Harvard University Center for African Studies Provides Bridges Between Academia, Business and Africa

Leadership is the single-most important factor for creating the next stage of prosperity in Africa, according to Sangu Delle, MBA candidate at the Harvard Business School and ALN member. For Delle, the new generation of African leaders should embody selflessness, and strive to liberate the continent from economic slavery. This vision of economic freedom and prosperity was born out of Delle’s own personal cultivation of leadership skills. During his time at Harvard, Delle developed his leadership style, while getting involved with the Harvard University Center for African Studies.

The Center has catalyzed the positioning of Africa among Harvard’s top institutional priorities. The Center’s faculty, students, and institutional resources have consistently been leveraged to transform and benefit the continent. “Harvard trains leaders who have, and will continue to, change the world,” concluded Delle. “Having that confidence and self-belief, ‘I can build something great in Africa’….you really need that.” Pairing the experiential knowledge gained during his MBA with the exposure to experts studying issues of import to Africa at the Center, Delle believes he has been uniquely prepared to break business barriers on the continent.

Delle describes the Harvard difference as one not only of curriculum, but of environment. “Being surrounded by young leaders from around the world equips you with a global context, which allows you to glean the best models for Africa.” For Delle, dogmatism should be abandoned in the search for the best solutions to the problems that face African nations today and in the future. The old boundaries outlining what solutions work for Africa are no longer applicable; entrepreneurs on the cutting edge, such as Delle, are defining their own limits and adopting the solutions that work for them. The key to implementing these solutions, for Delle, is self-belief, that fine balance between arrogance and humility. Harvard instilled in Delle the knowledge that an individual can make a difference.

As the Founder, CEO and Chairman of Golden Palm Investments, which focuses on frontier markets in Africa, Delle has invested in an African Leadership Network Ventures early-stage company, Stawi Foods and Fruits Ltd. The company operates a food processing business based out of Nairobi, Kenya. It was launched in 2011 after the founders noticed existing problems in getting these products to market while avoiding price shocks and creating a smooth stream of revenue. According to Delle, Stawi is able to provide a guaranteed market of consumers by providing important food staples at competitive prices. “The product is local and highly nutritious, and will go a long way in dealing with malnutrition issues in Kenya and beyond,” explained Delle.

“Over the next 35 years, over 1 billion babies will be born in Africa,” he elaborated. For Delle, this youth bulge could set development in Africa back several decades, if not managed effectively. “We’re investing in Africa’s future. There are many demonstrable links between nutrition and cognitive performance; Stawi aims to address the issue of malnutrition by feeding the next generation of African leaders with healthy food.”

Linking these varied types of social impact to leadership is part of Delle’s vision for Africa’s future. He views leadership as the key ingredient to creating lasting change in a variety of areas. “We’re now at an inflection point on the continent,” he said. “We have an emerging middle class and consumer class. The right leadership can consolidate the gains we have made and take them further, by embracing the idea of ‘shared prosperity.’”

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