Friday, December 21, 2012

Africa Education Leadership Awards 2012: No Higher Honour

By John A. Akec
Author (middle) Receiving award from Dr. Kaylash Allgoo, Director Mauritius Qualifications Authority (Left), and Hon. Mrs  PolononiVenson Moitoi, Minister of Education, Botswana (Right)

I was delightfully shocked and elevated to receive an invitation recently to attend Africa-India Partnership Summit that was scheduled to take place in Le Meridien lle, Mauritius, on 12 December 2012. The invitation also pointed out that I was going to be honoured with Africa Education Leadership Award for 2012 during the summit. All happened as planned. I travelled to Mauritius and participated in that Summit accordingly, and received the Africa Education Award for 2012 for "Outstanding Contribution to Education", it says in the invitation letter.

The Africa Education Leadership Awards is an annual event that takes place in Mauritius and are organised and presented by World CSR Day, in partnership with CMO Asia, and Stars of Industry Group, among others; all of which are not-for-profit bodies active in promoting good governance, business excellence, leadership, sustainability, innovation, and corporate responsibility both regionally and globally.

The Awards which comprised of a trophy and citation "are of the highest stature and are presented to Individuals and Institutions who have surpassed several levels of its excellence and set an example of being a role model and Exemplary Leadership. And also to Individuals behind the Institution who are building their Institutions through Leadership, Innovation, Academic and Industry Interface and a supreme objective of Building future leaders", according to presenters of the Africa Education Leadership Awards.

Most important for me, this Award is an endorsement of the vision I have been trying to sell through advocacy work; namely the need for South Sudan to turn its back on outmoded colonial elitist type of higher education that favours few bright students, and move towards mass higher education that provides ample opportunity for most to study at post secondary level. This is because the increasingly knowledge-based economies of twenty first century demand large educated and skilled workforce for any country to compete in the global marketplace, especially in area of science and technology. Not only did I advocate for it, but have presented policy change recommendations, most of which are yet to find acceptance by the education establishments in my country. The Award is therefore a boost for my morale to persevere and stay the course until this vision comes to full fruition.

Africa Meets Asia in Mauritius to Share Views on "Leadership for Future"
The Africa India Partnership Summit that coincided with Africa Leadership Awards and Africa Education Leadership Awards 2012 explored the potential and avenues for Africa India cooperation and exchanged  views on questions related to leadership for the future- with a particular focus on two main themes that were the subjects of panel discussions: "Building Future Leaders – Perspectives," and "Building Strategic Thinking for the Future."
Dr Bhatia, Founder, World CSR Day opens Africa-India Partnership Summit  in Le Meridien Ile, Mauritius
A View from Le Meridien Ile Maurice: I could not afford to book a room here but lived 20 minutes away by taxi 

Keynote Speeches
The Summit and Leadership Awards were well attended with keynote speeches on the above themes by Dr. R.L. Bhatia, Founder of World CSR Day; Mrs. Pelononi Moitoi, Minister of Education, Botswana; Mr. Ronald Dubois, Senior Advisor, Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, Mauritius; Mrs. Sheery Ayittey, Minister of Environment, Science and Technology, Ghana; Mr. Walter Mzembi, Minister of Tourism and Hospitality, Zimbabwe; and Mr. Sarat Dutt Lallah, CEO, Mauritius Telecom.
Keynote speakers from left to right: Mrs Poloni Moitoi, Mr. Ronald Dubois, Mrs Sheery Ayittey, Mr. Walter Mzembi, Mr Sarat Dutt Lallah, and Dr.R.L. Bhatia (at the back)

Presenting his perspective on the theme of building leadership for the future, Dr. Bhatia the founder of World CSR Day and Indian national, maintained that a leader is someone with whom you can go where you cannot go alone, that leaders grow other leaders, and that leaders show during the time of great crisis. Finally, he said, good leaders create great nations.

