Forty future African leaders; an investment banker, a poet, a President. What do they have in common?

They are all together in Nairobi, at the Africa Venture, a leadership development programme delivered by Common Purpose, in collaboration with the Club de Madrid, and in association with Accenture and Rand Merchant Bank. More specifically, they are all together at the gala dinner, on the second evening of the programme. Looking around the room is a feast for the eyes, people dressed in the glorious colours and costumes of Africa. The company is buzzing, seething with the experiences of the first two days of this programme. Today these future leaders travelled the length and breadth of Nairobi, in small buses, visiting an astounding range of organisations, extracting impressions of as diverse as those of Safaricom—the cell-phone turned banking company, and the National Youth Service—the semi-military state agency turned training ground for young people; giving skills and the dignity of work, earning, and saving. They have been in an out of the IT entrepreneur factory that is iHub, the skills development projects of Vision Africa and the excellent factory floor of De La Rue, a smooth-as-silk operation printing banknotes to world quality standards. They have crossed boundaries into territories unknown, and begun to learn to thrive on the other side.

On the first day of the programme they were locked in conversations around leadership – raging debates about whether democracy is good for Africa, whether the scourge of corruption in Africa will fade with the receding old guard, and whether leaders can only be successful if they are like most other people around them. They were riveted by Tabitha Karanje, CEO of Kenya’s homegrown Keroche Breweries, a 17-year entrepreneurial story of the indefatigable determination it takes to create a new company, and to keep it going against all odds. Finally, they were challenged by Julia Middleton, global CEO of Common Purpose, to discover their own Cultural Intelligence.

So who are the characters gathered at this event?

The President is Sir James Mancham, founding President of the Republic of the Seychelles. He is here in his capacity as a member of the Club de Madrid. He is also here in his life-long role as peacemaker, protector of democracy, promoter of young talent. He reminds us that success more than GDP – it is also about contentment, that leadership is about country first and self last – not the other way round. He offers both himself and his wisdom. We are charmed by his openness to share a lifetime of learning.

The investment banker is Ngugi Kiuki, Head of Investment Banking for Africa at Rand Merchant Bank. Kenya-born, PhD in engineering, he breaks all the stereotypes of investment banking. He helps us make sense of Africa, its challenges and its paradoxes. He challenges us to think bigger – to think Africa.

And the poet is Sitawa Namwalie. Her poetry explodes into life as she taunts, teases and touches us. We are beyond entertained – we are delighted – we are refreshed. We are ready to learn more about leadership tomorrow.

Read more about the Africa Venture and Common Purpose on