Leadership is key to unlocking sustainable development. Each African country has got specificities about their levels of development and the context in which they are at this time. However, the reality is that much is expected to go the same way when talking of transformation and development. So long time passed when our countries experienced political and economic instabilities, what are oftentimes basic to explaining the regress we are having. This is to say that no matter how much effort we may provide, it is impossible to get our nations developed with worries of insecurity, corruption at its highest, no investment in infrastructure, and education mismatch with the market realities.
What is that great thing that every young person finishes his preferred schooling with a clear goal of contributing to the overall direction of the nation, region or even continent? The spirit of collaboration instead of competition, while people bring together
their different experiences and abilities, can also be a foundation. There is, therefore, an essence that everybody would, no matter what title or personality he may have, feel the responsibility to make the country greater and safer.
This is the leader
I would be, being able to produce more able leaders who are willing to take in
their hands the destiny of their own countries.
“Become the kind of leader that people would follow voluntarily;
even if you had no title or position”_ Brian
Tracy said in a way that once seemed to me too demanding, but now I
agree with him confirming that leadership should not be confused with titles
and positions one holds.
If I were an African leader, I would finance development and transformation making my fellows learn and practice leadership. I would emphasize, but not be limited, on these areas: Leadership empowerment of others, youth prioritization, education, modern technology in health, industrialization, and agriculture adapted to business as well as transparency and free-corrupt communities.
There is a need to empower young people and make them more knowledgeable, own responsibilities that they are sometimes refused saying “you are leaders of tomorrow”. As a leader, there is no way of securing sustainable development and transformation without youth. Because they are the ones who will be entrusted with the future responsibilities of the country, they need to be prepared and challenged as they grow.
Therefore, they must be empowered, trained, and motivated to fit in those positions. This even raises a questioning on the fact that some young people are afraid of participating in politics or get there with no clear and prepared mindsets to move things. A question to ask is “How can youth be involved and prepared to contribute to this?” The answer is quite simple. Quality Education!
The education and mentorship they get from a very young age dictate much on what they will be in the future. The right education is the one that relies on what the country or even the community needs to get more sustainable achievements. We will, at the end of the day, question our educational systems as to whether they are really designed to help our people develop and achieve the sustainability we are looking for.
What if the courses on leadership, personal growth, entrepreneurship, civic responsibilities, design thinking, innovation, and mutual support among fellows were brought in at a very young age so that young people may grow to have that picture in their minds_ the picture of creating jobs and opportunities for themselves and others or just being responsible and accountable while employed. Our young people need to be overtly told that there is a problem to solve which dates for decades and that it is that our peoples were made to think that the best solutions to local problems are to be forged from others. They are therefore needed as answers to this question and they can do it once they are made real leaders. We strongly need to be promoters and shapers of a better life for future generations, whatever it takes. “Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” _ Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Saying this, we are drawn to a clearer understanding that the strategic area of education we need is that which will help our countries develop the level of industrialization to give more jobs and therefore more chances to populations so that they may assure their wellbeing. The truth is that better and stronger infrastructure is needed to make it possible and our young people should be involved in this technology journey so that it may last longer and keep on improving. The adaptation of agriculture, health care with modern technologies; entrepreneurship, business, trade to the opportunities and human resources available locally are keys to making this a success.
Collaboration not competition within the country and a well-planned partnership with investors and funders from out is primarily needed. I am more interested in how local people can be made thinkers in the way that their ideas are no longer confined in getting helped; sustained by others from out but seek solutions for and by themselves. This mind-set of needing others for collaboration and sustaining each other rather than getting survival from them is crucial so that our people may feel that their identity is too important to let it in others' hands.
One of the greatest challenges one may have is to have his project followed and funded by someone else. It is true that partnership here is needed, but what ensures that the outcome is going to be a win-win game so that none of the stakeholders loses? Therefore, self-sufficiency combined with calculated hospitality concerning partners from outside the countries in the case of national leadership or even local and international stakeholders in case of an enterprise leadership are highly required. I would make sure that on projects that local people are not able to fund and complete themselves, there is to be much fair collaboration based on partnership with people who understand the basic values and orientations of the local policies.
As an African leader, I would put more emphasis on the modernization of our agriculture. It is true that some African countries have fertile soils and they are well exploited to cover all the local nourishment needs. However, there are surely some other countries, which have serious problems with agricultural production to the extent that they are obliged to get some from abroad. This is horrible to a continent with such rich soil and hospitable weather towards agriculture! But again, those countries which cover their needed food should produce much and make it a business for exports.
Needing nothing like food to import from abroad is primary to the people to have food security, which is a threat to many African nations for diverse reasons.
It is not only having bright graduates in Agricultural and food sciences faculties that count, but also making them apply that knowledge and do as much research as possible in agriculture regarding the needs and the type of soil as well as the types of plants ready to grow. As I mentioned before, modern technologies should not be used only in education, health and some other domains of the life of the nation. It must find a place in agriculture as well. This should facilitate making it the best it can be. Food companies that transform agricultural products to appeal and compete on continental and even international markets should be put forward and followed as it can generate much money for exporting countries.
Finally, all that I would seek and succeed in building is
nothing without transparency. Corruption is a viral epidemic that can infect and
change great achievements into nothing. Apart from that, it is quite impossible
to have a sustainable development, socio-economic stability and well-being of
people, it destroys and buries what valuable societies may have achieved. It is
sad that so many opportunities that the masses were supposed to have to
facilitate their growth are squeezed by an individual or a small group of
persons because of the power they hold. Power should be used to support and
help masses realize the greatest possible goals since they are the very ones
who put their leaders in those seats. It is a responsibility then, not only to
be serviceable for them but to be there as who were sent for a noble task to
accomplish on the masses’ behalf.
Rolling up, I would be that leader who makes leaders. For many reasons I talked about in this essay, it is impossible to succeed on big projects as a leader without having strong and visionary people around you. Being passionate about leadership and allotting my energy to build a reliable generation that can unlock a NEW Africa of growth and development can get me to all these, I said. I would not be prouder of talking of unreal projects because it sounds better in the ears of people than showing achievements. It is, however, more important to show acts than empty promises as the latter cannot last and impact the generations we care much about. Lao Tzu once said, “A leader is best when people barely know he exists when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: We did it ourselves.” That is why the day of entering the office should not be the one of jubilation, but the one of reflection about how useful I will be for the people whose better lives are put on my shoulders. I should rather think of how much I will have satisfied them on the day of my departure from the office.
By Cédrick Irakoze (Burundi),
ISERH Associate Ambassador, Class 3
Young African Leaders Initiative Fellow, Cohort 35
Recruitment Intern at Translators without Borders,
Co-founder and COO of Rundi Language Hub
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