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Countdown to the Africa Forum on Business and Security

Lieutenant General Andrew Graham

Leading figures from government, industry, research and the security sector from Africa and beyond will convene at the LAICO Regency Hotel in Nairobi from September 13th to 14th to discuss security and economic growth.  We spoke to Lieutenant General Andrew Graham, former Director General of the UK Defence Academy, about the need for such a platform, of the Continent’s potential and of his contribution to the upcoming Forum.

Why do we need a dialogue on stability and how it relates to economic vitality?

Africa is a continent of unmatched variety, extraordinary resources and boundless human potential.  There are many who look to exploit that variety, those resources and that potential rather than to develop them.  Africa deserves, and the world needs, more than that.

How can this potential be harnessed?

True development, of the kind that unleashes rather than exploits potential and capacity, needs to come from within Africa rather than be imposed upon Africa.  For that to happen, Africa needs to be producing and holding on to people who have the basic education, the skills and the training to do the work which needs to be done, and to adapt to the new work which appears as development takes hold.  The Continent needs to produce a steady stream of people who have the education to govern wisely, to plan, organise and lead the institutions of state and business, and to teach and inspire the coming generations

You will lead a session on education, skills and training at the Forum. Can you give us a sneak peak of your argument?

My thesis will be about the link between stability and economic growth.  It is an old adage that ‘if you want to look ahead a year plant a seed, ten years plant a tree, one hundred years then educate the people’.  It is easy to forget that a little more than 150 years ago, the rates for adult literacy and numeracy in Britain were lower than they are in parts of Africa today.  The scale of the challenge for Africa is different, and the world itself is different, so we must recognise that although the process of development through education, training and the teaching of skills has begun, it is a century-long process which does not depend entirely on the attribution of degrees and diplomas to be effective.  For the majority, having the necessary education to develop the skills and absorb the training which is relevant to the job market in [that] country will sow the seeds for future development.  The needs of successor generations will be different, but their time will come.

As an educator and a military man, you have straddled two seemingly divergent worlds.  What lessons can be learnt from the armed forces and the private security sector about education and training? 

In attaining a specified outcome, coordinated work is essential within an organisation.  Discipline and a sound regard of due process are of tremendous value if the group wishes to identify and exploit opportunities. In the last six years I’ve worked on two programmes from which many lessons can be drawn. For three years, I directed a “citizens to soldiers” programme for new recruits, mostly 17-28 year-olds from various trades and professions who were new to the infantry.  They learnt to depend on others and to strive for a common goal. The next three years of training – for those who choose to proceed – leads to professional certification as it is a course for managers and leaders within the services.  Leaders understand the value of team cohesion; there is no room for factionalism.  Our training spanned all sectors – from the skills needed in a technological environment to vocational training. Group work and dedication were emphasised because they are non-negotiable – whether one is dealing with the armed forces who are securing national stability or whether one is dealing with a private sector enterprise.

What should be done about the uneducated child soldiers who are recruited to fight for causes they don’t understand?

Getting them away from the frontline is the main challenge. Once they are ex-soldiers, you need to think about rehabilitation programmes through which they could learn other skills.  The Boys’ Brigade is one model of a youth skills development process that could be adopted more widely.  In fact, since its founding in the late 19th century, the Boys’ Brigade has indeed spread to dozens of countries. The emphasis is on giving the youth structure, with adult volunteers offering guidance.  It’s like a youth cadet in which the children take part in various educational and recreational activities that build character.  The values they learn – loyalty, discipline and a decent work ethic – are all skills that they will need when they enter the job market.  Such an approach would go a long way in eliminating the scourge of disenfranchised children who will perhaps end up in jail.

What is Africa getting right?

There is so much good news! If only it would get into the headlines.  I am particularly impressed with some programmes in Ghana where they use the “distributed learning” approach.  The school curricula are available on video, and the country is adopting eLearning as never before. It’s particularly impressive when one considers the innovation jump that Africa has made. Within a short space of time, we’ve seen agricultural, industrial and technological revolutions sprouting up almost simultaneously. We are witnessing an ‘innovation jump’. I suspect that Africa is also miles ahead of the rest of the world when it comes to mLearning. For one, mobile money transfers are commonplace around Africa, yet Europe is only now just starting to catch up.  So the rapid move to an information society and knowledge economy in spite of all else is indeed a positive.

The Forum will look at the link between stability and economic growth from multiple angles.  Apart from your own session, which other sessions are you looking forward to?

I will go to each of them!

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