SYPALA Activities: 2009

By 2009, IMANI’s SYPALA had proven that it was here to stay as a household name which was actively imparting the youth with the required skills to spur positive change in their nation and the African continent in general. The third symposium with the theme “Africa in an Age of Uncertainty” was held at the premises of the Ashesi University with about 80 participants from various universities from home and beyond such as the University of Ghana, Kumasi Polytechnic, KNUST, Anambra State University, Nigeria, National University of Rwanda, University of Botswana, University of Venda, University of Dar es Salam, Oxford Brookes University, University of Leicester, just to name a few. There were about 60 speakers, comprising of Army Generals, CEOs, Senior Technocrats, and Academic Deans and Dons who administered to the participants enkindling in these bright young minds a strong desire to become champions of liberty, proponents of the prosperity borne by strong markets and human rights, and principled advocates for the rule of law and institutional growth here in Ghana and farther afield.

Mr. Franklin Cudjoe, told participants in his opening address that “we provide opportunities such as this seminar for intellectually curious young people to explore the ideas of human freedom and their application to today’s problems. We are focused on these seminar series because we are convinced that ideas have consequences.”

Mr. Eric Don-Arthur led a session on Finding Africa’s Voice in the Global Crisis which sought to ensure that Africa would remain a player in spite of the global financial meltdown in the West and how to brace ourselves from the negative trickledown effect that was bound to occur. There was also another session on the importance of globalization for all countries to be winners from the exchanges that occur under globalization. Mr. Gabby Otchere-Darko, Executive Director of the Danquah Institute, developed the theme of government duty further, narrowing the focus to Rule of Law and Civil Liberties.

Gabby made a striking observation that nearly all the purposive social actions of the Hitlers, Abachas, and Stalins, of yesteryear, were perfectly legal according to the constitutions that they bulldozed through. Thus it is easy to conclude that “The Rule by Law” does not necessarily coincide with the “Rule of Law”. To properly identify the key features of the rule of law, we must necessarily view it against a backdrop of a kind of constitutionalism which assumes certain basic rights to be unquestionable and unalterable by any sovereignty beyond the law itself.

 Another speaker whose account of his life and challenges sent participants nodding and clapping every now and then was a man the BBC referred to as “Africa’s Bill Gate” – Herman Chinery Hesse, founder of SOFT tribe, “the largest software company in Ghana and possibly West Africa.

Chinery Hesse used his life to demonstrate to the young Africans that one does not necessarily need to be the best student in school to be able to make a change in the world around them. Not deprecating his sharp intellect, he noted that with hindsight, school makes one think “in the box” these days and that much as educational qualifications are necessary it takes personal resolve to be able to “think outside the box” and make a difference. He said instead of running away to the West for the so-called greener pastures, the youth must see Africa as the best place that offers them the opportunity to explore their potential and come up with solutions to the plethora of challenges facing the continent.

Speaking to Public Agenda, a number of the participants noted that they were glad to have been part of the programme and that they were going back to their various countries with a renewed sense of duty. There were interactive sessions and group discussions following some TED video screenings which sought to dissect the problem facing African nations being broken down into segments under the headings Trials, Tribulations and Triumphs. This session desired to find solutions to some of the ailments facing Africa such as nepotism, corruption, and the incompetence of the public sector. It also looked to mend the rifts of partisanship and heal the nation of its bleak past. It gave hope that the onus was on the youth to be creative and inspired to change the trajectory of the nation by using the lessons gathered from past mistakes and putting it to good use whiles translating it into ammunition to face and conquer present challenges.

A participant’s testimony on the program gives sufficient credence to its implementation stating that, “you have fertilized my mind; all my life I will bear fresh seeds of liberty”. Another participant, Theophilus Acheampong, winner of the Sohne Prize for African Excellence said, “This week has been a very transformational one for me personally. It has rekindled the burning desire in me to bring about the much needed change that I want to see happen in Ghana and Africa. And for this great mission to be accomplished I need knowledge, integrity and the great entrepreneurial mindset. After this week’s intellectual and brainstorming sessions, I’m very much empowered to bring about the change that I want to see. My life has been made better thanks to IMANI and SYPALA 2009. I’m ever ready to participate and contribute to any of IMANI’s research and programs.”

IMANI’s focus has not departed from its core objective of training a new corps of future visionaries and leaders who will carry the torch of liberty and blaze the trail of prosperity in the coming dawn of African renaissance. IMANI’s continental seminars have catered to many of the youth from across Africa, and brought many determined and inspired students in contact with Africa’s leading thinkers and doers.

 IMANI is so far the only think tank in Africa to have won the Templeton Prize of the Atlas Economic Research Foundation twice (beating 180 think tanks across the globe to it). It has since crowned this achievement with an Anthony and Dorian Fisher Award. Such recognition is clearly consistent with the notion expressed above that the organization cultivates a unique formula for success. One Templeton Prize Judge remarked: “I give them [IMANI] the highest points for being most specific and rigorous in applying free-market solutions to an array of complex social problems. Their submission shows the importance of using rigorously derived, quantifiable research outputs to gain credibility in shaping the policy debate. Crisp, clear, compelling data is the most useful tool to provide to any media outlet, and it’s easy for the media to use, without interpretation.”

It is without doubt always a testimony to the viability of an organization if its members show excellence both within and outside its remit. IMANI Principals have received awards ranging from the YAN Global Fellowship through Marie Curie Scholarships to St. Gallen Accreditation, as well as invitations to share panels with international leaders such as Bill Gates Snr., Mark Goldring, Anwar Ibrahim, Martin Wolf, and Maat Laar (former President of Estonia).And yet how much more, and how far better, could we have done; what greater developmental impact might we have made; and what greater heights in scholarship we would have reached, had support been more forthcoming. While we revel in our achievements, we are also all too aware of the ampleness of our challenges.

 At the end of each annual program, there is always the motivation to do more to help the youth as the feedback from this program is always so encouraging.  “I’ve looked helplessly at life on these streets every morning, where kids don’t go to school and parents don’t go to work. I’ve looked on and thought that there was no hope for these folk, and bowed my head in shame. But after the first week of August 2009 at the Students and Young Professionals African Liberty Academy facilitated by IMANI, I believe in hope for these folk. I believe their hope is me and I am their hope. If only I will stop thinking about the problems and work on the solutions.”