Exploring African leadership and lived experiences

By Mphutlane wa Bofelo

African Leadership is one that is centred on the lived experiences of the African people, their knowledge systems and their ways of articulating social reality.  This was the key message of the  Tekano Learning Circle, held in Khayelitsha, Cape Town recently. The Tekano  Learning  Circle is  conducted regularly as part of the programme of the  Atlantic Fellows for Health Equity in South Africa.  The fellowship is one of seven interconnected Atlantic Fellows Programmes, which together create a global community to advance healthier, and more inclusive societies.

The discussion focused on African Leadership- A Decolonial Perspective, African Leadership: What is so African about it, and approaches used by the Thabo Mbeki African Leadership Institute  for developing African Leadership. In her opening address, the Chief Executive Officer of Tekano, Veliswa Baduza , emphasised the need for sensitivity to the social values, cultural practices and structures of power within African communities.

Edith Phaswana of the Thabo Mbeki Leadership Institute (TIMALI) pointed out that  African leadership is burdened  by the need to deal with the positionality  of the African leader. She highlighted the stereotypical  portrayal of a typical African leader as a dictator and the historical and current reality  of some  leaders in Africa treating  political power and the economy of their countries  as their personal property.

Phaswana  said that the approach of TIMALI is to refocus leadership on functions, competencies and knowledge. “ A critical part of this approach is to  promote thought-leadership,“ said Phaswana.  She defined a thought-leader as one who can process the right knowledge, challenge dominant paradigms, disagree with the status quo, and privilege knowledge and practices that is in the interest of Africa.   

The deliberations were followed by group work that explored practical ways of integrating the principles and practices of leadership discussed at the learning circle in the  Atlantic  Fellowship for Health Equity in South Africa.


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