Over the weekend of March 17-18, 2012, leaders from 13 African countries arrived in London to take part in the pilot Program for African Leadership (PfAL). The 18 participants hailed from Botswana, Cameroon, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Nigeria, South Africa, South Sudan, Sudan, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

The inaugural PfAL cohort demonstrated a wide range of experience covering the public and private sectors, civil society and the media. Professional titles included: Chief Executive Officer, Program Officer, Executive Editor, Secretary General, Executive Director, Social Entrepreneur, Group Coordinator, Managing Partner, Program/Project Manager, Procurement Officer, Team Leader, Chief Administrative Officer, Minister of Religion, Teacher/Educator and Director of Partnerships.

The work begins

After a formal welcome dinner held on the eve of the program, the group embarked on an intensive 15 days of debates, lectures, seminars and events between March 19-April 4, 2012. The program harnessed the London School of Economics’ (LSE) world-leading expertise in disciplinary areas, and saw leader-participants debate the following topics, among many others:

  • The relative explanatory power of geography and institutional arrangements in the theorization of poverty
  • The principle of non-intervention that shapes Chinese international economic interaction and how this intertwines with criticism of Chinese refusal to disengage with repressive regimes
  • Population growth: Is it “a good thing”?
  • The nature and potential of urbanization
  • The importance of considering social policy during the development process
  • What globalization means to international and national leadership in private and public space
  • The non-financial dimensions of poverty
  • Health and HIV/AIDS developments
  • Violence against women
  • Peace
  • The boundaries between the international responsibility to protect populations at risk and national sovereignty

Several days were given to understanding the nature of leadership and honing relevant skills – such as where moral boundaries can be drawn, approaches to communicating with different groups, and the importance of leadership in coalition-building rather than self-promotion.

Leader-participants also took part in a number of events with key practitioners and organizations. These included a panel on media and democracy with leading BBC journalists and a joint event in parliament with the Royal African Society on the future of leadership in Africa.

Graduation in the Houses of Parliament

The program concluded on April 4th with a special ceremony held in the Inter-Parliamentary Union room at the Houses of Parliament in Westminster. LSE Director Professor Judith Rees presented the participants with certificates, and Lord Paul Boateng gave an enthusiastic address to the assembled audience.

A formal closing dinner followed the ceremony in the adjoining Commonwealth Parliamentary Association room, with speeches from the program director and Firoz Lalji, whose donation made PfAL possible.

However, the last word was reserved for the participants themselves. Said Alice Mogwe: “I wish to thank you all, for reaffirming it for me, that the essence of true existence is based on the recognition that we cannot live without one another; that visionary, responsible, accountable leadership of service with integrity and humility is what we believe in – all these form the essential basis of the kind of leadership which will definitely take Africa forward.”