 Mrs. Moitoi, Minister of Education, Botswana, on the other hand, stressed that leaders are not grown in the classroom but are born with talents and instinct for leadership. She shared how Botswana works tirelessly for the betterment of lives of the populace. She also encouraged more Africa India partnership.

Mr. Roland Dubois, Senior Economic Advisor to government of Mauritius pointed out how his country, which is devoid of natural resources such as oil and diamonds, has invested in its people as the resource for wealth creation through education and training, pointing out the strategic location of his country as the meeting point between Africa and Asia.

Mrs. Ayittey, Minister of Environment, Science and Technology, Ghana stressed the fact that leaders can grow other leaders by being role models to whom the young can look up to in society; that leaders should put people and their interests of first, not their own; and to always strive to bring everyone on board.

Mr. Lallah, CEO, Mauritius Telecom, explained how two decades ago, as Mauritius Minister of IT and Telecommunications then, he encouraged his government to invest in fiber optic cables that connected Mauritius to Red Sea, South Africa, and Malagasy respectively and hence to the rest of the world. He pointed out how his country is now ripping great benefits because of its easy and fast connectivity to the world via multiple sub-marine cables. He underscored the necessity for leaders of our countries to look deep into distant future and recognize the awaiting opportunities while making investment decisions now rather than later.

At the end of keynote speeches that were followed immediately by presenting the speakers with Africa Leadership Awards, Prof. Elsaadani Muhamed, Vice President, Misr University of Science and Technology, Egypt, announced that his University will host Africa Education Leadership Awards for 2013 and invited all to attend.   

Panel Discussion on "Building Future Leaders – Perspective"
On the panel entitled "Building Future Leaders – Perspective" were Thebe Ikalafeng, Founder and CEO, The Brand Leadership Group; Vidia Mooneegan, Senior Vice President, Ceridian Global Workforce Strategy; Dr. Primrose Kursha, Vice Chancellor, Zimbabwe Open University; and Dr. Lazarus Hangula, Vice Chancellor, University of Namibia.

In her perspective, Dr. Primrose, Vice Chancellor, Open University of Zimbabwe emphasized the role that education plays in shaping future leaders. Leaders should listen and listen when making consultation which should impact premade decisions, she stressed; pointing out how vitally important for leaders to also roll up their sleeves and work at operational levels as opposed to confining themselves to strategic level where it is so easy to get out of touch with reality on the ground.

Dr. Gangula, Vice Chancellor, University of Namibia described the strategies his country used to jump start education after independence. He underscored the necessity to hire foreign expertise in higher education institutions to close the gap in national human resource.  

Panel Discussion on "Building Strategic Thinking for the Future"
This author participated on this panel. Other panelists included Prof. Nyeko Pen-Mogi , Vice Chancellor, University of Gulu, Uganda; Dr. Samuel Donkor, President and Founder, All Nations University College, Ghana; Dr. Sandip Jha, Chairman, Sandip Foundation, India.

Panellists from left to right: Dr. Kaylash Allgoo, moderator; Prof. Nyeko Pen-Mogi; Dr. Samuel Donkor, Dr. Sandip Jha; and this Author
Prof. Pen-Mogi pointed out how the idea of a vision for future has been found wanting in most of Africa. He gave examples of poor town planning approaches that in the end cost so much money to correct such as allocating residential areas in swamps regions of his country; only for the government to end up borrowing large sums of money from World Bank and IMF to construct flood water drainage systems for such residents, instead of anticipating the risks ahead of planning and finding remedies. He also lamented how easy it is for national parliaments in Africa to endorse many plans just because they were brought up by the presidents, and not for their own merits. Other panellists also presented worthy perspectives that space would not allow to cover in this article.

My Perspective on Building Strategic Thinking for the Future

Author giving his perspective on strategic thinking for the future

Giving my perspective on the theme of building strategic thinking for the future, I saw a need for Africa to have a mindset that can "plant a tree" as I reminded my listeners how the British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher commented on the famous statement by John Maynard Keynes, the twentieth century British iconic economist, when he argued in his time with free market fundamentalists that: "in the long run, we will all be dead." Later on, when Keynes has been long dead, Mrs. Thatcher told a Conservative Party conference in 1980s: "Anyone who thinks like that [Keynes] cannot plant a tree."

