The Chief Secretary of the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar, Dr. Abdulhamid Yahya Mzee, officiated a two-day Negotiation Skills training for Permanent Secretaries and Deputy Permanent Secretaries of the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar, on Monday 19th February, 2018.
Organised by UONGOZI Institute, the training aims to equip the aforementioned leaders with necessary skills and techniques to bargain and secure lucrative deals in the oil and gas industry that will reap substantial benefits in the future.
In his opening speech, Chief Secretary Dr. Mzee highlighted the significance of the training, emphasising the importance of negotiation skills for the development of the island state.
“Negotiating skills are very critical to effective leadership. Public leaders negotiate every day, good deals benefit their Governments and the general public; however, a simple mistake or misunderstanding can yield negative consequences”, he stated.
On behalf of the CEO of UONGOZI Institute, the Head of Capacity Building at UONGOZI Institute, Mr. Kadari Singo said through the training, participants’ negotiation capacities in oil and natural gas commercial contracts and investments deals will be strengthened.
“In this training, participants will be exposed to the unique challenges and characteristics of international negotiations, and learn effective negotiation tools and techniques to help them achieve best results in oil and gas deals”, he explained.
Something very sad is happening across Africa. There is a generational transition as most of the ‘Liberation Generation’ – that is, those who participated in the various independence movements and struggles of the 60s onwards – are dying. Each year another round heroes, veterans, and icons takes their final, and well-deserved rest. The saddest part is not that we are losing these historic men and women, but that they are departing us fairly quietly – even those who are honoured by state funerals, and a torrent of public obituaries and international condolence messages. Their roles, thoughts, efforts, and ultimately their legacies are absorbed into the generalised history of our respective countries.
Every culture around the world has been recorded and preserved through the rich tradition of storytelling. It is strange then, that on the continent known for storytelling, that memoirs are not very common in Africa. It is a marked difference between our society, and others around the world – In general, our Elders and Leaders are not in the habit of producing memoirs or treatises. Without these, the specific lessons, contexts and ideas of these people are under threat – and the world, but Africa in particular, are poorer for it. Before it is too late, we must request, support, and perhaps even demand the distinguished daughters and sons of Africa to record their journeys and experiences for the benefit of future generations.
Memoirs provide the flesh to the skeletons that our history books and curricula provide for us. Detailing the world beyond the general to understand why things happened, how they happened, who was involved, what were the key considerations, and what were the fears and aspirations at the time of decisions and interventions. Such recordings are vital for us, about to embark on the next way of social, political and economic transformation, to understand who we are, how we came to be, why we are where we are, and what aspirations our predecessors had for us. Learning from the past is an important way of increasing our odds for success in the future.
Memoirs are great stories as well as historical sources that enable deeper understanding of historical events, and therefore the present and future trajectories. Moreover, in this era of heightened inter-dependence and intermingling the need to understand each other continues to be more and more important. These insights help us not only understand ourselves, but also invite the rest of the world to understand us better. Understanding breeds trust – the foundation for good collaboration.
As a genre of writing, memoirs do have their challenges and criticisms– ranging from validity of the memories of authors, the temptation to take up defensive positions and promote justifications, and other forms of information bias. They are, after all, peculiar perspectives on history. Their role is to form parts of, or supplements to, the greater whole. It is also unlikely that authors are likely to receive great financial rewards for their words. The issue at stake is that this forms part of the inter-generational dialogue within and between societies.
For the case of Africa, the wisdom of our Elders – so long a core tradition that has characterised the people of this continent – is being lost, and ignored. If nothing else, this is a plea to our Elders and indeed the rest of us, to not let this happen.
It is a commonly-repeated maxim, that ‘African has good plans, policies, and frameworks, but what is lacking is implementation’. Invariably, this is treated as evidence that there is a lack of ‘commitment, of ‘political will’, and of ‘leadership’. ‘Gone are the days’, the argument goes, when African leaders mobilised the continent, as a continent, towards a desirable objective – referring to the Liberation Struggles, which ended with the fall of the Apartheid regime in South Africa. But is this a fair assessment of African leadership? Is it true that African leadership and, by extension, Pan-Africanism is a thing of the past? What is, and whatever happened to the ‘economic liberation’ of the Continent? And is Africa’s leadership doing anything about it? These are all valid questions, when considering the transformation desired (and taking place) in Africa today.
These questions were among those posed to H.E. Thabo Mbeki, former President of the Republic of South Africa in a ‘Meet the Leader’ interview. His responses reflect a more nuanced view:
“Part of the problem that you are raising, quite correctly, of a perception among the Africans of a weak leadership or an absence of leadership on the continent is that I think you have very few of our political leaders on the continent who actually act visible as champions of these issues.” – H.E. Mbeki, 2016
He goes further to state:
“Many of our Heads of State, you only see them, in terms of the media, commenting on domestic issues, which they must do. It is correct, they must address their domestic issues, but very few that you then see that they are addressing continental issues… if you look around now, it would be very difficult to be able to identify which African leaders are in fact taking up those Pan-African issues. It is not because they are not doing it, but the visibility and the communication with the population is, I think, very weak.” – H.E. Mbeki, 2016
Upon reflection, the visibility of leaders championing African causes and initiatives is certainly an issue. When one compares the fanfare surrounding the Sustainable Development Goals with the relatively humble launch of the African Union’s Agenda 2063, it becomes evident that a lot of thought has certainly gone into the preparation of both concepts (and documents), but the communication strategies are very different. The reasons behind this are uncertain, however this has been a long-term trend across Africa. What-ever happened, for example, to the Lagos Plan of Action? Is it still relevant? Have we achieved the desired outcomes? What still remains to be done? How are we going to complete the implementation of this plan? And (sadly) for many, what is the ‘Lagos Plan of Action’!?
The reality is that progress towards the lofty continental goals is slowly being made. The task of building institutions is long and arduous. During those ‘good old days’ it was simpler to rally around a common enemy (colonialism and occupation). Today, we struggle to agree on and prioritise the common interests we as a Continent should put our efforts into. The East African Community, African Peer Review Mechanism, African Court of Human and People’s Rights, are all examples of continental institutions that are slowly, but steadily, gaining traction and working towards living up to their mission statements. However, significant challenges remain – Pax Africana (the idea that peace and security of and on the continent, is maintained by the continent itself), for example, remains elusive.
The ‘little victories’ of these institutions are not well-shared beyond specialised interest groups and communities, and certainly not broadly celebrated. This is one of the classic leadership and change-management tasks, which is critical in generating and sustaining momentum in a given initiative: celebrate small victories or progress so that stakeholders get a sense of achievement and fulfilment. The lack of communication and visibility leads to the perception that nothing is being done, which then reflects on our elected representatives and civil servants negatively. As a result of our political leadership on the continent not (being perceived to be) championing these causes and broader Pan-Africanism. This has created a separation between citizens (stakeholders) and the public officials, and a general sense of apathy and confusion.
A key factor of the success of the liberation struggles was that because progress was being communicated, the people on the continent felt they were part (and even owners) of the struggle. At present, these initiatives seem far-fetched; being carried out on behalf, and in the name, of the people rather than with the people. This must change, and that starts with effective, consistent, and honest communication from and to our continent’s leadership and leaders. If indeed Africa does have all of the right frameworks, Africans need to know, so they too can contribute as they have shown willingness to do in the past.