/ 1 November 2013

The risk taker and driver of change

The Risk Taker And Driver Of Change

There is no other person than Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela to embody the spirit of risk-taking in an uncertain context.

The name “Rolihlahla” means pulling a branch off a tree. Colloquially it refers to a troublemaker.

Let’s visualise Mandela pulling a branch to understand his “stubbornness” but, equally so, his words “I maintain that nurture, rather than nature, is the primary molder of personality” give us an idea of his sense of humanity.

Much is written about Madiba’s early years in the ANC Youth League that provide a hint of the troublemaker dimension, which ironically made him a risk taker.

He tested boundaries and went beyond them, in the process becoming a great world leader.

The 2013 Drivers of Change Awards take place against the backdrop of risk and uncertainty.

Such times call for Mandela’s qualities. Indeed, Mandela took many risks against an uncertain future.

Ironically, risk and uncertainty are permanent features of many Africans, but are also at the centre of innovations, creativity, passion and the drive to make lasting change in society.

This year’s awards celebrate the innovative and creative projects that seek to make lasting and sustainable impacts.

For this reason we have embedded the awards in Madiba’s spirit. This is our tribute to Tata for his promotion of the value of life and his subsequent dedication to sustainable livelihoods. The message from his many years in prison is that the future can be secured today.

The awards are an expression of the work of the Southern Africa Trust on poverty eradication. Southern Africa remains a region with high poverty levels amid the many resources it possesses. The lived poverty indicators show that the majority of people lack access to quality water, health services, food and income.

Governance for development — a focus area for the Trust — is therefore an area for risk taking, creativity and the securing of sustainable wellbeing.

As a Trust, we celebrate innovation, creativity, adaptation, improvisation, tinkering, or even adoption of development strategies and tools that are meant to address the continent’s challenges, in general and in Southern Africa in particular.

In so doing, however, we also emphasise the question of sustainability. Sustainability refers to three dimensions: economic, political and ecological.

In other words, we are talking not just about financial stability, but also community ownership and resilience for future generations.

Celebrating innovation
This year’s nominations and subsequent winners illustrate several innovative approaches and strategies of investing in the future of the region and its peoples.

They have adopted strategies that place sustainability at the centre of the resolution of the challenges confronting the region in particular.

This cannot be more urgent and timely than today, when Africa is poised to be the next growth pole.

A number of continental and regional initiatives address this. The Agenda 2063 of the African Union, for example, seeks to position Africa in the next 50 years — primarily on an African agency paradigm.

As the years proceed, this is an initiative that will have to be consistently revisited to make sure it secures the future for Africans.

Tied in many ways to the Agenda 2063 are the current global consultations on the post-2015 Millennium Development Goals Agenda.

Interestingly, what has emerged in these consultations are questions of the prioritisation of an African narrative that would underpin the final post-2015 agenda.

Such a narrative has been urged to be radical, aggressive and progressive in addressing questions of sustainability for and transformation of African economies.

There is a realisation that Africa is not poor, but poorly governed, with attendant results of poverty, conflicts and unsustainable levels of debt.

What this means is that not one sector can address adequately the challenges, particularly of poverty and underdevelopment.

Transformative collaborations are but one dimension to the resolution of the challenges. The creation of sustainable approaches is another.

This year’s Drivers of Change Awards, held in partnership with the Mail & Guardian’s Investing in the Future Awards, seeks to showcase and celebrate these innovations and the creative spirits that prioritise governance and sustainability in the promotion of people’s livelihoods.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Investing in the Future Awards. This is a remarkable milestone, which also happens at a time when Tata Madiba’s legacy is at the forefront on issues of social change and justice.

Madiba is our ultimate driver of change and investor in the future. His life is a testament to what these awards seek to showcase and promote — an unwavering effort towards the eradication of poverty and the promotion of fairness, equity and equality.

Bhekinkosi Moyo is the acting executive director of the Southern Africa Trust and a member of the judging panel for the awards

Although this article has been made possible by the Mail & Guardian's advertisers, content and photographs were sourced independently by the M&G supplements editorial team. It forms part of a larger supplement.