As leadership development cannot be underestimated in any venture, it is important for every thriving business with a clear focus on specific demography, to make leadership become a major enabler in stimulating growth and sustainability. Mr Fred Swaniker, Founder and President of the African Leadership Group, is one person who is thriving by using his organisation to develop a new crop of African Leaders with a mission to transform the continent.
Mr Swaniker describes himself as “A Child of Africa”, who is passionate about the continent and believes the key to “our future lies in developing our human capital and our leadership. So, I have decided to dedicate my life’s work to that cause and to unlocking the potential of our human capital so we can solve our own problems and not be dependent on the rest of the world.”
Providing an insight into his journey to what he has become today, he said, “my family left Ghana when I was only four years old, and we lived in The Gambia, Botswana and South Africa, so that gave me a very pan-African perspective.”
“With that pan-African identity, I started thinking about the issues that were different but also similar among all the people with whom l interacted in different countries. I worked with McKinsey & Company initially in South Africa but also in Nigeria and Tanzania. Everywhere I went, and everywhereworked, I realised that the lack of leadership was common,” Mr Swaniker said.
In all this, one thing that became clear to him was that the continent was confronted with many problems that had its root causes in leadership.
The other aspect of his background, he credited to his family, whom he said, had been involved in starting educational institutions for a couple of generations. “My grandfather and grandmother started schools, and my mother started a school in Botswana. So, one can say, human capital development, in a way, is in my blood and something I saw as a potential,” Mr Swaniker added.
He describes himself as an entrepreneur and notes that “most great entrepreneurs are driven not so much by a desire to make money, but by a desire to solve problems, and in some cases that lead to building a business which can make them wealthy. But that is not the core driver of entrepreneurship.
For him, the money is only a by-product, explaining that, what drives entrepreneurship is frustration with what one sees as pain-points in society.
“In my case, the frustration I saw was our inability to achieve our potential as Africans. We have so many natural resources, a large population, and every reason to be one of the wealthiest continents in the world; and not the backward people disrespected by the rest of the world today,” Mr Swaniker said.