Are there plans for a primary school?
At the moment we have no plans to expand the Academy into a primary school. The idea behind the academy is to source young people who have shown potential for leadership within their own communities and so if we recruit at too young an age, candidates would most likely not have had opportunities to demonstrate the concrete acts of leadership we are looking for.
What, in your view, is the most serious issue facing the educational system in Africa?
One of the main problems we have identified is that African schools often do not teach students about Africa. In a number of countries on the continent, students are taught much more about European history, the geography of the Americas, Western literature and very little or nothing about African history, African geography, African politics and African literature. But how can we solve our problems if we do not understand our history and our context?
So at ALA, we try to encourage an understanding for Africa as a continent. We believe that with passion and a good understanding of the dynamics of Africa, our young leaders will be more effective in bringing about significant change on the continent. The other issue facing the educational system in Africa is the “rote” learning that takes place in most schools. This method encourages students to simply memorize facts as opposed to developing their ability to think independently and solve problems in a creative manner.
We cannot develop Africa without developing our young people as innovators, entrepreneurs, and creative thinkers. So at ALA, we adopt a much more participatory approach to learning, in which students do not simply get lectures from their teachers, but they are pushed to think for themselves and to challenge conventional wisdom.
One thing that is interesting is your concept of ethical leadership in Africa. Can you throw more light on this?
Ethical leaders are committed to doing what is best for the people of their country and continent – even if they must make personal sacrifices to do so – and they have a strong moral compass which allows them to steer clear of corruption and self-serving behaviour. Ethical leaders put the needs of their people before their own. Ethical leaders understand the rich diversity that makes Africa so unique and are willing to co-operate and collaborate to create a future which is positive for the continent. Ethical leadership is about doing your best, every day, to institute policies and systems which uplift the downtrodden and promote equality, diversity and basic human rights.
Your dream is to groom 6000 young African leaders within the next 50 years. Is this an ambitious project or do you believe that this number is enough to bring about the kind of change you desire and which is needed on the continent?
We believe that a critical mass of 6000 leaders will set in motion a self-reinforcing cycle of transformative change across Africa. These leaders will implement systems and design policies that will, in turn encourage the development of more ethical leaders. It is a very ambitious project, and we are conscious of the enormity of the task. We know that what this Academy seeks to achieve is daunting in its scale but we firmly believe that we can achieve our goal: The goal of a peaceful and prosperous Africa.