Building African Institutions for Africans

Upcoming online conference on December 8th, 2020 from 3.30pm to 7pm Via Zoom

25th Anniversary – Virtual Conference

Building African Institutions for Africans

Context

The potential of the African continent has never been in doubt: Young people represent 77% of its total population[1]; Africa has 60% of the world’s unexploited arable land[2]; various mining resources populate its subsoil, etc. However, Africa remains the least developed region in the world and one of the reasons for this situation lies in the quality of African institutions. Indeed, recent studies have shown the link between the quality of institutions, poor governance affecting the continent and its socio-economic development.

Weak and dysfunctional national governments in far too many African states lead to the inability to provide basic services to citizens and grow economies that can create jobs for Africa’s millions of young people. The weakness of national governments has led to weak institutions in multiple sectors.

This institutional crisis is not limited to the domestic level. Given that national governments are the building blocks for regional and continental cooperation and integration, their weakness has tended to translate to these upper institutional echelons as well. The creation of multiple regional or continental organizations is driven by the desire of African states to address common problems such as poverty, violent conflict and underdevelopment together. However, weak governance in these institutions generally prevents them from accomplishing the missions for which they were created and has led to many Africans questioning the relevance of these organizations.

Africa can no longer content itself with speaking of potential.  The time for achieving results is long overdue.  To achieve results Africa must build strong institutions from the grassroots to the apex of the continent.

  • What key pillars are needed for African institutions to succeed?
  • How can these institutions provide solutions to the fundamental needs of African citizens?
  • What needs to be done by African citizens, African governments and foreign partners to achieve this?

For 25 years, STRATEGIES!, an international firm specialized in leadership and management, has been accompanying African institutions in their transformation process, at local, regional and continental levels. From local governments through national governments to continental institutions STRATEGIES! has offered services aimed at strengthening these institutions with some successes and many failures. STRATEGIES! believes the institutions that Africa needs to reach its full potential are institutions that provide sustainable African solutions to Africa’s particular sets of problems.

Themes

Themes that will be discussed during the conference:

  • Achievements, challenges and potential of African Institutions
  • The path to creation or transformation of institutions that serve the needs of Africans
  • The role of citizens, governments and partners in building the institutions Africa needs

Audience

The conference will be attended by:

  • High level managers in African institutions
  • Government officials
  • Private sector – Decision-makers of multinationals in Africa
  • African Entrepreneurs
  • Leadership and senior staff of development organizations

Invited speakers 

Oby Ezekwesili

 

      • Candidate for President of Nigeria in 2019
      • Founder of the governance transformation initiative #FixPolitics in Nigeria
      • Co-founder Bring Back Our Girls Advocacy group
      • Former Vice President for Africa Region, World Bank
      • Co-founder, Transparency International
      • Former Minister of Solid Minerals and Former Minister of Education, Government of Nigeria
      • Chartered Account

 

 

Kah Walla 

Kah Walla

 

  • Candidate for President of Cameroon in 2011
  • CEO of STRATEGIES!
  • President of the Cameroon People’s Party
  • Consultant and adviser to over 30 local governments, 5 African governments, 7 regional and continental institutions

 

Deqo Mohamed

 

  • CEO of the Dr Hawa Abdi Foundation
  • Obstetrician-gynecologist
  • Manager of Hope Village in Somalia.  Hope Village offers care and community to thousands of displaced Somalis.  The village consists of a 400-bed hospital, a primary school, a high school, a women’s education center, agricultural projects, a sanitation program and a refuge for families

 

Liberata Mula Mula

AUDIO:MAANDALIZI YA SHEREHE ZA MUUNGANO WASHINGTON DC - Mtangazaji

  • Visiting Scholar and Associate Director of the Institute for African Studies at the George Washington University
  • Former Ambassador of Tanzania to the United States
  • Former Senior Diplomatic Advisor to President of Tanzania, H.E. Jakaya Kikwete
  • First Executive Secretary of the International Conference for the Great Lakes Region on Peace, Stability and Development.

To join us, click on the link below to register: 

Webinar Registration – Zoom 

References :

[1] Deutsche Welle, « Jeunes en Afrique (77%) », https://www.dw.com/fr/77/t-46526646

[2] Info Afrique, « L’Afrique dispose de 60% des terres arables inexploitées au monde », https://www.info-afrique.com/grenier-afrique-monde/

Above and Beyond

25 years! It feels like yesterday that we were in a dining room with a few computers dreaming a company that would make us world class consultants competing with the best, and winning. Africans, advising the world in leadership and management. An outrageous idea. Thank goodness for outrageous ideas.  Over 25 years, they are what have taken us above and beyond the wildest dreams we had in that dining room in April 1995.

