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Preparing Africa for global leadership through Aig-Imoukhuede Foundation’s Public Leaders Programme.

Preparing Africa for global leadership through Aig-Imoukhuede Foundation’s Public Leaders Programme.

By Andrew, David Adejo

The African continent is blessed with an abundance of natural resources, supported by an equally globally competitive human resource base that is yet to be fully optimised in driving its development. As has been proven in countries like Singapore, China, and India, the key vehicle for development is a contemporary and responsive public service.

A major impetus for developing countries that have leapfrogged their development was a shift from the traditional “command and control” administrative system to a system that models the delivery of government goods and services on the best practices of the private sector to create a generation of public servants with the right mix of patriotism, professionalism, non-partisanship, and impartial civil service values and ethics. Agenda 2063 cannot be feasible if public service on the continent remains the way it is.

Read also: How Aig-Imoukhuede Foundation saved me from a difficult situation, Yemi-Esan

In the case of most African countries, the need for a contemporary administrative system is more urgent in view of the embedded bounded rationality and institutional inertia compounded by dwindling resources, a growing decline in capacity, and an increasing population.

Past reform efforts have shown that government alone cannot engender such a transformative change, and the private sector needs to support the government in the endeavour gap because a responsive and contemporary Civil Service would be of greater benefit to the continent. It is this gap that the Aig-Imoukhuede Foundation, through its AIG Public Leaders Programme, is trying to fill by “inspiring civil servants to seek for and deploy answers that they already have within them in dealing with the challenges of efficient and effective delivery of public goods and services,” to paraphrase the Chairman of the Foundation, Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede.

The Aig-Imoukhuede Foundation is a public-sector-focused philanthropic organisation founded on closing the gap between Africa and the rest of the world by improving the lives of Africans through transformed public service delivery and increased access to quality primary healthcare for the African continent.

The Foundation aims for effective, values-driven public service to improve Africa’s socio-economic performance and citizens’ outcomes. By supporting the Federal Civil Service, states, and African countries like Kenya, Ghana, and South Africa, the Foundation deepens public-private partnerships, involving the private sector in altruistic public service responsibilities, ensuring a conducive environment for private sector growth.

Through its AIG Public Leaders Programme (AIG PLP) and various support to the Federal Civil Service, she is gradually changing the narrative on public sector reform by building a shared understanding of the requirements for improved public sector performance, taking ownership for public sector transformation, building a critical mass of public sector leaders, and working with the public sector to strengthen effective policy design and implementation.

The AIG PLP is a partnership between Oxford University and the Blavatnik School of Government, aiming to identify and train high-potential African public servants to become transformative leaders. The flagship programme combines academic rigour with practical insights from governance experts. The Foundation aims to train over 3000 public servants in the next decade.

As part of the PLP and since 2017, the Foundation has offered fully funded scholarships to 32 scholars, drawn from across Africa, for a one-year Masters of Public Policy (MPP), which is, in the words of Mrs Ofovwe Aig-Imoukhuede, “providing the next generation of public service leaders with a world-class education that equips them with the skills and knowledge they need to make positive changes in their countries and across the continent.”.

The in-country PLP had successfully graduated 170 middle-level and senior civil servants from Nigeria and other African countries who underwent a rigorous curriculum designed to instil a deep understanding of the complexities of today’s public sector landscape. Engaging classroom discussions, simulations, practical exercises, and peer learning opportunities equipped participants to navigate the challenges of leadership and drive positive change within their respective spheres of influence.

These graduates return to their country’s Ministries, Extra-Ministerial Departments, and Agencies (MDAs) empowered to effect change, and the ripple effects of their leadership will resonate throughout the continent. Through their capstone project, some important changes have been brought to bear in their places, as depicted by the following:

-standardisation of on-the-job training for Air Traffic Safety Electronic Personnel (ATSEP) communication ratings for Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos; and

-development of software for tracking all freezing orders electronically to ensure compliance with the 72-hour law in the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit.

The greatest impact of the PLP was aptly summed up by Bashir Bringa Musa, a Deputy Director in the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Abuja. “The AIG Public Leaders Programme is essential for the African public sector because it cultivates a cadre of skilled and visionary leaders. By addressing the region’s unique challenges, the programme plays a crucial role in fostering sustainable development, good governance, and effective public service delivery.”

Read also: The return of Aig-Imoukhuede

The unique and sustainable feature of the PLP is that it is anchored within the support of the 2021–2025 Federal Civil Service Strategy Implementation Plan (FCSSIP25), which is a successor to the 2017–2020 Federal Civil Service Strategy and Implementation Plan (FCSSIP20). The involvement of the Foundation in the two FCSSIPs ensured continuity in reform efforts, and the fortnightly meetings of the Office of the Head of Service and the Aig-Imoukhuede Foundation’s Steering Committee allowed for a consistent focus on the various reform initiatives.

The value of this collaborative partnership was best captured by the current Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Dr Folasade Yemi Esan CFR: “We are committed to improving public service delivery and efficiency to ensure that the people of Nigeria have a seamless experience of federal services. The digitalization of our work processes will enable us to be more effective, and I commend the Aig-Imoukhuede Foundation for partnering with us to achieve this.”.

Efforts by the government alone to ensure a contemporary and responsive civil service cannot be sufficient to create any meaningful and sustainable change. The Aig-Imoukhuede Foundation, therefore, understands that her pioneering work in catalysing transformational and positive change within Africa’s public sector would require an expansion of the partnership base. The Foundation has, thus, commenced the processes for fostering collaboration among stakeholders to promote excellence, effectiveness, and integrity in public service leadership.

The African continent needs to realise that the effectiveness and efficiency of its public service greatly determine how it undertakes the processes of creating growth, progress, and positive change in physical, socio-economic, environmental, and demographic components for the betterment of a greater majority.

For Africa to begin to take commanding heights in global affairs, she needs to take advantage of her youthful population, and this can only be possible if she has a public service that creates opportunities for this energetic segment of her population to contribute to her development.

As the Aig-Imoukhuede Foundation continues to champion the cause of enhanced public service delivery and improved healthcare access, she remains a testament to the power of collaboration, innovation, and philanthropy. However, the need for greater partnerships and collaboration calls for other philanthropists to join this laudable initiative. Nigeria did this during the COVID-19 pandemic, and such an initiative would be very necessary in strengthening the African Public Service.


Andrew, David Adejo, Rtd Federal Permanent Secretary.