The Class of 2020 that was announced in March 2020 - and which was COVID delayed - finally graduated in London at the culmination of the second workshop at Oxford University and in London in July 2022. They had participated in the first workshop at the historic location of Mont Fleur in Stellenbosch, South Africa in November 2021 – some 20 months after selection.
The UK component of the programme is heavy on experiential and immersive learning exercises and the Fellows worked with real actors to learn how to communicate effectively as leaders. In another experiential exercise, “Leadership Without Words”, they conducted a choir and learnt about non-verbal communication with their followers and, in the process, revealed their leadership styles. They also explored their leadership archetypes and shadows through Shakespeare’s Henry the 5th.
They presented their impressive community projects and we will be sure to monitor progress as they are rolled out and provide updates. The intention is for them to start exercising servant leadership in their communities through these projects which ranged from a STEM project for children, a multilingual platform to facilitate cross-border trading for female informal traders and building a library. The Future of Africa scenarios presentations, exploring how different global and African dynamics might play out on the continent, were of a high standard. The Fellows also discussed the essays they had written on aspects of leadership in Africa – the peer learning is a highlight of the programme.
Their time in the UK this July could not have been more opportune and fortuitous for also giving the Fellows a front row seat to how the British political system works. A week is a long time in British politics, as they say! The Fellows engaged with former UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, on Monday the 4th of July, at Oxford. On Thursday, the 7th of July, Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, resigned. The following Monday in London, an MP who was leading the campaign of one of the succession contenders addressed the Fellows, on his way to vote for the new Conservative Party leader, honoring a long-standing commitment to us. On Tuesday 12 July, the Fellows had a private tour of and a dinner in the Houses of Parliament, bumping into the contenders. Standing in that hallowed room where Prime Minister’s Questions takes place every Wednesday with Prime Ministers being grilled and held accountable is in itself fascinating and more importantly, triggers reflections on democracy and how systems work.
There were many other highlights including the engagement between Prof Stefan Dercon of the Blavatnik School of Governance and the Fellows, on his new book, Betting on Development: Why Some Countries Win and Others Lose. In the book, Stefan takes a comparative approach comparing different countries’ development paths and drawing lessons. A key theme of the book is that countries that have succeeded are ones where elites took a ‘bet on development’. That a 'development bargain' or an ‘elite bargain’ whereby a country's elites shift from protecting their own positions to gambling on a growth-based future is necessary. It truly was my first time to see people so fascinated by development economics that they took their notebooks and gadgets to dinner writing and typing copious notes over a spread of curries.
Below is a gallery of photos of the Fellows’ graduation ceremony graciously hosted by our sponsor, Ninety-One, at their London offices, against a stunning backdrop of St. Paul’s Cathedral. Yes, they made it!