Business leaders forum emphasizes for action and a focus on delivery
Posted Thu, 21 Oct 2004


After two days of deliberations at the Sandton Sun Intercontinental Hotel in Johannesburg, South Africa, delegates attending the second annual Eskom African Business Leaders Forum from 13-15 October, 2004, identified the urgent need for a ‘new’ ‘committed’ and ‘visionary’ leadership to confront the ‘vexing challenges’ facing the African continent.

The Forum, convened by Business in Africa Magazine, and co-sponsored by Eskom, Honeywell Solutions, National Ports Authority of South Africa, MTN and the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), took its cue from this year’s theme, “Leadership for Prosperity” in calling for leadership that is proactive, rather than reactive, if the continent is to reverse the growing tide of socio-economic disintegration that has plagued its people for far too long.

Delegates resolved that there is need to expeditiously develop a concrete program of action, with service delivery to the African people as the fundamental preoccupation of public and private sector actors. Delegates therefore emphasized that while it is important to diagnose and analyze the continent’s woes, the focus should shift towards attaining deliverables that have meaningful and practical impact on the lives of ordinary Africans.

In taking stock of recent developments on the continent, delegates acknowledged the gradual emergence of a ‘visionary’ African leadership, particularly in the past decade. This crop of leaders, have worked tirelessly to shape a ‘new’ developmental paradigm in which the continent and its people play a central role in their own affairs.

The adoption of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) framework and the inauguration of the Africa Union (AU) in 2001 and 2002 respectively, are excellent examples of the ‘new’ and ‘visionary’ leadership that has engendered ‘hope’ and ‘determination’ amongst Africa’s peoples. This, it was acknowledged, has created a momentum that the continent is indeed on the path of transforming itself into a ‘mosaic’ of political economies that would work collectively for the common-good, thereby by shedding the image of Africa as a ‘continent in fragments.’

However, to translate this ‘hope’ and ‘determination’ into practically deliverable outcomes that would benefit ordinary Africans, delegates emphasized that African leadership should encompass the following characteristics:

·As the cradle of human civilization, Africans and African leaders in particular, must develop a sense of self confidence, pride and efficacy in their ability to overcome adversity. As a corollary to that, African leaders must do everything humanly possible to ensure that the locus of control over the continent’s affairs are Africans

· Integrity and ethical conduct are key to enhancing good leadership and Africa needs that now, more than ever before

· Good leadership is all about stewardship. Good leaders are those who listen well, have a sense of humanism and go the extra mile to strengthen the relationship between the rulers and the ruled

· Good leadership must have the ability and willingness to enforce the rule of law, which is anchored in the process of democratization and good governance. Delegates acknowledged that in the past decade, there has been some positive shifts towards the institutionalization of democratic values and principles in the continent, and this needs to be built on

Delegates identified some of the ‘vexing challenges’ confronting Africa today, stressing that there is a there is a need to quickly develop a plan of action with specific deadlines—short, medium and long-terms—to deal with these problems. Among the pressing challenges identified are the following:

· Endemic poverty remains a major obstacle to Africa’s developmental aspirations. The need to close the widening gap between ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ couldn’t be more urgent in today’s African socio-economic landscape

· Unemployment among Africa’s majority population calls for urgent attention and begs the question whether enough is being done to develop the necessary skills required for the continent to maximize its full potential in a highly competitive global environment

·The unavailability of electricity and power in the vast majority of African countries is counterproductive to the continent’s development aspirations and hence must be urgently tackled

· Global forces beyond the continent’s control are a serious cause for concern. This is particularly crucial for issues such as trade and debt relief, which have tremendous implications for the continent and its people

· The HIV/AIDS pandemic continues to pose grave challenges for socio-economic progress in Africa. As a ‘moving target’ this disease must be tackled head-on and defeated

To overcome these challenges, a number of strategies were proposed by delegates, including the following:

· African intellectuals both at home and in the Diaspora need to be intricately involved in charting the continent’s new path. The recent AU-sponsored Summit of African Intellectuals in the Senegalese capital of Dakar is a step in the right direction

· Africans and people of African descent should be mobilized to serve as effective lobbyists and investors in Africa’s future. This could help address the rapid decline of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into the continent. The experience of other communities such as the Jews and Chinese must be studied carefully to see if there are lessons there that could be instructive for Africa.

· African countries need to promote intra-Africa trade as a panacea for overcoming its many challenges. In this regard, NEPAD is seen as vehicle to achieve this

· African countries should establish reputable institutions of higher learning—universities, colleges etc that promotes the study of leadership. The emergence of good leadership in Africa cannot be left to divine intervention

· To change the negative image of Africa portrayed by the international media, African political and business leaders must as a matter of urgency try to establish a credible medium through which the continent can be effectively marketed. The negative portrayal of the continent and its people by the international media must be confronted in a constructive way. Hence, an authentic African news gathering and disseminating organization, controlled by Africans telling their own stories, would be an effective means of countering the negatives stereotypes of the continent, dished out on a daily basis by the international media

· African leaders need to develop ‘emotional intelligence’

· There was a call to build an enabling mentoring environment of leadership for future generation

· The Indian and Jewish communities were identified as providing good examples of good family structures and leadership in business

· Delegates heard that norms, values and ethics embedded in traditional leaders must be emulated

Africans were called to work together to build transformative leadership. There was urgent need to add value on the raw material produced in Africa;

· Nigeria must develop oil refinery and gas for Africa

· Angola and Congo should enhance their natural resources such as oil and hydro-power to benefit Africa, i.e. Inga dam

· The continent should learn from Southern Africa’s energy corridor

While governments are expected to practice good governance it was however felt that the business community must contribute significantly to the society

· Companies must invest in infrastructure in Africa

· Support BEE in South Africa and Africa

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Honourable Guest Speakers:
Mr F. W. De Klerk Former President of South Africa; Sir Ketumile Masire, former President of Botswana; Mr Osafo Mafo, Minister of Finance Ghana; Prof Anyang Nyongo , Minister of Planning Kenya; Ms. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Minister Minerals and Energy – SA;

Distinguished Speakers:
Reuel Khoza, Eskom Group Holdings Ltd;Thulani S. Gcabashe, chief executive , Eskom Holdings;Dr Yvonne Muthien, Group Executive: Corporate Affairs at MTN Group Ltd; Lemmy Abedule- Regional General Manager, Honeywell Process Solution Africa; Mr. Siyabonga Gama, CEO National Ports Authority SA; Mr. Stanley Subramoney, Deputy CEO of PwC; Mr Chris Kirubi, Chairman Haco Industries, Kenya and many more...

Download the conference brochure

In October 2004 Eskom, MTN and Business in Africa magazine hosted a remarkable group of African business leaders in the public and private sectors. They explored new challenges and opportunities confronting Africa.

The Eskom African Business Leaders Forum addressed leadership issues in Africa by creating a conference platform for proactive and practical responses to current challenges. The forum examined African histories of leadership and mythologies.

The Eskom African Business Leaders Forum is Africa’s premier event for enabling individuals and organisations to increase personal leadership skills, productivity, profitability and prosperity.


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