Thursday, August 04, 2011

The Africentric TED: The African Leadership Network conference


Fred Swaniker, founder of the African Leadership Academy and the African Leadership Network, is no Afro-pessimist. In fact, I’d say he’s a real-world, internationalist example of an Afrofuturist, a true Imhotep-hop man.
And while he’s busy building excellence, he’s also helping, among those who follow his example, to destroy two poisonous Western myths about the 54 countries of the African continent and their billion citizens.
One myth serves self-described conservatives, and the other serves self-described liberals.
The conservative myth is that Africans are so primitive and backward that they’re useless, and any attempt to save them is doomed.
The liberal myth is that because Africans are so primitive and backward, they’re useless in any attempt to save themselves, and thus require the benevolent intervention of White saviours… including people who may view themselves collectively as The Saviour.
Both myths ignore the foundation of humanity and civilisation itself in Africa, ignore African’s vast linguistic, cultural and national diversity, and ignore the remarkable political, economic and telecommunications achievements that many countries across the continent have accomplished in the last twenty years.
Fred Swaniker is a model of the very leadership that he teaches. Recognising that self-determination requires young, energetic leaders with excellent education, practical training, and diverse and far-ranging social networks, in 2004 Swaniker co-founded the African Leadership Academy in South Africa.
The ALA is a high school whose students hail from across the continent, recruited not only from elites but from the poor. In their Johannesburg school, student receive a world-class education with an emphasis on leadership development and entrepreneurship with a pan-Africanist perspective.
The ALA is a high school whose students hail from across the continent, recruited not only from elites but from the poor. In their Johannesburg school, students receive a world-class education with an emphasis on leadership development and entrepreneurship using a pan-Africanist perspective.
Emboldened by his success with the ALA, in 2010 Swaniker co-founded the African Leadership Network. Modelled in part after the international TED lecture series, the African Leadership Network conference is designed so that participants can expand their networks, allowing them to build the continent intellectually, culturally, economically, and politically with a range of allies they would otherwise never meet, and in a context in which the continent is not ignored, nor is it a target for contempt disguised as compassion, but rather as the centre of their existence and future.
The African Leadership Network convenes its conferences regularly regionally and in a major international event. According to its website, the ALN measures its results, publishing hard data annually on “the number of new companies that have been fostered by the network, the number of jobs that ALN collaborations have created for the continent, [and] the amount of investment that members have managed to mobilize across Africa because of relationships they established through ALN.”
The ALN site on Vimeo contains more than 20 outstanding speeches. A few highlights include:

Bright Simons, founder of MPedigree, discussing his cutting-edge platform for stopping the lethal sale of counterfeit drugs worth hundreds of millions of dollars, by using a telecomm drug-verification network, and


Zimbabwean Deputy Prime Minister Dr. Arthur Mutambara, challenging Africa's new generation of leaders.


Addis Alemayehou of Paconet on Ethiopia’s economic ascendancy.


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