The Ibrahim Leadership Fellows are a cohort of dynamic African leaders from a wide range of cultural backgrounds with diverse professional expertise. Through their work, they are contributing to the transformation of the African continent. Throughout January we will be spotlighting some of their stories.
What motivated you to undertake the Ibrahim Leadership Fellowship?
I was at a point in my career where I was eager to learn more and gain international exposure. Having acquired a master’s degree in International Trade, Business and Investment Law I did not have the opportunity to apply my international trade training on the job, except for one year where I was employed as a Trade Advisor. I was therefore looking for an opportunity to acquire practical exposure to the work around implementation of international trade agreements.
In addition, I was slowly occupying leadership roles in my country (in the area of Sports Governance ) and I wanted to learn from experienced and multidisciplined leaders, as I have always had an interest in working for an international organisation such as the United Nations, its agencies or other regional bodies.
More importantly, I was driven and motivated by the fact that not many Namibians were offered such opportunities. I was up for the challenge to motivate other young Namibians to consider this option.
How has your Fellowship experience shaped your career?
Today I am a CEO of a parastatal company in my country tasked to register and administer businesses and intellectual property rights. This singular achievement speaks volumes of the value addition the Fellowship experience has had on my career. Even in the absence of such achievement, I have evolved into an open-minded and curious person with the hunger to always learn from each and every experience and encounter in my life.
I serve on two Governance Boards of Directors, one of which is a regulator and the other an investment vehicle organised as a Trust for the purpose of making quasi-equity and equity investments in private Namibian companies. In addition, since October 2019, I’m presiding over the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) Congress, one of Governing Bodies of WIPO.
My placement with ITC was extraordinary and so much more than what I expected. I worked closely with the Executive Director and her Deputy; this experience allowed me to acquire on the job mentoring on the roles and responsibility associated with being at the executive management of an organisation working with multidisciplinary stakeholders who at times had conflicting interests. I was granted the leeway to participate in various projects focussed on different global trading blocks and gained insight into working around the implementation of Trade Agreements and related subjects. I learned how to network with various individuals and entities even where differing opinions or positions were held on issues, and the importance of building and maintaining networks.
In your opinion, what is Africa’s biggest development challenge?
Corruption, youth unemployment and related dangerous migration as well as gender-based violence, lack of democracy in many countries, insecurity and ineffective governance are key limitations for African countries to move towards inclusive and sustainable economic growth and achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Most countries remain disproportionately dependent on exporting natural resources with minimal domestic value addition and remain significantly vulnerable to shocks in commodity prices. There remains a lack of innovative private sector driven economies capable of absorbing Africa's growing youth population, while a continuous accumulation of public debt with questionable returns remains a risky strategy for many.
Women remain disproportionately excluded from education, employment opportunities and equal pay undermining more than 50% of the continent’s population. A lack resilient economies and infrastructure to disasters linked to climate change – especially in the agriculture and water sector – undermine growth across the board. It's also worth noting that the future of democracy in Africa must be carefully supported by targeting and empowering young people. This is important given that many Africans are strongly affiliated to tribal based communities who trust without at times factual information to guide their votes.
Africa is halfway through the First Ten-year Implementation Plan (2014-2023) of the African Union’s Agenda 2063. What is your vision for the continent’s future?
My vision for the continent is focussed on developing the kind of leadership that is capable to translate into concrete actions, well adapted policies and strategies targeting sustainable development growth.
Fighting corruption, transparent democracy, good governance, strategic dialogue for more security, job creation, women empowerment, climate change prevention, and the 4th Industrial Revolution have to be the focus of African leaders. Policies must look to develop competitive skills supported by technological innovation, increased access to quality education complimented by greater information sharing.
Developing resilient private sector driven economies capable of creating job opportunities and businesses active in international value chains offer greater opportunities for sustainable growth. Increased intercontinental trade supported by resilient infrastructure capable of linking domestic and global value chains could unlock significant potential. Increased adaption to the disproportionate effects of climate change which remain capable of undermining continental growth must be a cornerstone of all sectors.
Promoting quality leadership remains, key especially given the changing demographic across the continent. The majority of the population will be the youth, most of whom would have grown up intimately connected to the internet and social media. The potential of digital based services is also key.
Who is your favourite African icon and why?
I respect and admire all leaders and fellow Africans who dedicate their wealth, intellect, and efforts towards the betterment of the lives of fellow Africans and conduct their affairs in an honest and non-corrupt manner.