’s reward schemes; à la Akerele, in countries the likes of Nigeria,wealth, and more to it, political wealth, is often times celebrated and not questioned; on this sentiment there was considerable consensus around the room.
The other two panelists, Kenyan Emterprenuer, Mr. Paul Mbugua and South African financial analyst, Ronak Gopaldas had a slightly different flavor of message for their audience, the later intimating the fallacy of the “African Exceptionalism” whilst the former championed a separation of dis-insentivizing politics from entrepreneurial spaces.
An audience member prompted the discussion of the roles of faith based leadership in African countries, from which was identified both enormous potential for social influence and constructive change, yet also an overwhelming burden for accountability. A lightning round by the panel moderator, South African sustainable investments expert, Graham Sinclair, bore a multitude of traits of good leadership from the panelists, amongst them: selflessness, creativity, integrity, vision, pragmatism and adaptation. Some of the highlighted malpractices of leadership as observed around the continent were over zealous greed and wrongful delegation of authority.
What was quite the successful panel ended on a note of hope with a charge, a commission, from the panelists to the audience, that the latter take up responsibility for the state of continent as is and act toward making Africa all what the bountiful continent can most certainly be.