In 1995 in Cameroon, management consultants were for the most part middle-aged white men, flown in at great expense from capitals far away.  They came from Paris, Washington and London to help companies and development organizations strategize, plan and train their employees. So, our first outrageous idea was to believe that a company entirely run by Cameroonians, with a 30-year old CEO and consultants even younger, could compete in this market.  We believed and we succeeded, by going above and beyond.  From the beginning we set out to be as professional and state-of-the-art as the best international consultants, then we went beyond.  Gerard Tocco gave us our first contract with a multi-national, CAMOA.  We performed beyond expectations.  CAMOA became one of our most important clients over the next 10 years.  As STRATEGIES! we knew the Cameroonian market.  We could address questions of leadership and management that foreign consultants did not know existed. Subjects of planning, structure and organization that had not been covered in schools staff graduated from. Questions of ethnicity, gender and corruption that undermined multinational companies. The real challenges teams and managers were facing in a complex environment.  STRATEGIES! did not skirt around them or give superficial answers, we faced them head on and enabled managers and teams to work through and find solutions. We became organizational doctors from the very beginning, above and beyond.

In 1998 with no funding, but a group of highly enthusiastic, newly elected mayors, STRATEGIES! decided to take on local governance.  From Douala I to Kumbo by way of Soa, Wum and Bot-Makak we began to conceive and help local governments implement development. Youth and women’s entrepreneurship, water catchment management, local economic development, building of roads and bridges, local tax collection and more.  STRATEGIES! helped local governments develop a participatory planning system; mobilize resources locally, nationally and internationally; mobilize the local population for projects; implement and evaluate them. We went above and beyond.  No mayor, no development agency and certainly not the Cameroonian government thought it was possible to accomplish so much with so few resources, in so little time. Yet with our municipal partners we did, taking municipal management to a level it had never been before. Above and beyond.

In 2005, on the “nose” of a consultant who was absolutely certain there was a market for STRATEGIES! in Tchad, we ventured international.  She asked us to take a blind risk of about 2 million fcfa.  An enormous amount of money for us at that time.  She was our best sales consultant.  Her “nose” had proved itself right on more than one occasion.  We took the risk.  STRATEGIES! made 13 million fcfa in Tchad that year.  Our international adventure had begun. Now we were African consultants competing against western consultants in African countries that were not our own. Over and over again we had to prove that we were good enough to be in that space. We honed our skills, perfecting research, analysis and planning tools.  We brought an African touch to training and facilitation, while respecting the highest international standards. STRATEGIES! made the often-grueling work of situation analysis, scenario analysis, strategic and operational planning, fun and interesting.  We integrated African history and culture into leadership training even as we profiled contemporary African leaders. We were Africans bringing leadership and management skills to the world. Above and beyond our wildest dreams.

Our “German Adventure” had begun since 1995. We were doing a pro bono facilitation for women journalists when then Friedrich Ebert Foundation Director, Michael Hackenbruch discovered our facilitation style and initiated what would become a 20 plus-year partnership with the FES.  One German led to another and FES, DED and INWENT all played key roles in STRATEGIES! development.  In 1995 STRATEGIES! was selected by GIZ to learn ZOPP facilitation.  Thus began a 25-year methodology love affair.  ZOPP as a planning method has long been left behind at GIZ.  At STRATEGIES! it is still at the foundation of the work we do as organizational doctors.  We have tweaked the methods and adapted them, but ZOPP logic still forms the backbone of our methodological approach to most organizational challenges.  STRATEGIES! took German structure and added in African flexibility and creativity.  The result is key to what has enabled us to go above and beyond.

GIZ also over the years became our major client.  If we have worked in 26 countries in Africa, 20 have been with GIZ. If we now have various clients in Berlin, it is thanks to the 25-year partnership with GIZ. Reimund Hoffman and Gerald Schmitt deserve particular mention for their belief in us as an African firm that could perform at international standards.  They fought hard within their own organization for us to be recognized as such and opened doors that took us above and beyond.

