On 28 June 2020, a man called Lazarus came back from the dead.
Lazarus Chakwera was sworn in as the President of Malawi after he won a re-election that occurred, in amazing fashion, during a Covid19 epidemic with little or no international support after he had lost an election in 2019. Six months earlier, in Dec 2019, the Malawian judicial system flexed its democratic and constitutional muscles by putting a check on the power of the executive branch when the Supreme Court judges ruled that the 2019 Presidential elections in Malawi (which had been won by the incumbent President Mutharika) had not been held fairly and ordered that the elections be re-done with revised procedures/rules. Many people in Africa, a continent accustomed to authoritarianism (from colonial “masters” to African military and civilian despotic rulers), were surprised that a country’s judges would have the courage to put a check on executive overreach. In June 2020, despite the constraints of the global pandemic and little international support for its national elections, the Malawian Electoral Council conducted the elections and the incumbent was defeated. Malawi created a first in African political history by overturning an election through a legal and democratic process and struck a big blow against authoritarianism and in favor of democracy.
In 2019, thousands of miles away in the United States of America, President Trump violated his country’s constitution by withholding military assistance to Ukraine for the promise of political help to fight his most feared political rival, Joe Biden. When a whistleblower exposed the scheme, the ensuing furor resulted in the impeachment of the President in the House of Representatives but this impeachment was not supported by the Senate and in the resulting trial the Senate voted to acquit the President. The President was exonerated despite evidence that he had violated the Constitution and in the next few months he proceeded to remove non-loyalists who had testified against him from office. President Trump’s authoritarianist leanings were openly displayed when, five months later, after the murder of George Floyd at the hands of police, he threatened to use military force to quell protests. The USA struck a blow against democracy and in favor of authoritarianism when they exonerated the President’s actions.
Aburi Botanical Gardens is a lovely tourist attraction in Ghana – a 65-hectare oasis of horticultural heaven, where guests can expand their learning of plants and trees and escape the heat of the Ghana sun. In the midst of the gardens stands a giant tree – an Afzelia Africana tree – planted over 100 years ago. Remarkably despite standing tall and proud and looking good, the tree is dead. It was attacked by a parasitic plant in 1906 and over the course of 30 years the parasitic plant strangled it to death, attacking the tree from within and hollowing it out. Today, the tree still stands, but it is dead and hollow.
The Chinese Bamboo tree has a seed that is so hard that when planted, it will “do nothing” for almost four years. Nothing happens in the first year or the second, not the third or the fourth. Despite receiving water, the tree does not sprout from under the ground until the fifth year. In the
fifth year, the seed breaks through the soil and begins to grow into a tree. In the fifth year the tree grows to over 100 feet.
In ancient times, the people of Israel, after rejecting the prophet Samuel as their leader, were given a King named Saul. Saul was a strapping young man when he was made king. However, he fell foul of God because he disobeyed God’s orders to destroy everything after a war because he was afraid of disciplining his own men, and instead he sacrificed to God. God rejected him as king, and told Samuel to go to Bethlehem to anoint David as king. Samuel did as he was told. From the time that Samuel anointed David as king, a period of approximately fourteen years (according to biblical/history scholars’ estimate) passed before David was anointed as king by the people of Israel. From the time that Saul was rejected as king by God, it took approximately fourteen years for Saul’s fall from grace to be seen or recognized by the people of Israel. David was king in the eyes of God fourteen years before he became king in the eyes of people on earth. Similarly, Saul had ceased to be king in God’s eyes fourteen years before earthly people recognized he was no longer king. This is demonstrated in Samuel’s fear of Saul when God told him to go and anoint David, which caused him to have to create a ruse to fool Saul into thinking that he was simply going to offer a sacrifice to God.
What do these three sets of stories have in common? They are a cautionary tale that illustrate the difference between position, velocity, and acceleration. One entity may be ahead of another, and yet be moving slower than another entity that is behind it. Similarly, one entity may be moving faster than another entity, yet the second one may have greater acceleration than the first. In both situations, the current position of the entities is not an accurate predictor of their future positions. They are the foundations of predictions that I am about to make with mixed feelings.
I am an African and I am an American. I hold both African and American passports. I was born in Sierra Leone, and raised in Sierra Leone, Ghana, and Kenya. I love Africa with a passion that runs deep. I also love the United States of America. I am a grateful recipient of world class education and training and opportunities from the USA. I naturalized as a citizen of the USA in 2009 after spending over a decade living there. I was educated at the United States Military Academy and owe much of my leadership training and educational success to the fantastic men and women of the West Point who invested time and energy into training me and making me the leader that I have become. I have many cherished friends and classmates who give me hope for America despite the difficult situation that it is currently in.
