We must raise problem solvers on our continent – Ken Ofori-Atta asserts on Springboard

The Minister of Finance, Mr Ken Ofori- Atta, cannot be defined just by his role as the manager of the nation’s treasury.

There other sides to him, one of which is the development of leaders committed to the creation of a good society.

This strong passion of his led to the formation of the Africa Leadership Initiative. His impetus to develop transformational leaders, Mr Ofori-Atta
said, was triggered when he was invited to the Aspen Institute in Colorado in the USA in 2001.

On his return from the conference as aHenry Crown Fellow, he  started a leadership fellowship in West Africa.

Almost two decades down the line, an initiative which started with 24 fellows has grown to have 422 fellows with membership cutting across the entire continent.

Mr Ofori-Atta was the guest on the Springboard, Your Virtual University, last Sunday on Joy FM with host Rev. Albert Ocran to discuss the Africa Leadership Initiative and the quest for a good society. He spoke extensively about the past, the present and the future of the Africa Leadership Initiative, which he founded.

The beginning of the journey He said the essence of the Henry Crown Fellowship, where it all began, was to look for individuals who had been successful in their respective fields of endeavour and explore how their individual successes could be translated into something significant and impactful for the good of their respective communities and the society at large.

“I was invited into the fellowship in a period which coincided with the dot-com era when a number of young people in the USA had become fabulously rich. And the question on the table was, ‘how do you translate your success, which is individualistic, into something significant that can impact your society?’

“I was lucky to have been invited to the programme through Mr Peter Reiling, who had been the Head of Technoserve Ghana and gone on to become President of Technoserve in the USA. “Through his recommendation, I became the first African to be invited to the fellowship.” Members of the fellowship go through four residential seminars over a two-year period where they reflect on writings about diverse leaders throughout history who solved the significant problems of their dispensation.

Each individual fellow is then required to select and champion a personal leadership project.

He said the responsibility of each fellow was to initiate a project which he or she was passionate about.

They could also expand or extend an existing programme or initiative to make it even more beneficial. “The seed for my leadership project was first sown in Cape Coast with a class of 24, half from Ghana and the other half from Nigeria.

The fellows from Ghana included Mr Kwaku Sakyi-Addo, (the Board Chairman of National Communication Authority), Ms Gloria Akuffo(Minister of Justice and Attorney General), Mr Frank Adu Jnr (former Managing Director of CalBank Ltd) among a host of others.”

His leadership philosophy Harping on his leadership philosophy, he said leaders should not hide behind problems because they could be tackled.

He posited that there were leadership tools that could be used to resolve the seemingly impossible problems, citing the examples of Nelson Mandela, Ghandi, Martin Luther King Jnr who confronted the challenges in their era

“At some point,we cannot hide behind the problem because there is no problem which is unsurmountable. When you are confronted with a problem, you need to reflect over it and apply yourself in order to come up with the appropriate solution.”

He mentioned the John McNulty prize, which awards cash amounts to the best projects, as a way in which fellows are incentivised to take their projects to the ultimate level.

He listed a number of ALIWA fellows in Ghana, including the President of Ashesi University, Dr Patrick Awuah, who won the McNulty prize, Mrs Essie Annoh-Sackey, who is the co-founder of Legacy Girls College in Akuse in the Eastern Region and Dr Esi Ansah, the CEO of Axis Human Capital, who has set up an NGO to support the aged in the society.

He also commendedthe hosts of Springboard, Albert and Comfort Ocran, for their contribution to empower young leaders across the country.

Future of the initiative 

Asked about the future of the Africa Leadership Initiative, Mr Ofori-Atta said the recently held Africa Impact Forum which brought 110 fellows to Ghana had shown that the work of the fellows in the various sub-regions could be leveraged to make a collective impact across the continent.

Responding to a question by the host and a listener about empowering a younger cadre of leaders, Mr Ofori-Atta asserted that the next phase of the Africa Leadership Initiative was to set up a youth fellowship along the lines similar to that of the older fellows.

He said a pilot project had already been successfully launched in South Africa.

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