Inaugurated by Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, Gerd Müller, the German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE) hosted its maiden BMZ African-Germany Leadership Academy (African Academy) from 26 April to 7 May 2021. The online training brought together 26 young professionals from reform partner countries, including Togo, Senegal, Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Morocco and Tunisia, as well as Germany.
The main aim of the newly established African Academy is to advance collective efforts toward sustainable economic and social change. It aims to realise this objective through nurturing young talent and honing the leadership skills of future changemakers in Africa and Europe. The African Academy related its agenda primarily to the two most crucial current development visions: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Agenda 2063 of the African Union.
The online training, held under the triad of governance, leadership and sustainability, employed the training model of absorb, do, and connect, founded by William Horton. Absorb – participants had the opportunity to learn from various experts on topics that comprised the curriculum; these included governance for social and political sustainability, leadership, digitalisation, powering a green transformation and economic cooperation. Do – working in groups, the participants got to develop their visions of change. They identified a current crisis while at the same time also recognising hidden opportunities and ultimately found solutions that contributed to the “Africa We Want”. Lastly, connect – the participants were afforded room to form linkages between new knowledge and their local realities. These links were evident from the visions of change presented; they reflected personal resonance. Although the programme utilised a mainly synchronous learning approach, some of the sessions were asynchronous to strengthen the ability to work independently.
Room for exchange, discussion and reflection
Under the first thematic section of “Governance for Sustainability”, participants engaged with policymakers, including Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development Gerd Müller. In his address, Minister Müller outlined the context and the objectives of the African Academy, especially stressing the importance of mutual learning. Lora Borissova, Senior Cabinet Expert of the European Commission discussed the EU’s new approach of international partnership, which implies a change in narrative from the classic donor/recipient conception to that of a cooperation between equals. Other points of great interest for the participants from Ms Borissova’s address were the positive strides made regarding the renegotiation of the Cotonou Agreement and the Commission’s support for the Covax mechanism. Additionally, the participants engaged with DIE’s Senior Researcher Amirah El-Haddad on her work on the social contract in the MENA region.
The thematic section on “Leadership development” was facilitated in the form of a workshop. Participants learned about different leadership styles and took part in a practical exercise to reflect on their positions as leaders within their respective organisations. They also engaged with Armand Zorn, a candidate for the German Bundestag, on the topic of leadership in practice.
The last thematic section, “Sustainability”, encompassed discussions and peer exchanges on digitalisation for sustainability, green transformation, Voluntary Sustainability Standards, sustainable consumption, and economic cooperation between Germany and African states. The section included expert inputs from a variety of speakers, among them Dirk Messner (German Environment Agency), Joanna Bryson (Hertie School) and Uta Mahadi (Federation of German Industries).
A positive conclusion
Participants expressed their satisfaction with the content and didactics of the African Academy and the intention to recommend the participation in the African Academy to friends and colleagues. Following the conclusion of the inaugural African Academy, the foundation for a new network was successfully laid, and the team at DIE is looking forward to continuing the project.
The Director of DIE, Prof. Dr. Anna-Katharina Hornidge, introduces the Academy in a video: