Voices of Africa – Joseph Musangi, Nairobi, Kenya

Joseph Musangi

Joseph Musangi is Manager at eCornell (Cornell University online programmes) in Kenya, Nairobi and considers himself a member of the next generation of leaders and entrepreneurs in Africa. He shared his thoughts and doubts with us whether Africa is aware of its potential.

Dear conference organisers,

I came into the office today, and I had this brain wave so to speak. I decided to put down a letter that I hope can be shared with the rest of the participants at the conference.

I belong to what can rightfully be referred to as the next generation of leaders and entrepreneurs in Africa. Since my early school days and my continuous interaction with many of my peers from across Africa, it has indeed puzzled me that despite our diverse nationalities, we all share a common dilemma: At independence, the founding fathers and mothers of our various nations set out to eliminate poverty, ignorance, and disease from society by the year 2000. Reading this feature, your guess is as good as mine as to how far Africa has managed to achieve these noble goals.

There is great potential for the African continent to rise up and achieve the so-called first-world status. However, are we as the African people aware of our potential to achieve this, and are we really investing in the right fields? The world is increasingly becoming a global economy, and by extension, borders are becoming non- existent. I would say the only difference between those who succeed and those who fail lies in their perception of events and their ability to adapt and shape future events. For all intents and purposes, the construction of schools, colleges and other academic institutions offering a static syllabus that the colonial masters left behind is a mockery of development and will not help Africa achieve its true potential.

How else does one explain the success of the Asian Tigers vs. that of Africa? It is evident that the need to look around, identify our goals, and hold ourselves accountable to these goals is imperative. It is only then that Africa will be able truly take her rightful place among the world economies and celebrate as an example of the success stories of globalization. Let us all first be candid enough to acknowledge the deficit gap in skills and knowledge between the African entrepreneur and his peers in the western world as a starting point. Despite this deficit gap, the African entrepreneur is inherently aggressive, innovative, and blessed with an unusual capacity to withstand certain calamities. How then does he fuse all these traits meaningfully?

eLearning presents an amazing solution to the African quest, but the intrigues and mystery that surround this concept must first be torn apart. Computers are not here to substitute for human labor nor are they here to fast track the retrenchment process. eLearning allows us to train and develop our workforce continuously, to capture, share, and manage knowledge and skills of the professionals who work in our organizations, colleges, and universities, and to get the right information to the right people, when and how they need it. In celebrating globalization, we must accept that there is a need to define what is around us without prejudice and then look at the global perspective in order to move on. Our affinity to “protect” the immediate post-independent providers of such knowledge and skills training – who incidentally have not reformed their syllabi – is the point where we lose the development agenda.

eLearning allows African entrepreneurs to move to the cutting edge of their industry, fully in command and aware of the global trends and outlooks while studying locally. In terms of cost, eLearning is cost effective and eliminates additional expenses, such as travel, accommodation, and allowances that are an extra burden on the training budget. This allows more people to benefit from this training than before. Individuals have access to a diversity of training programs, world-renowned faculty, peer networking opportunities, the benefit of online collaboration, and the flexibility of the eLearning programs.

Over the years, the development of eLearning in Africa has been powered through distance learning and audios (tapes and CDs). Today, we have great technology available that has desirably linked Africa with the rest of the world. Indeed, such technology is the key to the successful delivery of online training and the development of eLearning . But just who in the African corporate world should and will captain this agenda?

The role of the Human Resource professional is rapidly transforming from that of the custodian and executer of corporate policy to that of a strategic partner in any meaningful corporate endeavour. This however creates a huge challenge for the capacity of the HR professional to adapt to the times. As demands and expectations of the corporate world shift a gear higher, it is incumbent upon the HR professionals to identify suitable sources of skills development and knowledge acquisition that will build the personal and professional effectiveness of their employees and organizations.

As an integral pillar in providing proactive and critical input into the strategic business initiatives, the HR professional needs to be alive and accommodating, to listen and to weigh the various eLearning platforms that suit their business model and ideally to take their rightful seat in corporate board rooms to drive the eLearning agenda home. The benefits of eLearning will far outweigh the reluctance of African corporations to advocate the implementation of eLearning , and it is only when this has taken place that we will be able to talk of realizing the goals of eliminating poverty, ignorance and disease in society.

But do HR professionals realize their increasing role in transforming African businesses into meaningful entities in the future? My take: it’s a fifty –fifty show, as HR professionals knowingly or unknowingly place gatekeepers at their doors to shy away from the eLearning concept or to protect the status quo, which on the flip side continues to keep many of them far away from the boardroom.

The future of Africa in the economic arena lies in the collective determination to embrace eLearning as a partner in development. In East Africa, through an initiative by the Hospitality Systems Consultants Ltd, the Cornell University online programs (eCornell) are now available to meet the growing demands of a rapidly developing economic community. As a proven leader in the eLearning sector, eCornell continues to offer programs in Strategic Business Management, Change Management, several certifications in Human Resource Management, General Business Management and Hospitality and Foodservice Management. Each of these programs is uniquely designed to enhance an individual’s participation through enriched simulations, case studies, and a refined methodology of delivering the training and a personalized tuition with a Subject Matter Expert or Cornell instructor. Upon completion, an Ivy League certification is awarded from Cornell University. Those who have taken the program continue to be agents of change within their organizations, offering valuable input; they have transformed their careers.

The time has come for Africa to critically analyze what they are investing in and what economic sense it will make in the future development of society.

eLearning embraces the future in the present time and it is incumbent upon those charged with driving the African economy to critically blend and embrace eLearning as a means of development. Future generations must be able to look back and say in appreciation; ‘they could not have done it any better’.

E-mail Joseph at joe.musangi@ecornell.co.ke.

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