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Reflecting on African Leadership

By Amanda Morad | February 13, 2012

Pastor Mosa Sono responds to a question at Thursday's roundtable.
Photo by Alex Perry

Each year, Regent University holds a global roundtable discussion focused on a particular demographic region, allowing leaders to share ideas, open dialogue and answer questions about the world in which Regent is engaged. For this year's forum, the continent of Africa took center stage. The theme, "Dreaming with Open Eyes," reflected the sense of hope expressed by the speakers as they shared their thoughts and experiences with African leadership.

As a key part of the university's Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) to enhance the global competence of students,
the 2012 roundtable was held on Thursday, Feb. 9.

Dr. Corné Bekker, professor in the School of Global Leadership and the QEP director, opened the event by honoring African peace leader Nelson Mandela. Emphasizing the Scripture that says "how good it is when brothers dwell together in unity," he presented a music video of an African song written for Mandela while he was imprisoned.

After the tribute, Dr. Bramwell Osula, associate professor in GLE, took the stage to address "The Challenges & Hope of South Africa." Osula described leadership as a "process and art form" that is not easily perfected. "No country or continent has an AAA rating in leadership," he said. "When it comes to leadership, there's no magic, only hard work."

Despite facing many socioeconomic problems, "Africa is home to rising expectations," Osula said. Although hopeful for a new generation of leaders who are "prepared to catch, or even create the next wave of African leadership," he recognized the many challenges facing South Africans. "Reality means confronting poverty issues and corruption issues, but we have to celebrate the growth and achievements," he said.

Funmi Akinyele, a graduate student in GLE, focused her remarks on celebrating the first east African woman to earn a Ph.D., the renowned educator, activist and Nobel prize winner, Wangari Maathai. Maathai is responsible for mobilizing hundreds of thousands of Africans through the Green Belt movement. A Kenyan who had seen her country fall into drought and environmental degradation, Maathai's dream was to restore her homeland to a green Africa.

"She was a visionary," said Akinyele,"a leader who changed Africa by leading with African values." She challenged the audience, as Maathai did, to "be role models for the next generation of leadership."

Dr. Mosa Sono, pastor of Grace Bible Church in Soweto, South Africa, talked about Christ-centered leadership for Africa. Sono grew up during apartheid, oppressed in his own country. "Any picture of success, anything that represented ability or value, was white," he recalled.

Sono told the story of South Africa's transition out of apartheid, citing long-lasting and detrimental impacts on the identity and psyche of the nation. "We were free, but the effects of apartheid were still with us," he said.

Sono referenced Joshua in the Bible as a model for African leadership. Joshua took over the leadership of Israel after the death of Moses. "[He didn't] lead the same way Moses led," he explained. Like Joshua, "we needed to challenge our people to revive a spirit that had died in us."

It was during this time of transition that Pastor Sono rose up in church leadership. "We had to present the gospel the way James says in the Bible," he said, referring to the many programs for food, health and education that Grace Bible Church provides. "There's still so much that needs to be done," he concluded. "It's in how we lead that this new nation will be all God has created it to be."

Moderated by Dr. Antipas Harris, assistant professor in the School of Divinity, the questions and responses from the roundtable speakers during the subsequent open forum revealed a central theme: the lasting effects of oppression and poverty have prevented quality leadership of Africa in the past, but the outlook is promising.

Contributing to that outlook are Regent's educational, entrepreneurial and evangelical efforts in Africa, including graduate programs being established in Rwanda, Kenya and South Africa. "To change the world, you have to know the world," said Regent president, Dr. Carlos Campo of the university's global mission. "To change the world, you have to love the world as Christ loved us."

As it continues to grow, Regent envisions five global centers of faith-based learning in the future. Learn more about what Regent is doing globally.


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