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Africa Rising: Why Project Managers Are Critical to Africa’s Future

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Photo by NESA by Makers on Unsplash

With a rapidly growing population and economy, Africa is poised to take on massive infrastructure upgrades, and they’ll need talented project managers to lead the charge.

If you want to see the future of project management, look to Africa. The world’s second largest continent by both land mass and population is home to the world’s largest free-trade zone and is experiencing significant population growth and urbanization. These trends, in turn, are driving massive investments in infrastructure, but they’re also giving rise to flourishing film and music industries and attracting significant technology investment dollars.

What’s especially exciting about the future of Africa is the coming “youthquake” poised to drive change across the region. Fully 75 percent of the population is under 25! This means that the people who stand to benefit the most from all these developments are the young. It also means that responsibility for managing many of these projects will be shouldered by a new generation of project managers. 

 

These young managers have a natural affinity for the growing African film, music and technology industries: 

  • Nigeria is home to “Nollywood” – the second largest movie industry in the world after Bollywood in terms of output. It produces 2,500 films a year. 
  • The African music industry is also thriving. New African streaming platforms like Boomplay, uduX and Simfy have emerged in recent years, attracting investments from music industry stalwarts like Universal and Warner. And consumers are flocking to hot new music festivals like AfroChella and Afro Nation. 
  • Africa is also pulling in investment dollars from technology and fintech firms. According to African Tech Startups Funding Report, 311 African tech startups raised $491.6 million last year alone. And a report from Briter Bridges and GSMA indicates the number of active tech hubs in Africa has almost doubled to 618 over the last three years.

In addition to these industry hot spots, infrastructure remains a high priority across the continent. Despite recent economic development, only 38 percent of the African population has access to electricity. Three-quarters of all roads are unpaved. And 416 million Africans still live in extreme poverty. These numbers spell out why infrastructure development remains such an urgent priority. 

Also Read: L’Oréal Appoints Hlengiwe Mathenjwa As Director

In 2018, for the first time, Africa’s commitments to infrastructure projects exceeded US$ 100 billion, according to the Infrastructure Consortium for Africa (ICA). These mega projects included: 

  • Grand Inga Dam on the Congo River in the Democratic Republic of Congo – Estimated to cost US$ 80 billion, Grand Inga is the world’s largest hydropower project in the world (and expected to be twice as large as the Three Gorges Dam in China). 
  • Bagamonyo Port in Tanzania – A joint venture of Tanzania, China and Oman will be the largest port in East/Central Africa. 
  • Konzo Technology City in Kenya – Called Africa’s Silicon Savanna after Silicon Valley in the U.S., this smart city project is part of Kenya’s Vision 2030 plan and is expected to generate 17,000 high-value jobs and 68,000 indirect jobs.

As noted, both population growth and urbanization are powering this development. Already home to 1.2 billion people, Africa has the highest rate of population growth in the world. The United Nations projects that more than half of all global population growth will occur in Africa, and the population of sub-Sahara Africa alone is expected to double by 2050.  

Africa is also increasingly urban. The world’s fastest-growing cities are now in sub-Saharan Africa where, according to the World Bank, 472 million people live in cities. They expect that number to more than double to 1 billion by 2040, due to high birth rates and migration from rural areas. (That’s the fastest rate of urbanization in the world.)  

All these developments are creating enormous demands for project managers who can deal not only with technical complexity but with the transnational nature of many of the projects. An 832-kilometer electrical transmission project in West Africa, for example, crosses four countries: Nigeria, Niger, Benin and Burkina Faso. The LAPSSET megaproject in East Africa involves a port and oil refinery in Kenya, a railway line and two pipelines between southern Sudan and Ethiopia, and three airports, among other projects. 

The pace of development is just as rapid within individual countries. In Zambia, where the population has doubled to 17 million since 1993, infrastructure projects include four international airports, the US$ 4 billion Batoka Gorge hydroelectric power station, and Link 8000, a 10-year, US$ 31 billion project to rehab and construct 2,000 kilometers of roads.   

The need and opportunity for young project managers are clearly immense – but so are the challenges. Some of these challenges are economic. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Africa’s economy is expected to contract between 2.1 and 5.1 percent in 2020 – the region’s first recession in 25 years.  

Large-scale projects can ensure long-term growth, but they also require sophisticated project management skill sets. Young project managers will need training and mentorship to lead Africa’s development efforts. At PMI, we’re supporting their needs through our training and certification programs and through the guidance and encouragement that comes with participating in local chapter activities.