Like the Afzelia African tree the United States of America is being devoured from the inside by a parasite that is eating it from the inside. The decay has been slow and is taking many years, but it is happening. The Covid crisis and the economic challenges are but symptoms, not causes, of the mess. The strength of America has been in its ability to create a melting pot of talent. People came to America from all over the world, the best and the brightest, in search of a better life and future. And they found it. They created new lives for themselves, worked hard, built companies, and educated themselves and their children; these children built companies, worked hard, and created an economy that was the envy of the world that financed a defense force that was unparalleled in history in its agility, power and prowess. But the source of America’s power has always been its people. It is the source of any country’s power, any team’s power. The best performing teams are the ones that have the best players who are willing to work together and sacrifice for each other. There is a reason why Real Madrid and Barcelona consistently win La Liga (Spanish soccer league)…it is because they have the best players on their team. The same is true for countries and economies…the countries with the best talent usually win. It’s only a matter of time. Over the past two decades, America has been hemorrhaging talent. This net decline in talent has been severely accelerated by the policies and rhetoric of President Trump in the last four years, but it was not started by him. By contrast, Africa has seen a transformation of its brain drain into brain gain. More talented and world-class educated Africans are now returning to Africa than ever before. The advent of technology is also helping more Africans to bridge the divide between living in America and working for Africa. The past decade has seen a burgeoning of innovative African companies that are growing and promising a new economic dawn for Africa. Many of these companies are started by and/or staffed by Africans who were educated in Europe and America. From ground-breaking universities like Ashesi University and African Leadership University to pan-African banking icons like Ecobank and ABSA, Africans of world-class talent with the option of working anywhere in the world are choosing to work in and for Africa. Even the American companies have taken notice and are increasingly recruiting Africans to run their Africa branches and investing more of their funds into expanding in Africa. From McKinsey to Coca-Cola to the NBA, American companies are recognizing that the market, the talent, and the money of the future is in Africa.
Leadership matters greatly. When leaders make wise decisions the people prosper. When they do not, the people are destined to go through hard times. This is why I have dedicated myself to helping leaders become better leaders. The fact that a person is installed as a leader does not make that person automatically a good leader for the people. Good leadership comes from following Godly principles of fairness, integrity, courage, vision, selfless sacrifice, humility, and passion. These principles were not invented by humans; they were not invented by the leadership gurus or scholars of the 20th century or the 19th century; they were given to us by God. More leaders in Africa are adopting these principles today, and Africa is rising.
In Africa today, we have an organization dedicated to helping African leaders of organizations to become better leaders. Breakfast Club Africa is a company dedicated to enhancing leadership performance and igniting exponential growth in African organizations. We do this by creating amazing learning experiences for leaders which help them to grow. These learning experiences include peer learning meetings and executive coaching and we are blessed to have the best coaches in the African Continent aligned with us and our mission.
Like the Chinese Bamboo tree, Africa is rising. Many may not see it yet, but it is already happening. The roots have been established, the growth is happening, and by the time the rest of the world sees it the growth will be exponential and impossible to ignore. Sadly, at the same time, America is in decline. Talent is fleeing and the parasite is rapidly destroying it from the inside as it hollows out with increasing speed.
Last week, the European Union made a decision to temporarily ban Americans from traveling to Europe. Many African countries have already limited access to Americans – imposing visa restrictions, etc – due to the USA’s inability to handle the Covid crisis. Who would have thought that there would be a day when an African passport would be more welcomed in Europe than an American one?
To my American colleagues and fellow citizens I say this: there is still hope. We get to choose our leaders every four years and we can learn from our mistakes. We also have a very deep bench of excellent leaders to draw from and elect to lead us. I have hundreds of excellent classmates from West Point who can, if given the opportunity, turn America’s fortune around with their leadership.
To Africans in the diaspora, I share this: make plans to divest your portfolio (time, energy and resources) into investing into Africa. If you can move to Africa, do so asap. If you cannot, invest your time and money into an African company or organization. There are many opportunities and ways in which you can do this…including serving as a non-executive director, working online/remotely for an African company, or investing in a growing business. If you want more ideas, reach out. Contact us at www.breakfastclubafrica.com and we will point you in the right direction.
Africa is miles behind America right now in terms of position.
Africa may be at par with America in terms of velocity.
Africa is ahead of America in terms of acceleration.
The future is ours. This is the African Century.
About the Author
Modupe Taylor – Pearce PhD, is a scholar and practitioner of leadership, organization, and management. He is also a leadership trainer, coach, and facilitator who has successfully trained and facilitated workshops for over 10,000 people in various corporations in North America, Europe, and Africa.
Former and current clients include World Bank Group, United Nations Population Fund, Sara Lee, PPG Industries, Ecobank, Fleming Foods, Remington, Kuehne & Nagel, and Potash Corporation.
He is a former military leader with combat experience, a track record of completing the mission and a reputation for developing the people he leads to become better leaders.
Modupe was the Founding Dean of the African Leadership University’s School of Business and now serves as a visiting Professor.
He is CEO of Breakfast Club Africa, a Pan –African leadership enhancement organization present in eight countries and Managing Partner for CTI Consulting Ltd.
About Breakfast Club Africa
Breakfast Club Africa, a Mauritius-registered pan-African organization formed with a purpose of igniting exponential growth in African companies through the provision of Executive Coaching and amazing learning experiences for leaders of organizations in Africa.
Since its inception in 2017, BCA has positively impacted over four hundred CEOs through Executive Coaching, peer-learning meetings and our flagship Made-In-Africa Leadership conferences. . BCA meetings are led by BCA Coaches who are the most respected and carefully vetted Executive Coaches in Africa. BCA currently has twenty four Coaches spread across Africa, Europe and North America. Companies led by BCA members experienced double-digit growth rates in 2019 and outpaced their competitors’ growth.