Ollivier Girard/CIFOR
World News /26 Apr 2019
04.26.19

The Leadership Africa Needs to Drive Climate Action

“The wise of heart will receive commands, but the unwise will be ruined.” These are the words of scriptures which sends a very direct message – to prosper, one cannot just be a hearer of the word, but a doer. We must, therefore, become real doers because by our mere existence we are blessed. But truth is – not everyone is flourishing despite being blended. This is a disservice to our creator, who has already made the provision. We must, therefore, become leaders knowing fully well that leadership is not taught in a classroom. Rather leadership is a skill that needs to be developed and we need to all catch the spirit of it and operate in that calling. It’s a heart-set and more so an alignment of values and principles that affords the individual a reason to sacrifice instant gratification and work towards the betterment of humanity.

Africa’s Reality Check

In a continent with a majority of the world’s arable land, over 257 million people go to bed hungry every day. We have children, who would otherwise grow to exercise their talents and gifts to build a better Africa, dying before their fifth birthday – all because of lack of food.

In a continent that is blessed with the power of youth, a strength recognised the world over as a potential demographic dividend, our youth are pre-occupied with “becoming rich,” rather than applying themselves to devising solutions to the continent’s challenges. This is a big dumper to progress because as one of my favourite African proverbs reminds us: “every adversity, carries with it seeds of equal or greater benefit.” This directly implies that challenges are disguised opportunities and our youth will be greatly rewarded if they prioritise devising solutions to the continent’s challenges.

If we would just use our energy resources to industrialise our agriculture and engage our youth to judiciously tap this area, we would build a $1 trillion-dollar agro-economy and create no less than 17 million jobs. But our failures mean that we instead have 12 million of our youth competing for just a fraction of the jobs – just 3 million jobs. Meaning 9 million of them remain jobless. This is inexcusable.

Our collective Rights

The state of affairs must change for the better, not just for our survival. The level of deprivation of people anywhere constitute an intolerable breach of the most fundamental basic rights accorded to every living person and are enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And the primary agents of this positive change are none other than you and me. We need to prioritise diligent hard work – putting in our best in all we do consistently. We must divest from individualism and work collaboratively with others. We must treasure, perfect and constantly improve our skills. We need to invest in seeking knowledge – and all it takes in this information age is less time on luxury and more time on researching how your skills can be relevantly applied to solve challenges across the continent. All these values form the basis of our responsibilities as a people if we are to truly drive transformation positive change and make climate action a reality for our continent.

How you can position yourself as a leader to make positive change a reality in your life, country and continent.

We must do self-evaluation and position ourselves. Each of us must sit back and establish their past – where they have come from and the lessons accrued to date and set a higher bar going forward. We then must look inwardly for the skills, talents, intellect we have been blessed with and resolve to perfect it. We must then look outward at the surroundings and the opportunities they present. Africa has many challenges – but these represent opportunities to tap into and create inclusive wealth – for self, country and continent.

I recently heard a joke that while we in Africa aspire to run off to overseas countries, others are busy coming into Africa to solve our challenges and make a profit. Let’s us reject this mentality of running away from opportunities simply because they are disguised as challenges. It is the responsibility of all of us in Africa to demonstrate that challenges are opportunities.

We must become competitive. While positioning self, you may realise that a particular challenge you want to address needs an additional skill set. In this information age, this is as simple as doing Internet research. Treasure your skills and work constantly to perfect them. What will make you relevant- what will make you stand out for the long-run in this highly competitive globe is not how you look, but what you can do and how well you do with your skills. This is the only premium you need. So, leverage the Internet to study continually and perfect your skills.

We must shun hatred and division in all its forms. A house divided cannot stand. Hatred, which manifests itself through tribalism, has divided and weakened Africa. So divided are we to the point that we cannot combine our unique skills, talents and endowments to build a better continent for ourselves. This hatred has cost Africa many years of development, and it is time to put a stop to it. And those who will stop it is you and me. Anytime you feel inclined to discriminate based on tribe, dissociate yourself from such inward inclinations. Focus instead on what your neighbour has – their skills, or talents, that you can work together and both of you benefit. It could be that they have a certain skill, and you can complement each other’s skills and create a profitable enterprise. This is the foundation for prosperity not only in your life, but country and continent.

We must stay engaged. An area of comparative advantage in Kenya and indeed Africa, which provides the shortest route to building competitive enterprises is the agro-value chain. And I am not talking about farming here – but the linkages along the entire value chain that result in an end product that consumers want to buy. This is Africa’s area of comparative advantage that can be built into global competitiveness. As we gather here, every year, Africa loses $48 billion dollars along the agro-value chain due to lack of value addition. Enterprise engagements that work to eliminate the various inefficiencies along this chain – be it in processing, storage, and linkages to markets, puts you in line to tap this $48 billion. Most importantly, the African agro-market is currently worth $150 billion and is projected to grow to $1 trillion by 2030.

These are wealth opportunities that are now been taken by others.

Be a leader. A bulk of the responsibility for mindset change lies within the individual. The values, personal initiative, passion, drive, and determination we hold as individuals is paramount because to succeed, innovative volunteerism calls for a youth ready to work with their heart and mind. Leadership is not about political leadership alone and it is not about pointing fingers – rather it is about taking personal responsibility. Everyone is a leader – meaning we all must take responsibility to do the right thing and inspire others to do right. We must use our skills and talents to engage in productive enterprise that drives economic prosperity on our continent and inspire others to do the same. One is never too young or too old to be a leader. Leadership is not about age but about ideas. Focus on implementing ideas that unlock opportunities for all people and this is leadership.

Gender parity is crucial but should never limit anyone from ascending to leadership. One does not think better, conceptualize better and implement visions because of their gender only. It takes passion, inspiration, humility, and determination.

Selflessness is the fuel that drives a leader. One cannot be both selfish and expect to influence development – to lead. Leadership means selflessly sharing knowledge, ideas and working with others towards the common good for all.

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