Andrew Levi

Senior Strategy and Operations Manager, Emerging Public Leaders

Nduulwa Kowa

Princeton in Africa Fellow at Emerging Public Leaders 

Passing the baton to steer Africa’s public service into the future

To mark Africa Day, Andrew Levi and Nduulwa Kowa consider the future of public service across the continent, advocating for support and mentorship for the next generation of leaders through schemes such as the Emerging Public Leaders’ Public Service Fellowship.

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African Union conference centre, Addis Ababa
African Union conference centre, Addis Ababa. Image by Solen Feyissa on Unsplash.

Sixty years ago, intergenerational African leaders descended on Addis Ababa and resolved to establish a common vision and pathway towards a free African continent. Their aspirations, forever etched in a shared purpose, culminated in the establishment of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU).

Today, this collective consciousness is instilled in the African Union (AU) and reverberates across the continent as we celebrate Africa Day each year. Each year on 25 May we commemorate the founding of the OAU and the emergence of independent African states in the late 1950s and 1960s. Africa Day marks the transition from Africa’s singular struggle against colonial oppression to a sustained battle against the eternal enemies of development – hunger, disease, illiteracy, tribalism and poverty.

The work of transforming Africa out of these repressive clutches into a global powerhouse of the future has not come to fruition overnight. In fact this work continues today as younger African leaders take up the baton as catalysts for development from where their founding forefathers and foremothers have left off. If the African Union and African citizens are to attain the vision of the Africa We Want by 2063, intentionally fostering intergenerational co-leadership – a marriage between youthful dynamism and invaluable experience – to create and deliver solutions for public service and governance will be absolutely essential. 

Undoubtedly, the demand for a cross-generational, all-hands-on-deck approach towards achieving government-led sustainable development is made even more necessary by emerging realities. Among them, an increasingly volatile and complex global operating environment, the unprecedented social and economic strains and shocks from a global health pandemic, and an imminent technological revolution.

It is this unfinished work of driving more effective and inclusive governance in Africa that Emerging Public Leaders has as its singular mission: to identify and prepare generations of Africans for future public service leadership by establishing Public Service Fellowships.

With an expanding continental footprint of Fellowships in Liberia, Ghana, Kenya – and with the ambition to expand across the whole continent – 311 Public Service Fellows are impacting change in over 60 African ministries, departments and agencies. Our journey towards having 500 Fellows in six African countries by 2027 is playing a definitive part in driving cross-generational public service leadership and stronger citizen outcomes in Africa.

Inspired by the best of Africa’s first generation of public servants, Emerging Public Leaders’ Public Service Fellowship model is an intergenerational effort to fill a gap in citizen-centric leadership development training for entry-level public servants. In addition to a rigorous training curriculum, the Public Service Fellowships provide Fellows with mentorship, performance management, continental peer networks and professional development support. In this way, the Fellowships equip them with the tools and networks needed to become ethical leaders capable of driving long-term, institutional change in African public governance. Fellowship programme components such as collective community service projects, Pan-African alumni webinars and sponsorships for attending conferences provide an opportunity to reignite Pan-Africanism through such deliberate networking. 

The observable effect of our Public Service Fellowships is a gradual rejuvenation of interest among young Africans in public service careers, where they stand to play crucial roles in policy design and implementation.

Achieving Agenda 2063’s aspirations of an integrated continent rooted in Pan-Africanism is possible with deliberate efforts to invite stakeholders across generations to address Africa’s most pressing public challenges. Africa Day reminds us to celebrate the significant progress we have already made while providing us with an opportunity to look forward to the work that remains unfinished. Through Emerging Public Leaders’ ongoing work to identify and empower new generations of public servants and that of like-minded institutions like the Blavatnik School of Government at Oxford and Africa Initiative for Governance, Africa will continue to benefit from the skilled public sector talent needed to drive inclusive and sustainable development across Africa. 

Recognising that the leadership that Africa needs will neither emerge spontaneously nor in a vacuum, we urge governments, funders, private investors and citizens to be intentional about nurturing and supporting purposeful intergenerational leadership through efforts such as our own Public Service Fellowships. Sixty years ago, our forefathers and foremothers identified building a prosperous and peaceful African continent as the magnum opus – the great work of each nation and every individual citizen in Africa. We hope that on this Africa Day, you will join us not just in celebrating an Africa on the move, but also the revolutionary programmes established to further and sustain its growth into the future. 

Andrew Levi (MPP 2015) is Senior Strategy and Operations Manager and Nduulwa Kowa is Princeton in Africa Fellow at Emerging Public Leaders, an organisation developing the next generation of African public servants who are committed to social change.