Guest post by Ndapiwa Segole
Ndapiwa was the 2017 Ibrahim Fellow at UNECA.
My Journey as a 2017 Ibrahim Fellow at UN Economic Commission for Africa
Upon learning about this programme, I recognised the Ibrahim Leadership Fellowship as a prestigious opportunity to develop and sharpen leadership skills of young mid-career professionals, who aspire to be future leaders and change agents when it comes to tackling issues of governance and development.
The world is currently faced with copious factors that make the global environment unpredictable and difficult to steer. There are peace and security threatening disputes, technological changes, environmental and climatic changes disrupting economies in volatile and complex ways. Such forces require new ways of analytical thinking, new ways of tackling developmental challenges, and new modes of leadership to fast track economic transformation, which is key for growth. Therefore, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), as a think-tank seemed the perfect place where I aspired to attain such skills through this programme.
What inspired me the most was the opportunity to acquire impact leadership skills from the first female in history to hold this position at UNECA, whom Forbes listed in 2013 as one of the 20 Young Power Women in Africa. She is an indication that women can break the glass ceilings and at the same time manage their careers and families. Working closely with the Under Secretary General & Executive Secretary, Dr Vera Songwe, I learnt that one of the most impactful leadership skill needed to successfully manage an international organisation is being able to think with a global mindset.
I have been privileged to do my fellowship at the time UNECA was under-going institutional reforms in order to effectively enhance its think tank, convening and operational roles. With this transition, I observed and witnessed change being managed. I paid particular attention to how the process was delicately effected and how diverse reactions to reforms where handled. Of particular interest, was the swiftness in effecting the continuous change. I am also honoured to have been in UNECA at the time African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) which is currently the biggest agenda for the continent was launched.
Within the commission, my knowledge about the collaboration between AU, AfDB and UNECA was augmented by the exposure to works of Joint Secretariat Office, which is mandated to promote the economic and social development of its member states, foster intra-trade and regional integration and promote international cooperation for Africa’s development. I had a chance to interface with Renewal of Planning section where I gained insights about aligning member states’ national development plans to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) using the SDG implementation toolkit. My interaction with Strategic Planning, Operations and Quality assurance Division on the review of the inter-governmental structure taught me that UNECA has integrated evaluative thinking into its programme of work and operational activities at all levels.
I had a chance to actively participate in the organisation of the 2017 and 2018 AU Summits, 2018 UNECA Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development and attended the 2017 African Economic Conference amongst others. The bulk of the work I did revolved around Executive Secretary’s front office where I engaged with front office staff members and built progressive relations. Through execution of front office roles, I had to intertwine with staff members from other divisions while preparing for the Executive Secretary’s missions and other assignments.
In addition, I interacted with young brilliant minds that are UNECA research fellows and worked with them on their group researches, which intensified my teamwork aptitudes. With the Ibrahim Fellowship, my research skills and analytical ability have been honed such that I will be able to complete some research papers inspired by this experience. I have backstopped Dr Songwe on some missions and supported her bilateral meetings with high level heads of institutions and in turn learnt how she built relations and partnerships, advocated for policy and advanced UNECA’s objectives.
Comprehensively, I learnt through this fellowship that core qualities of a visionary leader include amongst others, sincerity, enthusiasm, integrity, excellence, versatility, great communication skills, decisiveness, managerial competence and empowerment of others. I am now better positioned to conduct a SWOT analysis of myself to determine which of these skills I need to advance in order to become a successful leader that will influence positively development matters of not only my country, Bostwana, but also Africa. As such my heart overflows with gratitude; I thank God, Mo Ibrahim Foundation and UNECA for this golden opportunity.