CALA – Calling Leaders driving an Agriculture Transformation in Africa

Agriculture Transformation in Africa can only be realised when visionary, delivery-focused leaders collaborate across government, private sector, and civil society. Achieving an inclusive agriculture transformation means increased productivity rooted in sustainable growth, social impact through reducing poverty and increasing food security and macroeconomic impact through increased contribution to the national economy.

Making strides in agriculture development is a long-term endeavour. Leaders must be visionary and have the technical and political capabilities and the support system to deliver on their strategies and actualize their plans. Government leaders must be able to prioritize and sequence investments in National Agriculture Investment Plans and build the right cross-sectoral partnerships to implement Flagship Projects. To actualize a country vision for agriculture transformation, “The emergence of strategic and flexible support to political champions and leadership is essential because transformation is not automatic.” (Africa Agriculture Status Report (2018:51).

AGRA’s new Centre for African Leaders in Agriculture (CALA) has been established as a core part of this support system, and with the explicit goal of enabling African leaders to deliver on their agriculture sector priorities. CALA is now building the inaugural cohort of eighty African leaders from the public, private and civil society working on national importance agriculture projects.

What key issues do sector leaders face? 

Sector leaders are rich in technical capabilities. Ministries of Agriculture are staffed with highly qualified experts, with a deep understanding of what is required to create systemic change. Yet implementation challenges persist. That is because of the complex, long-term nature of the sector’s challenges, which call for a nuanced combination of technical expertise and political savvy to build real momentum for change. The 2014 Malabo Commitments are evidence of African countries’ increased political accountability, ownership and leadership to designing and implementing transformative initiatives in Agriculture.

Implementation challenges in strategy and planning, in delivery of government projects and program/sector coordination persist and hamper progress. AGRA’s close working relationship with public officials has also shown that agricultural line ministries are dealing with a serious challenge in continuity of leadership as senior-level technical leaders are retiring with no clear succession plans.

It is with this understanding in mind that AGRA, with support from the German Development Cooperation, set about developing CALA.

CALA’s Advanced Leadership Programme

In partnership with the African Management Institute and USAID’s Policy LINK, CALA’s Advanced Leadership program will be rolled out across eight countries – Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia, Malawi, Ghana and Nigeria. CALA acknowledges that government leadership is the centre-piece of sector reform, working closely with all actors including the private sector, farmers and civil society. The programme is set up as complementary to existing support that implementers of national agriculture projects receive from AGRA (such as Technical Assistance, consultancies among others).

How is CALA different? 

CALA is not an academic program. Rather, it aims to walk with select leaders on their journeys to deliver development gains in agriculture. It will provide practical, hands-on support and training availing training in often elusive adaptive leadership skills, exposure to case studies of agriculture transformation in Africa and more broadly from the global south, and management skills for delivery which are critical in day to day project implementation. These include skills such as contract negotiation, strategic thinking, multi-sectoral partnership development, among others. Executive and team coaching, Action Learning Projects, interaction with Agriculture Transformation Champions, year-round virtual learning, and peer learning and networking are a core part of the unique offerings to CALA’s cohort of leaders.

What informs the design of CALA? 

CALA’s outlook to providing leadership implementation support is collaborative and African-centered. Informed by a landscaping study, the design acknowledges existing leadership initiatives, and civil service training programs and learns from their approaches. This study highlights the importance of being demand-driven, shaping support directly in response to sector leaders’ lived realities and challenges, as well as selecting a mixed cohort of established leaders and rising stars who are leading the implementation of national priority projects, and who can work productively together over time. Leaders selected must be deeply embedded within the agriculture sector, and open to learning from peer exchange and networking to ensure that the learning process is organic even after the formal program is complete. The duration of the leadership journey offered by the program is sixteen months which is longer than the standard 6-8-month executive program to allow ample time for the delivery of identified aspects of agriculture programs and register gains from behavioural changes in leadership styles.  A multi-country Learning Needs Analysis further informs the lessons learnt.

CALA’s Future Vision

AGRA’s vision for CALA is that it will become a Centre for excellence in providing implementation support for agriculture sector leaders. We are gathering lessons as we design and implement these first two leadership journeys over the next three years to improve the program. We will continue to think strategically about the sustainability of the support over time, and to building a strong network of like-minded partners. Join CALA’s illustrious inaugural cohort and be part of the leadership coalition for Africa’s agriculture transformation.

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The Centre for African Leaders in Agriculture (CALA) is made possible with the friendly support of:

German Cooperation