While Margaret Thatcher deliberately quoted Keynes out of context as a putdown on economic Keynesianism, she makes a point of necessity of having a mindset that is ready to invest in distant future and rip the benefits later. As Africa plans for the future, I pointed out, there is a need for the leaders of our continent to get out of the 'here and now mentality' and look further beyond quick rewards or short-term interests.

Hence, I urged for the need to discard the narrow elitist based higher education model that benefits privileged few, and move to broader based mass higher education model that is socially just and in tune with the demand of twenty first century. Our education systems, as I see it, should emphasize the mastery of generic skills particularly languages (such as English), numeracy, ICT, and communications and team work skills over narrow-based specialist skills at undergraduate level.  This is because the future generations will be frequently changing jobs and professions several times in their lifetime; thus, demanding constant deskilling, and re-skilling to keep pace with changing needs of the job market. 

We should also empower women so that they can contribute more effectively to global well being, I demanded.

Furthermore, education institutions should encourage extra curricula activities outside the lecture hall and the library to develop talents that can be of great benefit in later professional life; and teach entrepreneurship to young so that they can create their own jobs, and be sensitized about the need to protect environment and responsible use of dwindling earth resources.

I also urged governments to avail more funds to teaching of science and technology subjects and for private sector to a play pole in higher education. Last but not the least, we should strive to increase South-South cooperation in areas of technology transfer, health, education, and infrastructure development; and devise  platforms and mechanisms for sharing experiences on best practice.

Now for Digression: My Conversations with Niccolo' Machiavelli on the Island of Ile Aux Cerf, Mauritius

Grand Bay a view into the ocean, 10 minutes walk from my hotel

Mauritius is a beautiful island nation located in the Indian Ocean, off East Africa coast. It has a population of 1.2 million and total GDP of USD 12 billion (purchasing power parity, PPP) and GDP per capita of USD 10,000 (PPP). Its economy is mainly service-based (61 percent of GDP) with tourism making a significant contribution to economy. Industry contributes 29 percent and agriculture 10 percent to the GDP. The country's literacy rate averages 83 percent and with just 10 percent of population living below poverty line. Mauritius capital is Port Louis.

Tourism is a big thing in Mauritius with a Beach Authority to manage their beaches
Fed up staying inside: I am off to Ile Aux Cerf Island
At Waterfalls: Somebody got paid by taking me around and taking my photo. Very smart indeed. Relaxed but jealous of clever Mauritians. Not really!

I was on the maritime nation for 4 days (11 to 15 December 2012). A day before my departure, I went on a boat day tour of the beautiful Ile Aux Cerf Island in the South East cost of Mauritius, 45 minute drive from Grand Bay in North East Mauritius where I stayed. The tour package did not exceed USD 30 (800 Ruppees), and included boat trip to the island, visit to a waterfall on speed boat, lunch with fish and chicken barbecue and bottomless assortment of drinks. This would hardly be enough for a decent lunch at your average hotel in Juba, yet it was more than enough for the whole day entertainment in Mauritius. One big lesson learned.
Enjoying The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli: It is vital that our Ministry of Culture encourage reading by everyone - not just children but also adults by building public libraries every where to improve access to books
Got an eye for details? This is it. Every need catered for. Very thoughtful.

Finally Meet Niccolo Machiavelli!
Portriat of Machavelli, by Santi di Tito (Source: Wikipedia) 

After touring the island and had lunch, I killed the rest of the time waiting for my boat to take me back to mainland by reading George Bull's excellent translation of The Prince by Niccolo' Machiavelli:

"First it is to be noted that whereas other princes [read presidents and prime ministers] have to content only with the ambition of the nobles [read politicians, ministers, MPs, academics and civil society, italic my addition]and the insolence of the people, the Roman emperors encountered a third difficulty: they had to content with cruelty and avarice of the soldiers... This was a hard task and it was responsible for the downfall of many [ouch!, my exclamation], since it was difficult to satisfy both the soldiers and the populace…," (page 107). This is a difficult one, but sorry, Machiavelli, I could not possibly comment. I told myself.

