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.