The next generation of project managers in Africa will play a critical role in transforming their continent, and, in doing so, will inevitably reshape the world of project management. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to see what’s next! 

Author: Otema Yirenkyi, VP Global Engagement, Sub-Saharan Africa

PMI

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Africa speaks

Take Responsibility of Your Life – Henry Ukazu

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Henry Ukazu

Being responsible is one of the attributes of a reasonable rational being. Nobody wants to associate with an irresponsible man or lady. In fact, once you are perceived as an irresponsible person, you’ll lose not only credibility but also opportunities. It is instructive to note that you are the architect of your life. According to the Book of life, your joy is your joy, your sorrow is your sorrow, no one can share it with you.

Taking responsibility for your life is understanding that you are fully in charge of your own destiny through your own decisions. Taking responsibility for your life means that you acknowledge that no one has the power to determine how your life turns out – not your friends, not your parents, not even your spouse.

In the journey of life, we are always instructed to take care of our life. As a student, you are advised to take your academics very serious, as a man business man or woman, you are expected to make prudent decisions, as a Christian or Muslim, you are expected to be of sound moral character in order to not derail from the teachings of Christ or Allah.

When you take responsibility for your life, you are simply taking ownership of whatever concerns you. You don’t wait for anyone to create an opportunity for you, rather you create the opportunity yourself. Whether you fail or succeed, it’s up to you. Most of the time, we blame other people for the misfortune that comes our way. As much as you may reach out to cerebral minds to advise or suggest their kind opinions to you, it’s imperative to you know that the buck stops with you.

If you really want to get any work done, you’ll create the pathway. Isn’t it true that the whole world sets apart for the man who knows where he’s going? You may be experiencing many challenges in your personal life, marriage, professional work, academic, or business. In order to reset the button, you must take charge.

Let’s share some practical ways of how you can take responsibility for your life.

Marriage

Marriage is a sacred institution for mature minds. In law, before you go into marriage, you must be of age and capacity. Capacity here means maturity. If you are not fully prepared for marriage, you are bound to experience challenges when you get married, Therefore, it is highly advisable for you to take care of your financial life by having a stable source of income nor matter how little it is, in that way, it will help in planning. You’ll only enjoy your marriage when you decide the buck stops

Another area you need to fix is emotional life and this has to do with your mental state of mind. When you are not mentally rich upstairs, you can make a little problem a big problem, but if you can mentally strong you can make a big problem little the way you handle it.

Finance

One of the best ways to study a human being is to see how he or she spends his or her money. Just like you can use time to decipher the interest of someone, in the same way, you can use money to know what someone likes. The true test of financial maturity is being able to control your appetite and buying only what you need as opposed to what you want. If you don’t take care of your finances it will control you like a slave. No one is responsible for your money or lack of it. No one can make you broke if you don’t give them permission. Have you ever wondered why some people are able to build wealth from humble beginnings, while others remain stuck in the same place despite having better incomes? To build wealth from your current income, you might need to spend money on a strict budget.

Professional work

To succeed in work, you must be ahead of your game. If you need a promotion, you must be proactive and detailed. No one is responsible for your performance or lack of it. So long as you believe your boss is against you, you’ll never grow in your career. You’ll grow in your career when you realize you’re responsible for your professional growth. You’ll never be fired from any job when you know you’re responsible for keeping your job.

You Start Achieving Your Goals

This is one of the greatest benefits of taking responsibility for your life. Here’s the thing about success – it is never accidental. If you want to become a star athlete, you have to sacrifice your morning sleep so that you can train more. If you want to build a successful business, you have to sacrifice the weekly night out with your group of friends so that you can work on your business.

Quit the blame game

One of the hallmarks of someone who has not taken full responsibility for their life is the propensity to blame others for everything wrong in their life. Whatever kind of life you want to live, not one will give it to you or take it away from you.

Stop Complaining

Just like finding someone to blame, complaining about your situation or circumstances puts you in the position of a victim who has no control over their life. The reality is that the world is not an ideal place, and therefore, things will not always go your way. If things don’t go as expected, or if something happens to put you in a position of disadvantage, instead of complaining about the situation, focus on what you can learn from the situation and think of what you can do to get in order to get yourself from the situation.

Take responsibility for your thoughts, feelings, words, and actions.

To take responsibility for your life is to take responsibility for your powers of thinking, feeling, speaking, and acting, because this is the structure of all human experience. You create your life with your thoughts, feelings, words, and actions. You take responsibility when you accept that the thoughts you have, are your thoughts coming from your mind. How you feel happens in your body and is a result of your thoughts. The words you speak come from your mouth and voice. The actions you take are taken by you.

