Posts Tagged ‘Africa’

Impressions of Senegal

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

by Jeannine Wilson*

The hustle and lively nature of Senegal struck me immediately as I left the Dakar airport at 5:00 am. As we commenced our drive to Saint Louis, the streets of Dakar filled, business as usual — commerce at its finest. The colourful markets, construction projects, and traffic of the city created a ‘morning energy’ different from any city I have been to before.

Our drive to Saint Louis was scenic and eye opening to say the least. The beautiful backdrop clashed with the disparities of the people. Despite the vibrant coloured dresses of women with child on their back, the little boys playing in the dust and men are trying to cultivate whatever possible the struggle to provide is evident. Upon arrival in Saint Louis, the surprising differences from Dakar are noticed in the post-colonial laid-back nature of the city. As youth fill the streets to start their day it becomes clear to me exactly why it is that targeting leadership in this generation is so important. The liveliness of this youthful generation is apparent in their big smiles, friendly nature, and love of sports as they are glued to the television watching the 2010 FIFA World Cup (See former intern, Meghan Davis’ post on ‘Sports and Youth Leadership). The opportunities to focus this energy into productive and effective manners to better their communities, regions, and country is a crucial realisation that has so easily slid under the radar of development programs. I am excited to continue my work here with Leadership Africa USA and I look forward to all the adventures ahead as I now believe and understand first hand why leadership is such a crucial aspect in ensuring socio-economic and political development in Senegal.

*Jeannine Wilson is one of Leadership Africa USA’s summer interns and is a rising senior at the University of Alberta, Canada. She is an honors major in political science with a focus on international relations.

Youth Leadership Development Gaining Traction in Senegal

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

On June 18, 2010, Leadership Africa USA announced plans to work with Senegal’s Ministry of Education to distribute more than 100,000 copies of our youth leadership training curriculum to Senegal’s middle schools. The launch was a delightful opportunity to express gratitude to USAID including the USAID/Senegal office and the Africa Education Initiative ; to Senegal’s Ministry of Primary Education including the Academic Inspectorate; and to our local partners, who have all significantly contributed to the development and success of our youth leadership training initiative in Senegal.

Below are excerpts of my remarks from the launch event and you can find USAID/Senegal’s Mission Director, Kevin Mullally’s speech here (in French).

Leadership Africa USA’s vision is to enable the youngest generation of African leaders to overcome the many development challenges confronting post-conflict societies through leadership training and peer-to-peer character building.

Today’s event is a celebration of the youth leadership training initiatives being implemented in Senegal’s Casamance Region by Leadership Africa USA since 2008 and proof the time is now for a revolution in leadership training that focuses on youth, especially girls. Senegal’s Ministry of Education, academic inspectors, principals, teachers, and students have demonstrated their support for this expansion. They have stepped-up and today Senegal is the only Francophone country implementing a leadership training curriculum for middle school students.

This is an important model to expand Africa’s peace dividend. Our leadership training curriculum is positive recognition of the important relationship linking effective leadership to sustainable peace. We believe youth leadership training at an early stage in a child’s development, will empower the next generation of leaders in Africa and our future and Senegal’s future is in their hands tied to the choices and the contributions they make to their communities.

Leadership Africa’s goal and development agenda in Senegal going forward is to expand academic inspector, principal and teacher- training in order to effectively deliver the leadership curriculum in Senegal’s school system.

In closing, we stand by our commitments and I pledge to you that Leadership Africa USA will renew and expand our actions. We understand expressing commitments alone will not achieve results — results require actions and success mandates that Leadership Africa, Senegal’s Ministry of Education, USAID, and our local partners all do our part.

 Rest assured, we will.

Are the tides turning? Africa is finding her growth pulse

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

The end of armed conflicts, improved macroeconomic conditions and microeconomic reforms to improve the business climate are some of the key reasons given in a recently published article from McKinsey & Company (sign-up required) 

for Africa’s solid economic performance. Surprisingly, the article points out that the commodities boom is just a partial answer to the Africa’s GDP growth – other sectors such as manufacturing, telecommunications, and transportation have played an equally important role.

The more poignant points of the article (at least with respect to the work we do at Leadership Africa USA) included:

  1. the importance of ‘non-economic’ factors such as conflict resolution in being a contributor to charting Africa’s growth. Our work in conflict-affected environments is premised on that the fact that conflict inhibits development at the social, economic and human levels. Therefore it is of little surprise to us that the end (or marked reduction) of armed conflicts is one factor for Africa’s positive growth progress.
  2. The need to focus on educating the continent’s youth population as this cohort is a primary contributor to the region’s labor force expansion. Making education and skills training a priority will positively impact the probability of long term growth in Africa.

I believe we are experiencing a unique opportunity to make dramatic progress in Africa through quality education and leadership training to help raise living standards especially focusing on African youth (especially girls) – the new generation of change. Leadership training is critical — what do you think?

Building the Youth Leadership Paradigm

Monday, April 19th, 2010

Walker A. Williams

With 44 percent of sub-Saharan Africa’s population under 15 yrs (visit the Population Reference Bureau for more population data), there is little doubt that Africa’s youth will play a significant role in the region’s economic, social and political prosperity in the years to come. The U.S. administration recognizes the opportunity to be gained by stressing the importance of youth development in Africa. During his trip to Ghana, President Obama encouraged Ghana’s and Africa’s youth to be the force of change they can be.

“You have the power to hold your leaders accountable, and to build institutions that serve the people. You can serve in your communities, and harness your energy and education to create new wealth and build new connections to the world But these things can only be done if all of you take responsibility for your future .” (Remarks by President Obama to the Ghanaian Parliament, July 11, 2009).

