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Business should drive Africa’s change, has the resources

Schools of management development, including business schools, should take serious note of the Africa Competitiveness Report 2016 and the advice it offers in the context of the African Union Vision 2063.

This is in order to close the gap between Africa’s current reality and the normative future that the African Union envisions and to elevate the 11 million leaders and their institutions and organisations in governments, business and civil society on the continent.
This vision embrace the will to:

  •     enjoy inclusive and sustainable growth with all stakeholders respecting our ecological constraints;
  •     live on an integrated continent, making optimal use of our interdependency;
  •     experience the safety that responsible governance, respected human rights, and the upholding of the rule of law brings;
  •     raise and educate our children in a peaceful and secure environment where quality of life is considered seriously;
  •     thrive in our cultural diversity, guided by an ethos where we value fairness and equality for all;
  •     be of service to others as a people-driven society, focusing on women and youth in particular; and
  •     take our place centre stage as a resilient global player.

In order to contribute to this vision the following five points offer a strong suggestion for what should, pragmatically, be on the development agenda of management schools:
  • Transformative leaders should be equipped to step up and strengthen the institutions which they lead on all levels to be of service to our people. Our schools ought consciously to contribute to ethically shaped managers who authentically commit to democratic governance and so “encourage a healthy dialogue between the public sector and social partners”. In this way we work towards our AU vision of a continent where human rights are respected (African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights), where the rule of law is maintained and, among others, we “cut off illicit money flows, close opportunities for tax evasion and improve the implementation of anti-corruption measures”. Responsible transformative leaders must be enabled to adhere to these pre-conditions for a peaceful and conflict-free continent.
  • Managers should be skilled in the business management of projects; and leaders should understand the value of a common regional infrastructure strategy and have the knowledge and the know-how to execute on this. Skilled managers should be required to create a framework which facilitates growth, technological transformation, trade and development.
  • Educational leaders are needed who understand the requirements for labour market efficiency and who are bold enough to collaborate across regions to build the skills in accordance with what the continent needs, in particular for women and the youth. Educational leaders across Africa must be willing and able to meet and agree on compatible curricula and co-designing comparable standards and quality of especially higher education qualifications. We require leaders in people development who are able to leverage technologies for education and who are willing and able within the context of the AU vision to reform and align curricula across regions for current and future demand for skills.
  •  The facilitation of the movements of goods, people and services is crucial for the development of the continent. This demands managers with insight and with the ability to conceptualise and actually execute on the blending of standards across regions. The free movement of people, capital and skills require strategic minds to conceptualise and design this, but also strong leadership abilities to find agreement and most of all to implement. The ideals of inclusive and sustainable growth are heavily dependent on this leadership output.
  •  The promotion of regional trade and building of regional and global value chains do not just require managers with great business skills, but they also demand emotionally mature leaders able to act with sustained initiative and a willingness to see things through regardless of the many obstacles our environment presents. The great output of such leadership behaviour is that it also serves as one of the big co-producers of intra-Africa trade, which is at a current dismal 11% and for which the target is 50% by 2045. The diversity to be discovered in our regions would be a source of wealth and economic growth, rather than a source of conflict.

A last word on the matter. Who on the continent should take the lead in this? Judith Samuelson of the Aspen Institute has a suggestion: “The fact is that it is ultimately business—big, audacious, profit-hungry, globe-trotting business that will unlock the solutions to our most complex problems as a society. It won’t happen alone—it will happen in partnership with government, or at the prodding of the third sector, which functions as advocates, watchdogs, and increasingly as partners. But more frequently, I expect the change will be business-led because it is business that has the resources, the talent, the problem-solving skill, the distribution systems, and increasingly, the motivation to act… (emphasis inserted)”

Frik Landman is CEO of USB Executive Development (USB-ED).

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