What this means is that nobody can make you think, feel, say or do anything. Nobody can push your buttons, because you are the button maker!

Make yourself happy

Taking responsibility for your happiness is liberating. Firstly, to realize that happiness does not come from outside of you. It is not the job of your partner, parent, friend, child, to make you happy.

To be happy is a decision and the gateway to happiness is gratitude. Keep a gratitude journal and you will find lots to be happy about. Also, do things that make you feel happy. Listen to your favorite music, surround yourself with beauty, express your creativity, do acts of kindness, etc. According to Miya Yamanouchi, “Don’t let society fool you into believing that if you don’t have a girlfriend or boyfriend then you’re destined for a life of misery. The Dalai Lama has been single for the last 80 years and he is one of the happiest people on earth. Stop searching for happiness in places outside of yourself and start finding it where it has always been: within you.”

Also Read Closing The Gender Gap: An Interview with Dream Girl Global (DGG) Founder, Precious Oladokun

Live in the present moment

Life is now. There is only one moment, now. The past is history, the future is a mystery, so there is only now, this moment. Take responsibility for this moment and make the best of it to redeem the past and create the future you want.

It’s easier to blame your partner. It’s easier to blame your boss. It’s easier to blame a father who was never there for you. It’s easier to blame the economy. It’s easier to blame an errant boyfriend. It’s easier to blame a controlling woman. It’s easier to blame a misfortune in your past. While losers blame others, winners take responsibility for their lives.

Therefore, the first step to taking control over your life is to quit the blame game and acknowledge that everything boils down to you. Once you do this, several positive things will happen in your life.

You will start achieving more of your goals, your health and finances will improve, you will enjoy better relationships with others, you will become more courageous, your decision-making will improve, and your life, in general, will become better.

Henry Ukazu writes from New York. He’s a self-discovery expert and works with the New York City Department of Correction as the Legal Coordinator. 

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Africa speaks

Exploring a new model for cooperation between business and society- Nonny Ugboma

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Nonny Ugboma is the Executive Secretary of the MTN Foundation (Image source: Nonny Ugboma)

The hand-me-down capitalism models Africa inherited from her colonial masters have failed to yield a prosperous continent despite its vast resources. Therefore, Africa is in desperate need of something different that takes into consideration its unique history, qualities, and context.

Experts have mostly seen the interdependence of businesses and society as transactional, with the society needing business for products and services, for jobs, for government taxes revenues. In turn, business needs the society for the market, sales and profits and public infrastructure, security and the rule of law! According to Amaeshi (2019) businesses, though sympathetic to societal challenges, are reluctant to act positively through their companies as they sometimes see such requests as irrelevant to their objectives.

However, due to the interdependency and interconnectedness of business and society, companies must work collaboratively with the government for a common purpose. That purpose is to build local resources.

There have been calls for western economies to rethink their capitalism model (Jacobs & Mazzucato, 2016). There have also been calls for Africa to develop its model of capitalism, with theorists and entrepreneurs exploring ideas like Africapitalism (Amaeshi, 2015). Africapitalism, coined by Nigerian entrepreneur Tony Elumelu, focuses on the role of business leaders, investors, and entrepreneurs on the continent’s development to create economic prosperity and social wealth. It rests on the following four pillars: a sense of progress and prosperity; the sense of parity and inclusion; a sense of peace and harmony; and a sense of place and belongingness.

Africa does need its model. However, I would argue that this model should be spearheaded by the state in collaboration with willing stakeholders in the private sector and third sector, unlike Africapitalism. A government-led push is especially relevant now that a few 21st century economists are reassessing and rethinking capitalism in its present form. One of such critics is UCL’s Mazzucato (2018) The Entrepreneurial State: Debunking Public vs Private Sector Myths who debunks the mainstream neo-classical narrative that the private sector alone drives innovation but takes the position that the state is the driver of innovation.

Mission-Oriented Innovation Approach (MOIA) could help address some of the identified gaps to ensure state and business work jointly to solve grand challenges, to co-create public value and co-shape a robust and sustainable society that it can bequeath to future generations.

There is, therefore, a need for an alternative model of collaboration for business, society and government. A suggested way forward for Nigeria, and indeed Africa, is to embrace a mission-oriented innovation approach. The concept of the mission-oriented approach that involves government co-creating and co-shaping the market with the private and third sectors has enormous potential for Africa. The four pillars of ROAR, developed by Mariana Mazzucato (2016), is a useful tool-set to anchor MOIA in Africa:

1. Routes and directions– Government and Public institutions and agencies to set
missions. Also, private sector leaders can nudge government agencies to agree to
work collaboratively on national priority areas.

