China’s much-publicized investments in Africa and President Barack Obama and the first lady’s recent trade mission to Tanzania, Senegal, and South Africa are just a few indications of the region’s growing economic progress. On a recent episode of “Africa Leadership Dialogues,” Henry Crown Fellow (2001) Ali Mufuruki, founder and chairman of the Aspen Institute Africa Leadership Initiative – East Africa, said he believes that Africa’s time for a renaissance is now. Though, one issue that stands in the way of the continent’s progress is the lack of thinking outside of one’s own community, he said.
“There are people whose aspirations don’t go beyond their village, their little tribe, their region,” he explained. “Africa doesn’t think together. … What (the continent) has failed to achieve, is to translate what I call our strength — as individuals — into a strength for Africa.”
Moderator Julie Gichuru, an East Africa Fellow (2008), and Mufuruki discussed how the Aspen Global Leadership Network — particularly the Aspen Institute Africa Leadership Initiative — addresses that issue by linking leaders together to foster a network of actionable change across Africa.
“We are reaching out to one another to share ideas — not for personal growth, not for how we can maximize our business opportunities, but on how we can build a better society,” Mufuruki said.
“I think that the conversations that have begun at so many different levels between Fellows — especially in East Africa — that are feeding into policies at country level, that are feeding policies at the East Africa community level… the initiatives or projects that Fellows have undertaken as a result of their commitment to the Africa Leadership Initiative… they have transformed communities, they are transforming the world.”
Mufuruki and Gichuru go on to talk about the changes happening in Africa today, and what is needed to, as Mufuruki described, reach Africa’s “aspirational point for ourselves, if not us, then [for] our next generations.”