Then, continues Machiavelli: "a prince should also show his esteem for talent, actively encouraging able men [and women, my italic], and honouring those who excel in their profession. Then must encourage his citizens so that they can go peacefully about their business…the prince should be ready to reward men [and women] who do those things and those who endeavour in any way to increase prosperity of their city or their state…" Unquote (page 123). Well said, Machiavelli, I thought. Enough advise for today. I will take this last one home to my country, South Sudan. Thank you.

Time passed quickly, and I was soon on my boat to the shores of Mauritius and on the van to hotel in Grand Bay. The following morning I was happily on Air Mauritius to Nairobi on my way home… encouraged, refreshed, and with lots of ideas for the betterment of my country.

Finally, I give my deepest and ineffable gratitude to World CSR Day and its partner organisations for the good they are doing for our world and Africa; and to fellow panelists at the Africa India Partnership Summit for sharing their thoughts on the vital theme of leadership.

Also, I would like to extend my best wishes for a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New to all and everyone who has taken trouble to read my marathon blog article.

I entrust you all in the hands and loving care of the Almighty until we meet again in 2013.  

Monday, December 17, 2012

Addis-Ababa Agreement between two Sudans is bony fish worth chewing

By John A. Akec

Personal circumstances did not allow me to comment on the September 27th 2012 agreement between South Sudan and Sudan in the Ethiopian Capital, Addis-Ababa.  That now the agreement is facing some tremendous challenges to implementation, especially with new "conditionalitie"s and interpretation being introduced by the government of Sudan; it is opportune time to revisit the agreement in order to re-examine its utility.

It is not the first time that South Sudan reaches an agreement with North Sudan in Ethiopia. In March 1972, a peace deal that was brokered by Emperor Haile Sellassie, in partnership with the Organisation of African Unity (AOU), and the World Council of Churches brought to an end a 17-year war that was waged by South Sudan Liberation Movement (popularly known as Anya Nya) against the central government in Khartoum.  The Addis-Ababa agreement of 1972 gave the South an autonomous government and brought relative peace to the region that lasted for 10 years until 1983 when the hostilities resumed.

However, this last agreement is of a different sort. If implemented successfully, it would be a door to creating mutually beneficial relationships in the short and medium term, and even long term between two entities with long history of conflict, mistrust, broken-promises, and mutual prejudice behind them. Like any broken marriage, sorting and dividing the properties of the old house can be messy, painful, time-consuming, and stressful. It demands patience and wisdom from leaders and governments of the two countries concerned.

Therefore, to imply that the nine protocols of Addis-Ababa Agreement could be executed at single whoop is too optimistic an assumption and far removed from hard realities of life. The painful, and eventually, the partial implementation of Sudan Comprehensive Peace Agreement is a testimony to this fact. Like any agreement, some protocols are critical and others important in determining the success or failure of an agreement.

Thus, the partners to the agreement can do well in first pursuing the implementation of the most straight forward protocols while continue to work out the modalities for the implementation of the more thorny and protocols that are subject to different interpretations by the signing parties like Abyei, border demarcation, formation of demilitarized zone, and mutual accusations of harbouring or supporting the opposition and political dissidents from the other country.  

This is because, like it or not, neither government of South Sudan nor that of Sudan can control what happens in Blue Nile, South Kordofan, and Darfur.  Only political and negotiated settlement within countries concerned can restore true peace in those areas as opposed to purely military solutions as the government of Sudan would have the world believe. 

Furthermore more, the idea of a peaceful demilitarized zone between the South and North Sudan in area where  armed dissidents hold sway is not a few-day affair to clean it up, but would take years of protracted political and socio-economic efforts to combat. And in those situations, it is always illusive to bring hard evidence as to who is supporting who in such lawless zones.