2. Organisational Capacity– Building of dynamic Capabilities within the Public sector through advocacy, capacity building, conferences and training.

3. Assessment and evaluation– Agencies, academia and organisations to determine new
dynamic tools to assess public policies to create new models and markets.

4. Risks and rewards– Government and private organisations need to engage on the
best risks and rewards sharing formats from initiatives to ensure smart, inclusive and
sustainable growth.

Also Read Closing The Gender Gap: An Interview with Dream Girl Global (DGG) Founder, Precious Oladokun

In conclusion, as Western Economies are reviewing and rethinking capitalism and their operating models, Africa must ensure she does the same. The reason is that the future of the development of the continent depends on the economic model that it chooses to adopt, in the future, especially with the growing youthful population.

Aurthor: Nonny Ugboma is the Executive Secretary of the MTN Foundation and has recently returned from one-year Sabbatical studying for a master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of London Institute for innovation and Public Purpose.

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Africa speaks

The Education Of Our Youth is the Key to Nation Building – Matthew Odu

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Matthew Odu (Image credit: Matthew Odu)

Like all of us I was shocked and outraged to learn that unarmed youths were confronted by live bullets on Tuesday evening (20.10.2020) at the Lekki Toll Gate Lagos, Nigeria after almost 2 weeks of a peaceful, relatively successful protest.

Initialy I had observed the start of the #EndSars demonstrations with admiration for the cause. The lamentations of the youth are genuine and difficult to argue against. If we haven’t personally been affected by an encounter with a callous police officer then I am sure we know somebody that has. Calling out police brutality and demanding an end to the extra judicial killing of predominantly young Nigerian males is a moral duty. It is clear that the vast majority of Nigerians had some empathy for the social movement.

Unfortunately what soon transpired in Lagos and across the nation was a display of anger that was about so much more than police brutality. The open agitation exposed a frustration with the system. What we have witnessed over the past week is an extreme manifestation of decades of youth segregation from governance and opportunity which has left millions of Nigeria’s youths unemployed, under employed and absolutely desperate for a way out of poverty and despair.

According to Nairametrics, data from the National Bureau of Statistics reveals Nigeria’s unemployment rate as at the second quarter of 2020 is 27.1% indicating that about 21.7 million Nigerians remain unemployed. The highest unemployment rate was recorded for youths between 15 – 24 years at 40.8%. This is followed by ages 25 – 34 years at 30.7%. To put things into context, Nigeria’s unemployed youth of 13.1 million is more than the population of Rwanda and several other African countries. Youth Population is also about 64% of total unemployed Nigerians suggesting that the most agile working-class population in the country remains unemployed.

I am a firm believer in the economic future of Nigeria and the catalyst to this future is our young people. Youth engagement and youth inclusion in governing arrangements is paramount if Nigeria wishes to succeed. As 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the United Nations, Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana the Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the UN’s Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific recently acknowledged:

“Young entrepreneurs have been a source of innovation and economic dynamism, creating jobs and providing livelihoods to millions. To achieve and accelerate action on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), we urgently need their expertise and voices on creating solutions to social and environmental challenges, as well as economic opportunities. First, we need to ensure that the next generation of business leaders think about social purpose as well as profit. To achieve this, education will be critical. Governments play a key role.”

Alisjahbana is right to call out the government’s role in ensuring their youth are sufficiently educated, however private investment is also needed to solve the problems that the education sector is currently facing in Nigeria.

A lack of access to quality education and the sluggishness in adopting new methods of learning has immediate and long-term effects. The immediate effects have been playing out on the streets of Nigeria over the past few days. The long-term consequences are almost
unthinkable.

HESED Learning is an initiative and my own personal contribution to providing quality education to Nigerians, as a borderless structure with an unrestricted curriculum. The e-learning platform compliments the current school system by using a national curriculum with the option of studying an international syllabus.

Also Read Closing The Gender Gap: An Interview with Dream Girl Global (DGG) Founder, Precious Oladokun

It is time for our youth to become more competitive. Not a select, fortunate few but the vast majority. Increasingly in the sectors where our children do excel – in medicine, science and finance – they sadly leave the country for better prospects abroad. Who can blame them?

Education is the key to nation building. A quality education propels industry. In countries where the children are educated the likelihood of civil unrest is reduced.

We cannot afford to under educate our youth.

Aurthor: Matthew Odu, A Fellow of the Chartered Accountant of Nigeria

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