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Crafting a vision to advance Africa

xoli-kakana-modalClarity of vision, says South African tech entrepreneur Xoli Kakana, SF ’08, is central to all African solutions. And she believes that the absence of that vision is what plagues the continent. “Most African leaders exhibit very little understanding of the systems and power bases that sustain the problems plaguing their nations,” she says. “They do not commit boldly to tackling all components of those systems with the persistence and focus necessary and supported by the appropriate mechanisms that enable monitoring and evaluation.”

Founder and Group CEO of ICT-Works, Kakana knows a thing or two about clarity of vision. She has overcome myriad cultural and technological challenges to raise the standard of IT and telecom services in South Africa and boost career opportunities for women in her country. She concedes that the sheer enormity of the African continent—with 54 individual nations—makes it very difficult to generalize about leadership challenges, but believes that most African countries are hindered by a few common failings—poor governance, for example, weak institutions, a lack of infrastructure, and a reluctance to own any of those crippling problems.

Peace and education must be key components of a leader’s vision

Kakana also believes that any successful vision for African countries must include advancing quality education. She holds up South Africa as an example of how not to approach that challenge. “Over the past 20 years the South African education system has been dogged by deep problems of ineffectiveness and inefficiency. At the same time, the government frequently effects costly changes to pedagogy and school curricula, knee-jerk interventions not adequately informed by a holistic understanding of the challenges. South African leaders are not examining the real issues, the deep-seated problems such as the psycho-social impediments affecting teachers, learners, and managers of the system and the communities to which they belong.”

Of course, even if armed with a visionary strategic plan, Kakana notes, progress in a number of African nations will be difficult to make outside a climate of peace—yet leaders cannot truly move forward without it. “Africa needs leaders who are passionate visionaries for peace. Conflict, whether declared or undeclared, and the lasting psychological and other societal impacts of violence and instability continue to have a devastating effect on the ability of African people and their institutions to thrive. Advocates for peace at all levels will change the course of Africa in the foreseeable future.”



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