 Secretary of State Hillary Clinton  during her trip to the Demcratic Republic of the Congo in August of 2009, called for the mobilization of DRC youth, especially girls, to speak out about the challenges, particularly in the areas of corrpition and violence, of DRC.  She called for the students to “write a new chapter in Congolese history”. Here at Leadership Africa USA, we recognize the importance of calling upon the younger generations to promote effective leadership abilities that can inspire change within a nation.

Leadership Africa USA’s mission is compatible with the U.S. Administration’s emerging Africa policy through our youth leadership programs in several African countries to empower African youth through leadership training; promote skills transfer; support peer-to-peer outreach; and implement proven character building exercises.

 I believe inspired African leadership is key to Africa’s sustainable development in this global economy in order to solve the poverty equation impacting African people.  Effective leadership training is empowerment.

 Leadership Africa USA recognizes that the Africa’s future is dependent on cultivating positive and effective leadership among today’s African youth. As such, we partner with African educators and government officials to promote middle school leadership training.   Our emphasis on always working with our African counterparts stems from our view that “Made in America” doesn’t work in 21st Century Africa.

 Going forward, my goal is to develop creative ways to increase the delivery of leadership training with additional strategic partners and appropriate use of new technology. Youth leadership training should be a more focused initiative of U.S. and African policy if we are to deliver on the promise of accessible quality education for Africa’s children, especially girls.

Happy 10th Birthday AGOA

Monday, April 19th, 2010

Shehnaz Rangwala

One of the most obvious examples of how integrated the world has become is the rise in global trade. In 2007 just one percent of world trade was worth $199 billion – much larger(actually 4 times larger) than the total development assistance to Sub-Saharan African countries from G8 member countries that year.  Yet regions such as Africa still face considerable problems accessing the enormous benefits of increased global trade. These problems range from inadequate or antiquated infrastructure; weak regulatory environments; to insufficient local capacity.

The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), signed into law on May 18, 2000, was a response by the United States to provide an arrangement for African countries to bolster their trade opportunities with the U.S. with the end goal of strengthened free market economies and improved economic environments in these countries. Since its inception, AGOA’s impact on economic development in Africa has been significant - more than 300,000 jobs have been created in Africa; non-oil exports have increased by 340% and imports have grown by an equally impressive 51% from 2007 to $5.1 billion in 2008. In Kenya alone, the exports to the United States have more than tripled! Apparel exports in Kenya have remarkably increased from $111 million to $344 million in 2008 .  

The Honorable Dr. Timothy Thahane, Minister of Finance and Development Planning, The Kingdom of Lesotho,  during his remarks at the celebration of the 10th year anniversary or AGOA also extolled the benefits of AGOA to the Lesotho economy. He noted that small textile industries that were previously employing less than 10,000 women, currently employ about 50,000 women under AGOA. AGOA is having a lasting impact in many African countries.

The challenge of AGOA is in maximizing the benefits of the global economy and ensuring all people share in those benefits. There is a need to re-double efforts in building the capacity in Africa in order to exploit the full potential of AGOA.  These range from:

  1. Training entrepreneurs on the fundamentals of business proposal development, identifying the target market, and understanding the different regulations affiliated with exporting a particular product;

  2. Conducting targeted trade missions to highlight viable opportunities for U.S. businesses in African countries;

  3. Expanding access to information regarding available opportunities that exist through AGOA;
  4. To Establishing support networks for SMEs (small to medium enterprises).

Equally important for AGOA and beyond, is the need to foster an entrepreneurial spirit among Africa’s large youth population. African governments should focus on creating a generation of Africans who are ably equipped to tap into the vast opportunities affiliated with global trade. Leadership development training is one such means to prepare Africa’s youth to be leaders in the fields of business, education, science, politics, agriculture and the list goes on.

Who is the leader of your country? I don’t know ….

Monday, April 19th, 2010

Karelle Samuda

It is no secret that for a while most of Africa faced a leadership crisis, with coups, brutal civil conflicts, and dictatorships being more of the rule than the exception during the 1970s and up to the mid-1990s. (See a 2004 Foreign Affairs article (membership required) on the pervasiveness of despotic rule in Africa). However, the tide has drastically changed for most of the African countries, as young democracies have been emerging and slowly gaining stronghold in African societies (President Johnson Sirleaf & Steve Radelet note that in 1989 there were four democracies and in 2008, there are 18 democracies and counting). A new cadre of African leaders is determined to chart their countries and continent on a path where positive and effective leadership and rule of law are the order of the day (see Greg Simpkins’ blog posting on one such leader, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf).

Yet, I was reminded of the leadership challenges some African countries continue to face when Guinea-Bissau underwent yet another coup; and this is but one of Guinea-Bissau’s many problems. This time I was not sitting in the comforts of my living room in the U.S. watching the news, I was in Ziguinchor in Senegal’s Casamance region which borders Guinea-Bissau.  (Thankfully, there was little indication that the coup attempt would have negative repercussions in Ziguinchor). The general response to ‘What’s the latest on what’s happening in Guinea-Bissau?’ was, ‘I don’t know.’  Then it struck me, a leadership crisis, cripples the basic functioning of any group, organization and/or country. It breeds an environment of confusion (imagine the majority of Guinea-Bissau’s population responding  with ‘I don’t know’ to questions regarding the leadership of their country!) that is inimical to producing the outputs and outcomes needed to develop a country. Obvious, I know…. but something that is fundamental to understanding why promoting leadership development at ALL levels is critical. There needs to be a mindset that is fostered from a young age that positive and effective leadership is not despotic; dictatorial; and oblivious to rule of law.

The closest I could get to the Guinea-Bissau border the day after the coup attempt.