Changing Africa from Oxford?

My room at the Egrove Park

There’s no First Lady attending this workshop so I can take pictures… 🙂

A few minutes ago, I arrived at Egrove Park (Oxford’s Said Business School’s executive education centre) at the same time with two other colleagues for the second phase of the Archbishop Tutu Fellowship (ATF) workshop. We’ll be here for the next five days before moving to London for another 4 days of work, and we were yet to settle down into our rooms when one of my colleagues asked, “How’s your group doing with your scenarios?” That brought me back to the reality of the work we are here to do, right in the middle of my admiration for this excellent centre. The Egrove Park is situated in 37 acres of parkland 2 miles from the centre of Oxford city. My welcome pack calls the facility “a place to think” and “… a specialist executive centre [that] understand[s] the needs and priorities of executives.”

Of course, my first question was to know how much it would cost to stay online, but I couldn’t ignore the loud title of the Summer 2007 edition (issue 11) of the Said Business School magazine, Business at Oxford. With the bold headline, “Beyond the Bottom Line,” and an eye-catching image on the cover, I couldn’t resist the urge to turn the pages. The Dean’s Preface (by Colin Mayer) speaks about “market pressures… [being] reconciled with social and environmental concerns” as the issue “explores some of the ways [such reconciliation] is happening.” Steve Coomber also drove home the point (in his Caveat Venditor! article) when he said, “[a] company that successfully positions itself as more socially responsible than its competitors can gain a powerful competitive advantage in the marketplace.” Is anyone from a Nigerian corporation reading this? I’m not sure I’ll be able to read every word in the magazine but some topics such as Not Just for Profit, The Power of One, China’s Green Revolution, Beyond the Business Card and Surfing the Web 2.0 Wave can’t escape my visual probe.

While this trip seeks to fit about four objectives (NBC Conference, ATF workshop, visit to University of London and seeing my UK-based friends) into one, the next few days will be spent on the ATF workshop where the focus includes personal reflection, project reports, scenario planning and discussions. At the April ATF workshop in Cape Town, each fellow was required to write a personal letter to him/herself stating what should be accomplished between that time and this September workshop — and I look forward to reading my own letter and comparing notes on how well I’ve done plus how I can improve on my goal attainment index (GAI). We’ll also be giving feedback on the community projects that we have done between April and September, as one of the key requirements of the fellowship; for which I have two interesting projects (Ajegunle.org and CaneVillage.com) to discuss. I also look forward to the discussions on African Leadership, which is a central objective of the fellowship program; and, of course, the group reports on the Scenario Planning exercise that we started from the Cape Twon workshop. My group looked at four possible outcomes and I guess I should share an earlier draft of some form of poetic expression of the four scenarios we consider as Africa’s possible future pathways:

1. Things Fall Apart Scenario

Noise in the city
Chaos under our roof
The times have gone sour
Our pain knows no boundary

Africa, what is this?
We cursed the past…
But even this new day;
We can not but wear rags

Things fall apart
Where is the centre of existence
We kill our own
And the strangers also burden us

Held under captivity
By the land from the East
Africa knows itself no more
Her people now speak a strange language

The yokes are heavy
And no help shows afar
Tell me, Africa:
Why are we here today?

2. Divide and Rule Scenario

Our yards stink and make us sick
But the neighbour is friendly
We know not where to go
Even though the stranger brings fruits

We asked them to show us the way
But they took our gold and silver
Lead us, we told our own brothers
And all we got was the cane!

They are not with us
But even though come against us they did not
The sign is clear:
They have chosen to divide and rule

With our hands tied by our own
We approach our supposed help
And what do we get?
Even the neighbours cheat us!

3. Dry Pipes or Hungry Chefs Scenario

We went to bed rejoicing
But the mourning comes with mourning
Our labours are gone
They oppress us on our own soil

The pipes that bear the fluid
Have all gone dry
The chefs that carve the dishes
Are extremely hungry

What state is this?
How did we walk this path?
Why do we sit bent?
Who will help us out of here?

Our land flows with plenty
But our sweat fills their calabash
And the pains of our blood
Trims the edge of their gold.

4. Jabulani Africa Scenario

Light has become day
And the tears have dried up
Our sons and daughters
Are within the walls of our glory

The richness of our culture
Becomes the light that others seek
Those who called us dark
Have come to meet our light

Africa shows the way
Ubuntu, we are because others are!
The kings rule and the people rejoice
Our land is green again

Friends, good friends, the world to us
East, West, South, North… friends all
They rejoice at the sight
Of abundance on our soils

Watching and waiting over
This land is flourishing…
Africa has come of age
Jabulani Africa! Viva Africa!

We hope that the Jabulani Africa scenario will be Africa’s true story by 2030, but that depends on the actions that we (yes, you and I) take today. So, which will it be?

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