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Edwige-Renée DRO: what i learned from Donald Kaberuka on Leadership


With guests of note like Mr Daouda Couliably, the Managing Director of SIB (Société Ivoirienne de Banque) from the Attijariwafa Bank Group and Mr Thierry Tanoh who needs no introduction, MTN Soirée Leadership Abidjan, only in its third edition, has started to become the event to attend. And yesterday was no different as we had Mr Donald Kaberuka, the African Development Bank’s president from 2005 to 2015.

The first president in the history of the institution to take function outside of the bank’s permanent seat of Abidjan, President Kaberuka shared with us his thoughts on “Leading Africa to Success”, the theme of the evening.

Known for his legendary humility, President Kaberuka brushed away his so-called courage in going to Liberia at the height of the Ebola crisis by saying, “Were there not people living in that country? And people going there? Doctors, nurses, officials? It was the thing to do.” And just like that, he set the tone for the evening; an inspiring and challenging evening.

According to President Kaberuka, everyone, and not just politicians, qualifies as a leader, before going on to flesh out for us the four characteristics that make a leader. Competence, a strong set of values, courage to take difficult and unpopular decisions and last but not least resilience, were to him the necessary ingredients for leadership. He shared with us how these characteristics helped the bank in wavering the storms of the bank’s seat being transferred to Tunis for 11 years when it had initially been thought that the situation would last 6 months, the Tunisian uprising which led to the Arab Spring and the financial crisis of 2008.

In summary, and President Kaberuka didn’t disappoint there when he mentioned that he would summarise his address with three points. The audience has rather been waiting for these three points when in his introductory speech, Mr Daouda Coulibaly of the Attijariwafa Bank Group mentioned that the only anecdote he could have on President Kaberuka was that the president always started his addresses with, “I have three things to say.” So the three things President Kaberuka had to share were to have:

  • A clear and simple vision understood by everyone

  • Strategic choices and the

  • Readiness at all times to deal with unknowns

The event, held at the Sofitel Hotel, ended with a series of questions from members of the audience and a cocktail. A truly inspirational evening where we were challenged on issues like the participation and the implication of the youth in leading Africa to success and questioning our strategy at all times because consistency did not equal immobility.

I now can’t wait for the next edition of MTN Soirée Leadership, which has for mission to reinforce African intelligence and being a hub for the participation of everyone in making Africa great.

This contribution is from Edwige-Renée DRO, Writer and Translator