Our American adventure began in 2007 with the first workshop STRATEGIES! facilitated for Vital Voices in Johannesburg, South Africa.  It was love at first sight.  Vital Voices integrated STRATEGIES! CEO, Kah Walla as one of its foremost global women leaders and retained STRATEGIES! to provide organizational support first to the Africa Department, then to the organization as a whole.  Here we were, young African women, being flown to Washington D.C. to be organizational consultants for an American NGO.  Amazing. The opportunities provided by Vital Voices cannot be counted.  If we are a renowned international firm today with footing in the American market, it is because Vital Voices saw us as partners and advisers on equal footing, regardless of what part of the world we came from. Melysa Sperber, whom we worked with at Vital Voices left the organization to work for Humanity United.  She took her management consultants with her.  STRATEGIES! has been providing organizational development advice to Humanity United since 2012. Two important clients in the U.S. and several in Europe, meant we could envisage opening an office in the Western Hemisphere.  In 2017, STRATEGIES! opened its Washington D.C. office and began competing with the largest consulting firms in the world for contracts. We are still just getting our foot in the door, but it has opened up a whole new business world.  Here we go, above and beyond.

STRATEGIES! faced 2010 with trepidation.  Could a consulting firm whose CEO had chosen to go into national politics as a presidential candidate in the opposition against an entrenched regime, survive? We tried a transition at the head of the company, it failed.  Apprehension was palpable. STRATEGIES! did what it does best.  We adapted. The international market became our focus and senior consultants took over most technical work. The storm came. We lost a few national clients. We had a clean tax slate, so no worries there, even though audits multiplied. In the end, a CEO with a national and international profile as a public leader is beneficial. Some clients pay for the profile of an internationally recognized public leader, others want a public speaker with such varied experience.  STRATEGIES! CEO entering political waters was a personal right, but an enormous risk.  Once again, STRATEGIES! rose, above and beyond.

STRATEGIES!’ fundamental value, is “We Believe in People”. If we have been able to go above and beyond, it is because of the people. Our clients, suppliers and partners have all been extraordinary in the past 25 years.  At the center, have been STRATEGIES! staff.  Our company has a saying “Once a Stratège, always a Stratège”. We believe in people and our people believe in us.  Incredible Cameroonians have come together to build a counter-culture of African excellence; of building companies that are profitable and development organizations that are efficient while putting people at the center of decision-making; of using African culture and history to build successful modern organizations. The people of STRATEGIES! have done this. All African, over 90% trained in Africa, all demonstrating that they can see above and beyond, that they can perform above and beyond that they can do so with principles and integrity above and beyond.

25 years! Such an extraordinary journey so far.  Of course, we’ve only just begun.  After all, as far back as 1995 we committed to go, above and beyond. Watch us go!

Finding African Solutions to African Problems begins with African Leadership

Exemple of Great African Leaders

Since the wave of independence in the 1960s, Africa has consistently experienced serious development challenges. In this moment, as we face COVID-19, our structural deficiencies are flagrant.  Faced with a disease that requires people to wash hands regularly, we must admit the fact that 40% of our population does not have access to running water. Confronted with the need to provide emergency services to millions, we must come to terms with our wholly inadequate healthcare systems.

In this moment when the population needs reassurance and encouragement to face extremely difficult choices, some African heads of state are on the frontline demonstrating vision, strategy, persuasion, communication as they build self-confidence, trust and ethical behavior in their people.  Sadly, the majority are not.

Crisis, by definition, demands leadership.  So, this moment of crisis, is as good a time as any to take a hard look at the fundamentals for African leadership on our continent, in our countries and in our companies.

To the question “Is there African leadership?” STRATEGIES!’s answer has, of course, always been a resounding “Yes!”. The reality of African leadership can be verified over centuries and is represented through countless figures including:

Exemple of Great African Leaders

Leadership is contextual and must be tailored to the specific elements of each society.

For African leadership to solve contemporary problems of governance, security, youth employment, education, etc., it is important to anchor it in:

  • African culture: African thought and philosophy that has captured leadership theory as seen in Adinkra symbols, ubuntu philosophy, etc.
  • African history and the leadership exercised during great historical events such as the ancient empires of Zaria, Ghana, Songhai, etc. as well in modern day companies and institutions.
  • African creativity and innovation: In African cities and rural areas a large number of individuals are already developing solutions to African problems. They are building companies, creating technology, developing approaches that are often unknown even in their own countries. Leadership must be anchored in this pool of innovators and creators to succeed.
  • The diversity of African societies. From its people to its social and economic environments, Africa is one of the most diverse continents on the globe. Leadership for today must draw lessons from the leadership that has been exercised with this wide variety of people and in this wide variety of contexts.

