Africa must choose new ways to innovate
Saturday May 06 2023
warriors, entrepreneurs, leaders, Apartheid, Martin Luther King, Mandela, corruption,
It’s time to rekindle the spirit of great warriors, entrepreneurs, and leaders because leadership does not come out in its full bloom unless there is a crisis.
I am a man of faith who believes in people and Africa. I am a passionate African, who believes Africa will become the most desirable place on the planet in my lifetime. Yes, we have problems, just like every other place on earth, and corruption is one of them. However, as long as there are human beings anywhere, we will have corruption. We should not focus on the bad all the time because no entity can thrive that way. We must identify our negatives, appreciate them, and look for ways to come out of them but our focus should be on the positive aspects that we can use to build a better society.
When I look at Africa, I see some of the most brilliant minds on Earth trapped and caged in a society that does not appreciate its own. It’s time to take a different step.
First, it’s time for us to believe in what we are able to do. It’s time to rekindle the spirit of those who built the pyramids. It’s time to rekindle the spirit of great warriors, great entrepreneurs, and great leaders because leadership does not come out in its full bloom unless there is a crisis.
Civil rights movement
Think about it: Without Apartheid, without the challenges in South Africa, would we have known the Mandela that the world got to know, love, and respect? Without the civil rights movement, would the world have known the great Martin Luther King.
Every challenge that we face as a continent is the breeding ground of the new leaders of the continent. Every challenge that we face is what is going to define the new leadership and the future of our continent.
So what is the first step? We need to be bold. I developed something which I call Wale’s Triangle. At the tip of the triangle, you have the things that are known - these are the things that you already know, have done, and been there. Then at the next tip of the triangle, you have the things that are obvious — these are things that everybody in the industry can see and where they’ve been. Then you have the things that are comfortable — these are things that keep you in your comfort zone.
Most decisions are made within the context of that triangle. Inside that triangle is where you look at the strategic plan of a lot of organisations in similar sectors, and you find out that their strategic plans are basically the same with a few variations because they are all reading from the same script.
Outside the triangle
Now, the bad news is that innovation never happens inside the triangle but outside, where there is more space to manoeuvre. The computer industry was loaded with people who focused on hardware, which was known, comfortable, and obvious to them. Then companies emerged and said, “You know what, we are going to look into software.” They took the market by storm.
Similarly, we have local examples. We have a banking sector that was so inside the triangle based on the things that are known, obvious, comfortable. Then you have new companies that came and went outside the triangle and began to bank those that have been rejected by other banks. And the rest is history. Even globally, we have the example of Muhammad Yunus of Grameen Bank, who won a Nobel Prize for looking outside the triangle.
If we are going to change the narrative about Africa, we are not going to do so by doing things that have been done the way they have been done. We are going to change the narrative by building the capacity to step outside that triangle, begin to innovate, do old things in new ways, create new things. A land of problems is a land of opportunity waiting for those who will identify their roles in solving the problems. That right there, is leadership.
Wale Akinyemi is the founder of the Street University Email [email protected]