“CALA is about leading in agriculture and finding leaders for African agriculture. So, we are extremely happy and proud that you have decided to be part of this initiative.
We started this initiative because we realized that there was a disconnect in a number of places. The biggest disconnect was that the people that are farming today and the people that are basically living in the sector are not making it productive enough. They don’t have what it takes to make the sector productive. And we many times refer to them as, “Oh, the people that are working are 60 years old.” Have you heard that phrase being used a number of times? But the truth is, Africa is largely young people, and those young people are not anywhere coming close to this area that is the soul of our food and, in many cases, is a critical element of reducing poverty in our continent.
The other truth is, many of you are already working in critical places—places that are important for impacting the sector, whether you’re working with the government, the private sector, or leading a farm organization in the civil sector. You’re already a critical part of what’s going on, but you’re disconnected from this whole leadership that CALA is fostering and from the knowledge that is very critical to leading the sector. So, we thought that maybe the first connection we need is to ensure that there’s a direct link to the sector, that you have an opportunity to link with the sector.
That’s number one. But the next connection you need is to connect with each other. As people that are leading within a country, whether you’re leading in the private sector, government, or civil society, you’re a leader, and you need to connect. You need to speak the same language. And how do you get to speak the same language? You have to have conversations that are aligned around the same issues, you have to know each other.
So we’ve done this, and I was extremely excited to see how you people in CALA are already beginning to solve problems together. When you bring someone in government, a branch of government, and someone in the private sector, and someone working with farmers, and you’re all working together on a problem to resolve a problem together, that’s what should be. The other thing that I found really, really interesting is that until we got you to talk to each other and design that program together, you actually all came from the same country, caring about the same things, worried about the same things, and you had never talked.
So, really, that’s what CALA is about. We give you a chance to connect. The other part of the connection is that you come from so many different countries, and you are exposed to so many different things, and this is an opportunity to learn and network. But you’re also connected to the rest of us. Just think about how many people during this forum you’ll be able to meet. Don’t take that lightly. These are not the corridors of power, but these are the corridors of connection. In those corridors, make sure you connect. Make sure you walk up to people and ask them how they can support you, how they can help you, how they can speak to your people, how they can tell you what is working differently. Support and help are not about money; it’s about knowledge and information. Anybody who has more information than you has more power than you. So this is really the opportunity that CALA brings. Let’s use it as that opportunity that helps shape the leaders of tomorrow. That’s the ultimate conversation here.
CALA was put in place to shape the leaders of tomorrow, to help you understand what’s happening, where you’re going, to help you start thinking about how you want to lead in that space. How to lead with the private sector, how to work with the government better if you’re in the private sector, and how to lead with farmers and work with farmers where everybody is a winner. Where young people and old people and women and men have a seat and have the ability to have a conversation.
So that was really the purpose, and I hope that you’re beginning to harness and see the opportunities for that. I want to conclude on one note: I want to thank the partners that saw the vision of CALA as an opportunity to bring Africa’s leadership and African youth into leadership. The German government that funds this work through Agra was the initial financier of this work, and we’re extremely grateful for the support that we’ve gotten for the first cohort, which has already graduated and is now working. And now the third cohort that is here, and I hope we’re building a community of people out there that take leadership in their hands and understand the value of leading for the agricultural sector.
I also want to thank our other partners: the Rockefeller Foundation, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Mastercard Foundation. They see the opportunity to continue building systems on this continent and continue building capacities that can help us to own our narrative and lead the continent, starting with the agricultural sector.
I want to thank our partners for getting CALA moving and starting, and for doing an amazing job. We’re extremely grateful for the work that has been done. So, with that, Apollos, I thank you for bringing this team here, and I want you to know that the whole agriculture ecosystem out there, we are really excited to have you joining us. We want to know how we can support you and help you to be tomorrow’s leaders in the agriculture sector, whether you’re in the public sector, private sector, or civil society. We want you to have the vision to ensure that we can, as a continent, feed ourselves.