By Liz Muange
Two events of great significance took place last week - The Solutions Summit and the 2017 World Economic Forum (WEF) on Africa that took place in Durban, South Africa, from April 30th–5th May. The Solutions Summit was a meeting between the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurs, selected Global Shapers and Young Global Leaders from Africa, while the WEF Africa is an annual meeting point of the world’s business, civil society and public sector leaders with a view of discussing emerging economic trends and strategic actions that can deliver prosperity on the continent.
Attending both conferences as part of WEF’s Global Shapers Network based in Nairobi, I was particularly impressed by both events’ focus this year. The Solutions Summit sought to equip social entrepreneurs with insights on how to explore new opportunities, attract the right talent, showcase and scale their businesses for social impact. WEF Africa on its part brought together more than 1,000 global leaders to discuss the required responsive and responsible leadership actions that can achieve Inclusive Growth. For a continent with a growing middle class and consumer culture, yet still home to some of the poorest people in the world, there couldn’t have been a more appropriate theme.
As an Investment Specialist providing advisory support to Social Entrepreneurs looking to raise capital for their business ventures, I was impressed by the innovations and social enterprises showcased at the summit, and left convinced that should they receive appropriate public and private sector support, they are the kind of initiatives that will advance the way we tackle social problems and bring development faster, globally
The WEF Africa was also another opportunity for our Global Shapers Network, which has been championing campaigns like a Visa free Africa and Internet for all – critical steps to achieving inclusivity, to interact with global leaders and include perspectives of Africa’s young people to discussions on critical issues like trade and investment.
There was unanimity on the need for young people to play a more active leadership role in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, with the host President – South Africa’s Jacob Zuma himself rallying: “Young people need to partake in all spheres of society, including politics. I joined the struggle for freedom before I turned 20. It is absolutely important not to believe that for us to succeed, it is other people who must build. The youth themselves must participate, very seriously, to change the future for themselves together with the elders.
” He clarified that “The critical point is that you are able to identify the destination and commitment, and then work on what is the best vehicle or methods to achieve that which would help you best shape the future."
It was a tone in sync with the ethos of the Young and Emerging Leaders’ Project (YELP) – another leadership fellowship I am undertaking under the auspices of the Uganda-based LéO Africa Institute that seeks to nurture a new generation of disciplined, accountable, and socially responsible leaders.
Echoing Zuma’s views, Actor Forest Whitaker while sharing about his work in South Sudan, further warned that neglecting young people would make them susceptible to violence, yet, he noted, “We want the young women and men with whom we work to become peacemakers and change-makers in their communities.” Many of them have seen conflict with their own eyes; some have suffered violence in their bodies. Their personal rehabilitation is a condition for collective reconciliation to happen in their countries,” he added.
As I left both events, I was convinced that it is time for us to positively engage our leaders towards finding our footing within the current political and economic leadership of our respective countries, if we are to meaningfully contribute to shaping the Africa We Want.
Liz Muange is an Investment Specialist based in Kenya and Fellow-in-training of the LéO Africa Institute