|   Let integrity lead.

Isaac Shongwe reflects on the 20 Years of ALI

There is an African proverb that goes: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others”. 

The Africa Leadership Initiative (ALI) Fellowship programme has been a long and fulfilling journey for me.  I have met many a like-minded people along way whom I would not have had the good fortune to engage with. Key amongst those Fellow travellers are my co-founders: Peter Railing, Ken Oforiata, the late Ali Mufuruki and Romeo Rodrigues.  

Peter Railing, who was in the Henry Crown Fellowship program at the Aspen Institute nominated me to be part of the 6th class of that Programme.  Thank you, Peter, for the gift.  I became a Fellow traveller on this journey of values-based leadership and community spirited leadership.  To Ken and Romeo, without your partnership, ALI would not be what it is today.  What we have done together is to plant a Baobab tree whose shade will be enjoyed by generations to come. As we know, the roots of a Baobab tree takes a long time to settle, and once that is done, it has the strength and ability to live for hundreds of years. 

To Ali Mofuruki and all other Fellows who are no longer with us, I hope that you have a vantage view of seeing what the next 20 years of ALI shall become. We know that your wishes were for ALI to grow values-based leaders over many years. We miss you. May your souls rest in peace.   

ALI has not stayed as it is, it has over time, sprouted similar programmes that align with our values: 

In 2013 my business partner Derek Thomas, my wife Khumo and I co-founded the Young Africa Leadership Initiative (YALI) now known as Africa Leadership Initiative – Young Leaders (ALI-YL). Together with the Letsema Foundation, we have the younger version of ALI for leaders aged 25 – 35, and I am grateful to say we shall be launching the fifth class in October 2023.  Some of the ALI-YL have gone and become ALI Fellows. They are trailblazers in the continent who participate in all ALI events.   In 2014, Michael R Bloomberg announced the Bloomberg Media Initiative Africa (BMIA), a pan-African programme to advance business journalism to improve access to data and important financial and economic information in order to advance market transparency, accountability and governance on the continent. The programme contributed to their leadership development.  BMIA partnered with ALI to create and achieve these goals.  The ALI Impact forum was launched in South Africa in 2018. ALI West Africa was hosted in Ghana in 2020.  ALI East Africa was hosted in Kigali this year. The continent-wide forum of Fellows is another feather on the ALI cap of keeping the community engaged and challenged.    

Whenever I sit back and reflect on the journey thus far and lament on the lack of projects that have taken root given the number of Fellows ALI has, I am reminded that increasingly the biggest measure of success are the projects that represent tangible outcomes and serve communities that thrive because of the ALI.  I have also come to accept that success should be measured by how the Fellows live their lives and the impact they have on society on a day-to-day basis.

At times we look at our continent and despair. We forget that Rome was not built in a day. With the fulness of time, I believe that the African continent will reach its potential and be significant to the world. It is up to us, the ALI community to bring about that change.  

To all the Fellows who have been part of this amazing journey, THANK YOU for availing yourselves to the process.   I sincerely hope that when you reflect on the experience and the interactions that you have enjoyed over the years – there is something of value that the fellowship has bestowed on your leadership journey.  May the journey continue to challenge you to be values based and community spirited. I sincerely hope that the fellowship has engendered in you to move from success to significance. 

To the moderators, a million thanks to you for the role that you play. The magic that you create in the seminar rooms never fails to amaze me.    The fact that ALI has produced moderators not only for our continent, but for the entire global initiative (AGLN) is testament to the strength of the fellowship. 

I wish to add my sincerest and humble thanks to the team that continues to operate the ALI office tirelessly and ensure that each year a new class is launched and supported.  The coordination of this is not for the faint-hearted.  In addition to managing a class, there are ALI events that require meticulous planning and management. Thank you, Team ALI. You are the true stars of ALI. 

ALI has been supported by generous sponsors. Without our sponsors we would not have launched ALI in 2003 and continued to run for 20 years. A special thanks to the Yellowwoods Foundation and the Barloworld Foundation, who have supported ALI from inception.  I doubt there is not a single ALI Fellow who has not been to the Spier Wine Estate for a seminar or Global network. Spier has been the home of ALI seminars from inception and continues to support us.  I wish to personally thank Adi Enthoven and the Yellowwoods foundation for the unwavering support over the years. Adi, not only have you offered Spier to ALI, you have also Chaired the Board over time.  Thank you for all you do for our country and continent. You are truly a significant leader Adi. 

To all the Fellows who have accepted to serve on the ALI Board over the years, your commitment is lauded.  It has not been easy, but you have continued to show up when called upon to serve the ALI community. To our current Chair, Saki Maqozoma, I wish you all the success with the current Board as we face the next 20 years of ALI. Thank you for offering your services to ALI.  

Congratulations Africa Leadership Initiative on the 20-year milestone.  Let us all look forward to the next 20 years on this journey of success to significance.   

Thanks to our valued partners and to all the Fellows who continue to contribute in many ways.

  • Aspen Global Leadership Network
  • Yellowwoods
  • Barloworld
  • Tshikululu