Fred Swaniker
Fred Swaniker: Credit Ted Talk

What it takes to be an African leader

The African continent is brimming with potential, but its overall progress has been greatly hampered due to a lack of quality leaders. In Africa, good leadership matters more than anywhere else in the world as a result of weakened institutions. As such, the positive impact that just one great leader could have is amplified – and enough to completely transform a country.

This according to Fred Swaniker, founder and CEO of the African Leadership Group and also recognized as one of TIME Magazine’s most influential people of 2019.

According to Fred, there are five key traits that all great leaders must possess:

  1. Passion: Leadership comes with a lot of ups and downs. Passion fuels a person to push forward despite the many trials and challenges throughout the journey.
  2. Courage: Leadership is not for the faint of heart. “You’re bound to be faced with resistance in your attempts to change the status quo,” says Fred.  
  3. Imagination: Great leaders must have the ability to imagine a better way, a better future – as well as how this future can become a reality.
  4. Values: Leaders must possess a good moral compass to empower and shape their judgements and decisions.
  5. Resilience: When leaders get knocked down – and they will on multiple occasions – they must be to get back up again and continue on their mission despite the many setbacks along the way.

Developing future leaders

While many people believe that there’s such a thing as ‘born leaders’, Fred doesn’t think it’s wise to sit back and wait for fate to deliver good leaders.

“We refuse to relax and simply hope that a good leader will come along. Instead, we’re taking action to create and develop them. We’re attempting to create a generation of Pan-African leaders who can collaborate with each other. The goal is to develop three million leaders in Africa by 2035,” says Fred.

He insists that this goal is only going to be possible if we teach African leaders how to collaborate with one another. As such, Fred highlights how the African Leadership Group actively bring youngsters with leadership potential together, encouraging them to learn more about – and be more accepting of – other cultures and religions.

“We want them all living together under one roof and under one ideal – playing their part in helping Africa to flourish. They live and work together for between six months and four years in the hopes that this will facilitate relationship building through continuous interaction. Through these interactions, trust is built. After all, only through trust can true collaboration emerge,” Fred explains.

The members of the African Leadership Group believe that collaboration will ensure progress on a continental scale, as opposed to limited progress from country to country.

“We’ll see these leaders breaking down trade barriers, building infrastructure between their countries and creating a stronger sense of unity across the continent. There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that ensuring effective collaboration between future African leaders is key to embracing opportunities and overcoming current challenges.”

Getting everyone involved

Developing strong leaders of the future should be a priority for everyone and Fred is taking action to make it easier for key players to join in on this important mission. He has formed a community called “The Room” where investors, mentors and employers can do their part in assisting Africa’s talented youth in fulfilling their potential. Here, blossoming young leaders can scope out opportunities for mentorship, scholarships, fellowships and more.

“It’s all about building the relationships necessary to change the world. Any investor looking for ambitious, young entrepreneurs or looking to connect with the top talent in any city can visit ‘The Room’, meet the talent and build relationships with these individuals, ultimately playing their part in empowering the change-makers of the future,” Fred concludes.

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