Messages on leadership from the 2017 World Economic Forum On Africa

The 2017 World Economic Forum on Africa began on 3 May 2017 in Durban. Here’s what the top speakers had to say about the continent’s “leadership vacuum”.

The 2017 World Economic Forum on Africa was held in Durban, between 3 and 5 May 2017. As the forum is hinged on Africa’s mixed outlook for growth, and “the challenges posed by a growing unemployed youth population and climate change, among others,” reads the Forum’s website, the focus will largely be on Africa’s leadership. “The meeting will convene regional and global leaders from business, government and civil society to agree priorities that will help Africa achieve inclusive growth,” they say.

The Forum kicked off with an opening plenary, where panelists discussed Africa’s “leadership vacuum”. Some of the most notable opening quotes were noted on their live blog, and included:

“Civil unrest is the legitimate response of people to what the they see as an unfair political and economic system. There are three famines in Africa today. It’s a shame on our leadership, we should be embarrassed and I include myself and our political leaders… Famine is a sign of failure.” – Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam

“Africa has a leadership vacuum… The current crop of Africa’s leaders have failed to deliver, yet we’re asking what these same leaders can do to make it better. We need a different line of understanding of what leadership in an African society is, beyond politics and business, into the non-profit, into civil society, into churches, schools, communities. We need to redefine leadership” – Lindiwe Mazibuko, South African politician.

“The truth is our leaders know what should be done. But… they fail to do what is right. Some leaders are short-term in orientation and do not think about how they will be remembered beyond today. If leaders think in the long-term they will start to fix Africa.” – Tony Elumelu, Chairman of the United Bank for Africa.

There certainly seems to be a main theme running through the opening discussions; that leadership needs to look beyond the same-old, fueled by politics and business, and into the great-new, where it looks to think more about its impact, long term, on the community.

Of course, there is also a need for these ideas to not only be discussed, but actually actioned in boardrooms across the country. In a press conference at the Forum that looked at how confident CEOs were about growth and business in Africa, the panelists discussed the idea of Achieving Responsive and Responsible leadership, which was a theme at the Forum’s Annual meeting in Davos in January 2017. The panelists were asked, “To what degree do you think the message is filtering through to the business community?” Anton van Wyk, Client and Markets Leader from PWC, responded that its forums like this that begin the process. “In order for that to happen… we are seeing forums to discuss things like knowledge, skills – both technical and soft skills – and what skills we need to ensure we do operate in the economy of Africa… Key on this continent are areas around experience and diversity… and finally, do we have the ability to actually implement our strategies to meet those expectations,” he said.

It’s this philosophy of a more hands-on leadership that is highlighted by local social enterprise, The Philanthropic Collection™, which showcases The CEO SleepOut™ Event. While the Event sees business leaders spend a night outdoors, raising funds and gaining empathy for vulnerable communities, the Project’s larger ethos calls on our leaders to rethink they way in which they make – and use – their profits, and skills, to benefit the community. It asks Africa’s leaders to reimagine what is possible; and instead of just ticking their CSI box, to truly understand the issues communities face – and commit to making new, sustainable changes on an ongoing basis. It’s a global trend – and it’s time Africa’s leaders got on board.

For more information about The World Economic Forum 2017, visit:

– By The Philanthropic Collection –


The Philanthropic Collection™ is a boutique social enterprise,
where we tailor haute-couture brands for philanthropy.


Our appliqué is made up of global leaders, influencers and forecasters,
all creating conscious capital for humanity.