How my strong passion for Africa was ignited by COMESA Secretary General
African Experience Reflections by MAKENA NJERU
Prior to the Lapid Leaders Africa Experience, I was very scared of socializing with new crowds as I have always struggled with making new friends. As a result, when I was appointed the Project Leader of the Zambia Study Trip, I was very scared. I am passionate about leadership but I did not expect to start leading people this soon. So I prayed and asked God to guide me but I was too scared to step out, and kept leading from the sidelines.
During the Experience my leadership was tested and tried. I remember while we had trouble obtaining clearance at the Zambia – Tanzania border and the team I was supposed to be leading gave me a pep-talk on how I needed to step up my leadership. I slowly learned how to take charge and lead the team to the same goal. I learned how to lead leaders( which is my hardest task); I learned to be firm with my decisions, I learned to handle pressure and correct the team members when I have to and much more.
As a result of this Experience, I have learned to take the lead, I have learned that I do not have to be a passive leader since I have strong leadership skills. I am looking forward to practice leadership more in the future.
My highlight of the trip was meeting the Secretary General of Common Market for Eastern & Southern Africa COMESA.
As he spoke, he ignited a passion I did not think existed in me. He pointed out the role that leadership plays in the development of Africa. He also challenged us to use our leadership skills wherever we are and change Africa as we don’t need titles to implement what we learn.
I discovered that I am actually interested in the development of Africa. I am going through the documentation given to us so that I can see where I can play my role and help Africa realize the untapped 50 billion dollar potential it has. Going forward I hope to start an initiative to train women and young people to grow their business and also take part in increasing the exports from Africa.
My perspectives on Africa
Africa lacks strong political leadership.
Most of Africa’s political leaders look for ways of how they can benefit themselves and very little of service to the people they lead. Such is the case of Zambia, Zambia relies heavily on imports yet they have the ability to produce some goods for themselves. For instance, Zambia is a very fertile land yet they would rather import food items from South Africa some of which can be produced locally. In addition, like Kenya they are good at making policies but not implementing them.
I strongly believe that Africans should stop relying on leaders and look for a role to play. If leaders give policies let us look for a way we can implement; if they set targets lets look for a way to set our individual targets that match the wider targets. As small as our targets may seem, they will actually make a difference. For example if the target is to raise exports by a million dollars and a million people each commit to export a good worth 1 dollar, the target will be reached faster.
However, its also high time we change our mindsets and invests in ourselves so that we can acquire skills for the modern economy. When we are empowered, our leaders will also step up and do their role. That way Africa will be the continent that glows.
I look forward to continuously engaging other African nations so that I can learn from them as much as possible.