Preserving Africa through leadership development

3 July 2013
ITC News
Building a sustainable future for Africans by developing young people and entrepreneurs, and helping to support business longevity

Sustainability is all about preservation and perpetuity. It inspires a commitment to stewardship: the responsibility of managing a resource entrusted to one’s care for the next generation. This is also what LEAP Africa is about, and the critical resource that it seeks to preserve is the continent of Africa.

Established in 2002, on the premise that the dearth of leadership is a critical limiting factor in the development of the continent, LEAP Africa stands for Leadership, Effectiveness, Accountability and Professionalism. As a non-profit organization based in Nigeria, LEAP seeks to develop young people, business owners, social entrepreneurs and job holders in both the private and public sectors through leadership training. The organization empowers these individuals with leadership skills for personal, organizational and community development.

Through LEAP’s Leadership, Ethics and Civics Programme, which has been instituted in public schools across Nigeria, teenagers acquire life skills and are challenged to address a need for the common good of their local community. Taking Back My Environment is one of nearly 500 community projects initiated by teenagers under the programme.

For this project, a team of students from Community Secondary School Umuokpu identified a soil erosion problem in their community, in Anambra in eastern Nigeria. The students, with the support of the local community and the state ministry of environment, planted a variety of tree seedlings, including palms and breadfruit trees. The trees not only address the erosion problem, but will provide edible fruits and shelter to the community. More significantly, perhaps, is the confidence developed in these young people, in their creative capability and the positive impact that they can bring to their communities by taking the initiative and leading a collaborative effort.

Segun Shetan, a beneficiary of LEAP’s Youth Leadership Programme, began his foray into social enterprises in 2004. Troubled by the poverty, violence, prostitution and other crimes that characterize Ajegunle, a Lagos slum, Segun started Bright Youth Organization, an initiative to inspire secondary school pupils and to support them in reaching their potential. He organized day-long workshops featuring popular role models to motivate these young people.

To ensure the continuity of Bright Youth Organization, he established a laundry business employing idle youths, using profits from the business to fund its programmes. He also organized a dance troupe made up of youths interested in the performing arts, creating a positive outlet for their energy. In 2010, Segun established Bravehearts Entertainment Kulture and uses it to promote the creative streak of disadvantaged youths.

Creating lasting enterprises

LEAP launched the Business Leadership Programme in 2003 to support business owners in creating lasting enterprises. Through this programme, LEAP teaches knowledge, skills and the tools required to lead and reposition an enterprise for the next 20 years and beyond. Tara Fela-Durotoye, a beauty entrepreneur, nominated this year as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum, is a LEAP Business Leadership Programme alumnus. She has this to say about her experience: ’I came out of that programme with the desire and knowledge of the importance of core values and how to make my brand more sustainable. More importantly, I learned that organizational structure is a vehicle for building a successful business. Now, I am building the business with these guiding principles and with the consciousness of who will be my successor.’

Beyond training programmes, LEAP invests continuously in research to support business owners in addressing growth challenges. LEAP has also published eight books on topics relating to ethics, governance, succession planning, talent and organizational management, based on international best practices from a local context.

So far LEAP has reached over 250,000 individuals through its programmes and activities. Among these are more than 20,000 young people who have launched over 500 change projects in their local communities. Whether by developing young people and entrepreneurs, or by conducting and publishing research to support business longevity, LEAP Africa is determined to help build a sustainable future for all Africans.