Strengthening leadership in Africa, therefore, requires knowledge of African leadership as it has been exercised at different moments in African history and in its wide variety of settings.

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Nelson Mandela said: “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”

African leadership to meet the challenges of today          

Even as the African continent continues to face unique and complex challenges, it is unquestionable that each of these challenges also represents an opportunity. The inexistence and/or weakness of governance systems in Africa also means that there is opportunity to build systems almost from scratch taking into account key factors in our modern environment that can enable the continent to leapfrog. It is possible on this continent to build systems that take into account elements such as:

  • Climate change
  • Diversity and Inclusiveness
  • Technology

from their very inception.

The current moment in African history, requires leaders who are well anchored in their continent, who know their continent’s history, and culture, are aware of the contemporary creators and innovators in their environment, understand the complexity of African challenges yet still have the pulse on global trends and advances which provide opportunities for Africa to develop extraordinary solutions to its challenges.  This moment requires leaders who are anchored in Africa’s past, yet are active in contemporary environments where solutions are being developed from within and without the continent.

For STRATEGIES! it means that the leaders who are capable of managing teams that will provide solutions to the continent’s challenges on the scale of potable water, electricity, education and healthcare for hundreds of millions, must be truly African in their understanding of history and context, yet connected to the rest of the world and able to identify the knowledge, skills and opportunities within the continent and across the globe that will enable rapid, durable solutions to African problems on scale. This is leadership that is resolutely turned towards the future to find solutions from Africa’s unique perspective and integrating its unique contribution to the world.

If these are the types of leader we need, then how do we build them? – STRATEGIES! approach to African leadership development

At STRATEGIES! African leadership development has several key components:

  • First, we affirm that leadership, good and great leadership is African and we enable participants during training sessions to learn more about both historical and contemporary African leaders, taking a close look at their style, their fundamental principles as well as the strategies and tactics they deploy.
  • Second, in African leadership training, STRATEGIES! insists on the absolute necessity of evidence-based analysis to develop vision, strategies, and tactics. This means using research, data, and analysis to obtain objective understandings of situations. It also means identifying both micro and macro trends within countries, regions, on the continent and within specific sectors of focus.
  • Third, learning from the African and the global experience. This means learning from how others have addressed these problems in other African countries and at the global level, drawing from the experience of others and adapting to define contextually adapted solutions.
  • Fourth, at STRATEGIES!, leaders are taught participation as a principle as well as a wide variety of methods and approaches to ensure participation within teams. Leaders are taught to use collective intelligence and diversity as a competitive advantage.
  • Fifth, in the STRATEGIES! approach, there is a focus on management and implementation systems. It is not sufficient to develop a vision or strategy. Good leadership ensures that strategic and operational plans are developed; that human, financial, technological resources are mobilized and managed to achieve results. Finally, systems must be put in place to measure, monitor and evaluate the results that are being obtained.
  • Finally, and most importantly, STRATEGIES! emphasizes on the fact that good leaders build other leaders and teams. Leadership is about building people; enabling them develop new skills, new abilities, self-confidence, decision-making capabilities, ability to motivate and discipline themselves and others, ability to gather and analyze information to develop sustainable solutions in increasingly complex and challenging environments.

At STRATEGIES! we believe the measure of a leader is the number of other leaders s/he has built.

What does Africa’s leadership of today and tomorrow look like?

The leadership Africa is building today and what it’s leadership will look like tomorrow is:

  • Young, tapping into the 425 million-strong workforce of the world’s youngest continent.
  • Female as well as male, drawing on Africa’s history and tradition of strong female roles in leadership and management; building on the education and training of today’s young women, the continent has the ability to achieve parity in its leadership.
  • Diverse, in terms of ethnicity, culture, religion, socio-economic category, etc. as well as inclusive of people who have traditionally been marginalized on the basis of ethnicity, religion, gender or because they live with a disability.

Africa will only succeed when its rich diversity is equitably represented in its leadership.

African leadership of today and tomorrow should resemble the African continent.

It is this vision and approach of developing African leadership that STRATEGIES! makes available to private and public institutions working for the development of Africa.

By STRATEGIES! Team, led By Vanessa TCHINDJE , Consultant.