Sam Adeyemi lays out the argument well on the World Economic Forum blog — Africa doesn’t need charity, it needs good leadership. He writes that “the cultivation of leaders with exceptional character and skills is critical” to the development of democratic societies. Simply put, the most important asset for any society is the quality and depth of its leadership.
Patrick Alain makes a similar argument in Industry Leaders magazine.
“Leadership is instrumental to achieving social change,” he writes. “A society that is bereft of competent leaders is invariably thrown into dissatisfaction at a small scale and turmoil and anarchy at a larger scale… [Whereas] good leadership creates a happy society, and a happy society can build a strong nation.”
Learning from East Africa
We’ve long been extolling similar principles in East Africa, designing a number of programs under the banner of Societal Advancement. Sam Ray, head of our Societal Advancement division in EMEA, explains that these programs are all connected by how they facilitate opportunities for people — at all levels of society — to discover their inner leader and change their communities for the better.
Our Women’s Leadership & Debate Clubs, for example, were designed to promote and empower young female leaders in Ethiopia. These clubs, working with students across college campuses in Addis Ababa, culminated in young women presenting public debates on topics of their choice, often standing up in front of an audience for the first time in their lives.
“They come away from the experience transformed with confidence,” Ray says. “After being on the program for 9 months, they are outwardly completely different people. They are able to become the leader they want to be, not the leader we tell them to be. We’re not prescribing their solutions or debates — they are discovering that leader for themselves.”
The program has been recognized by USAID as one of the Top 5 youth leadership development programs worldwide. Ray proudly tells the story of one young woman who ended the program so confident that we recruited her to manage the next program cycle. She now facilitates programs for high-profile clients like the United Nations.
But our Societal Advancement work in EMEA isn’t limited to the clubs. We’ve also supported the Young African Leaders Initiative launched by former U.S. President Barack Obama, where CCL facilitated a series of leadership development workshops for program participants.
“The challenge to those young people at the beginning of the course is, ‘We are all successful people in this room, but does that make us leaders?'” Ray explains. “Over the course of the week, we break down some of the assumptions linking success and power to leadership and provide opportunities to explore whether we are truly effective leaders.”
Our work extends beyond the grassroots, too. As Ray points out, in east Africa we also work with inter-governmental organizations like the African Union, governments, and NGOs focused on societal leadership challenges, including empowering women.
And in Geneva, Dr. Patrick Sweet represents our Societal Advancement team as part of a Leadership Alliance with the Geneva Centre for Security Policy to stretch the leadership skills of inter-governmental organizations, governments, NGOs, and leading academics.
“There’s a Leader in Everyone”
Now we’re scaling our Societal Advancement initiatives more widely throughout EMEA. Sam Ray has left Addis Ababa as our Regional Director, East Africa — his home for the past 6 years — to head up an EMEA-wide Societal Advancement team from Brussels.
“We want…to form a community of practice of people who buy into the idea that there is a leader in everyone,” Sam Ray says. “That’s what you need to take on societal-level leadership challenges: from the least powerful individual to the most powerful icon or organization in a society, you need all of them to lead.”
Learn more about our Societal Advancement work by exploring similar projects we’re pursuing. You can also read the full interview with Sam Ray about our Societal Advancement efforts and vision in the EMEA region by clicking on the image to the right and downloading the complete PDF.