Building Africa’s leadership capacity with a focus on promoting accountability

3 Mar 2017 - 14:15
Leading in Public Life

For two weeks in March 2017, a group of outstanding emerging African leaders – drawn from government, civil society, international organizations and the business sector – will converge in Cape Town. They will participate in the third Building Bridges Leading in Public Life programme where they will engage with a wide array of public leaders, including former Cabinet Minister Trevor Manuel, Justice Albie Sachs and public intellectual Prof Achille Mbembe.

Hosted by UCT’s Graduate School of Development Policy and Practice, this nomination-based fellowship is not only an intense leadership training but an extraordinary opportunity to build friendships and networks amongst Africa’s next generation of leaders who this year will come from Ethiopia, Ghana, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia.

Funded by the Ford Foundation and the International Development Resource Center (IDRC), the goal of the Building Bridges programme is to grow and support a network of capable, ethical leaders in the public sphere that contribute to inclusive and engaged governance to address the ‘big challenges’ for development in Africa. Through fellowships, workshops and a leadership development component, the Building Bridges programme brings together leading policymakers, research experts, practitioners and emerging leaders to deepen our understanding of key development challenges and policy issues facing the continent.

The two-week residential programme combines substantive inputs from African policy and thought leaders, and is this year focused on the central theme of Inclusive Governance and Promoting Accountability. Alongside the development of core “soft” leadership skills and the practical application of concepts and tools in real-life situations, participants have the opportunity to interact with public leaders who generously share their own leadership stories.

Just some of the twenty three confirmed speakers for this year’s programme include lawyers (Advocate Vusi Pikoli, Advocate Douglas Mwonzora), politicians (Honourable Jackson Mthembu, Honourable Bantu Holomisa), a judge (Judge Albie Sachs), a journalist (Ms Mia Malan), an activist, (Mr Mark Heywood), academics (Prof Achille Mbembe, Prof Ian Goldin, Prof Penelope Andrews), a political commentator (Prof Richard Calland) and a former Cabinet Minister (Mr Trevor Manuel). Several alumni will return to Cape Town to participate in this year’s programme as speakers.

With xenophobia once again marring South Africa’s reputation amongst fellow Africans, there is no better time for incubating collaborative, multi-cultural leadership and GSDPP welcomes the opportunity to nurture a mutually supportive pan-African dialogue. “The type of interaction which the Leading in Public Life programme encourages amongst fellow participants from different African countries is one way to counter the ignorance and fear that fuels suspicion of foreigners,” said Programme Director, Dr Marianne Camerer. “It is South Africans that benefit the most from being in the room with their peer group from other African countries. In this way GSDPP, through Building Bridges and its other programmes such as the MPhil and Executive Short courses, is confronting prejudice in all its forms.”

See the biographies of this year’s group of emerging leaders here. For more about previous programmes and the Graduate School of Development Policy and Practice see