It is therefore a serious strategic and diplomatic error for the government of Sudan to continue to block the resumption of export of South Sudan's oil through its territory as well as hindering border trade and economic cooperation between the two countries on the grounds of the alleged support of South Sudan to SPLM-North.

While the Juba government had earlier committed similar error of judgement when it decided to suddenly shut down oil production in January 2012, the revenue of which formed 98 percent of its income, it has since corrected its earlier unattractive offer by making substantial concession to Sudan that would amount to payment of an estimated (combined) USD 25 per barrel of crude in transit fees and direct money to be transferred to government of Sudan in the next three years. This was many orders of magnitude higher than the initial offering of 69 cents per barrel.

What's  more, the resumption of oil production would allow the two countries to revive their battered economies (mostly the result of loss of oil revenue from their budgets) and ease economic pressures the two governments are currently facing at home-front. Border trade, and 4 freedoms also lend themselves to easy implementation, with potentially positive impacts on the relations between the two countries to follow suite.

It will also gives clear thinking to the leaderships of the two countries while they strive to use diplomatic means to sort out the problems of Abyei, border demarcation, and demilitarized zone; and address issues related to dissidents from each other's country using the most appropriate tools that will justly address the underlying causes, and not mere symptoms.

It is also worth mention that it is not very accurate continuing to draw moral equivalence between what is happening in South Kordofan, Blue Nile, and Darfur with the activities of tribal militants in South Sudan. They do not weigh on the same scale. This is because problems in Darfur, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile are as serious as those which were posed by South North war. The same could not be said about militia activities in South Sudan.

What is crucial to bringing lasting peace in South Kordofan, Blue Nile, and Darfur is a radical shift in government of Sudan's view point, which at the moment, looks at these matters through a security prism. Instead, they require revitalization of Doha Agreement with Darfur groups and re-adoption of Nafi/Agar framework agreement of 28th July 2011 which was turned down by the National Congress Party leadership. And all this is going to take time to bear fruits.

Failing that, we do not need to dig too far into the past history that dissidents with a cause will continue to disturb peace in their mother countries no matter what the neighbouring countries try to do, and no amount of diplomatic or military efforts can contain them. For example, the expulsion of Sudan Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA) from Ethiopia in 1991 did not end its struggle. Palestinians were expelled from Jordan and Lebanon many times in 1970s and 80s and it did not end their struggle. The closing of Chadian borders in the face of Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) did not bring stability to North and Eastern Darfu. With one of the best armies in the world neither the Republic of Ireland nor government of Great Britain could stop IRA dissidents to smuggle weapons into mainland Britain, and so on and so forth.

Stopping of oil export, therefore, will do nothing to restore stability in these areas of Sudan. But quite the contrary, it would now give license to South Sudan to collaborate with these elements to liberate Abyei and other border areas occupied by Sudan.

And quite understandably, the Sudanese authorities are adamant about the disarming of its political dissidents in its conflict areas (which it claims are supported by South Sudan) as a prerequisite to resumption of oil export through its territory, fearing the fate of Soviet Union or former Yugoslavia could befall their country. This again, stopping or allowing the flow of oil will have zero effect in changing the course of events. Only the Sudanese themselves on both sides of the conflict hold the key as to whether such further break up of their country could be arrested; made as bloodless and painless as happened in Soviet Union; or allowed to becomes as bloody and painful as happened in former Yugoslavia.
If this later scenario comes to predominate the scene, South Sudan will in the meantime be challenged to stay homogeneous and harmonious in the face of rising economic difficulties and deteriorating security situation in and around its national capital, Juba.

Otherwise, Addis-Ababa Agreement is a bony fish that is worth chewing, while the thorny issues continue to be sorted and filtered out in the most diplomatic and amicable manner. This will lay a solid foundation for sisterly coexistence between two Sudans. 

This is the best and most desirable scenario. However, the way I see it, the ball is more or less in Sudan's government court.