Tag Archives: leadership

One Woman’s Leadership Journey

On April 7, 2012, entrepreneur and longtime women’s right activist Joyce Banda became Malawi’s first female president – and only second on the African continent – after the sudden death of President Bingu wa Mutharika propelled her from the vice presidency to the country’s highest office. In 2014, she placed 40th on the Forbes list of 100 Women Who Lead the World.

What path led her to that meteoric rise and how did she manage to capitalize on her strengths as a woman leader to both overcome personal challenges and face the challenges in front of her country? Last week I had the pleasure of sitting down with Dr. Banda for a candid interview where she talked about her story and its lessons for aspiring women leaders in Africa and around the world.

Before entering politics in 1999 to run for Parliament, Banda started a number of successful businesses and in 1990 founded the National Association of Business Women (NABW). With CIPE support, the organization grew to more than 15,000 members and made an important difference in the lives of women entrepreneurs in Malawi.

What inspired her to become active in business and then in politics? “In 1981, I walked out on an abusive marriage and looking back it became very clear to me that what had gone wrong is that I hadn’t been economically empowered. So I decided to set myself on a path that would ensure that abuse doesn’t happen again,” she said.

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Engaging Women to Move Societies Forward

IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde (Photo: Mount Holyoke College)

At a recent conference on global women’s leadership at the US State Department, the managing director of International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, remarked that the answer to today’s economic crisis is collective action.

“There is no economy in the world, whether low-income countries, emerging markets, middle-income countries or super-advanced economies that will be immune to the crisis that we see not only unfolding but escalating…It is not a crisis that will be resolved by one group of countries taking action. It is going to be hopefully resolved by all countries, all regions, all categories of countries actually taking action.”

A holistic approach to solving global challenges is needed, she said, and that includes involving women in the picture.

More than 15 years have passed since the signing of the Beijing Declaration on women’s rights, but women remain under-represented in social, political, and economic spheres. Women hold less than 20 percent of all parliamentary seats. Women’s nominal wages are 17 percent lower than men’s. Moreover, women represent 70 percent of the world’s poor even though they perform over 60 percent of the world’s work.  And the global economic crisis has further exasperated the situation – according to the ILO, the crisis is expected to plunge a further 22 million women into unemployment, raising the female unemployment rate to 7.4 percent (versus 7 percent male unemployment).

Yet, just as many leaders and academics have repeatedly argued, societies improve “when women have the power to make their own economic and social choices. “ CIPE recognizes that building a healthy democracy requires ensuring fair and open economic, political, and civic participation of women. As Secretary Hillary Clinton recently stated, gender equity isn’t simply about fairness, but about expanding the talent pool to help tackle the world challenges in a democratic fashion.

“If you’re trying to solve a problem, whether it is fighting corruption or strengthening the rule of law or sparking economic growth, you are more likely to succeed if you widen the circle to include a broader range of expertise, experience, and ideas. So as [the world works] to solve… problems, we need more women at the table and in the halls of parliament and government ministries where these debates are occurring…”

But changing society’s mindset takes time and effort, and it needs everyone – the government, private sector, and civil society – to work together.

To this end, CIPE works with various actors to create environments that enable the removal of institutional barriers to women’s participation. In Bangladesh, CIPE worked with the Bangladesh Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry, who were advocating for a change in banking rules to ease access to credit for women entrepreneurs. Due to these changes, nearly $23 million has been provided to over 3,000 women entrepreneurs, helping to create around 20,000 new jobs.

Similarly in Pakistan, CIPE worked with chambers of commerce who were trying to reform the national trade ordinance law in 2006. For the first time in the country’s history, women are now allowed to establish their own associations without male sponsorship. And this new regulation produced a positive effect – by 2010, more than more than 2,000 members had joined eight women’s chambers throughout the country, and the number of women executives in major chambers and associations in Pakistan grew to 60, when nearly none had existed in prior years.

As the eurozone crisis intensifies, Tunisia leads the way for Arab democracy, and former Soviet countries such as the Kyrgyz Republic slowly become more market-oriented and hold democratic elections, societies throughout the world must re-examine how women can play a role in improving social and economic conditions. We can’t afford to overlook women’s lack of participation as simply “cultural barriers.”  Engaging with women – and involving more women into dialogues – is key for societies to move forward.

Best way to lead is by example

Map of African governance with darker shades indicating better quality of governance (Source: www.moibrahimfoundation.org)

After two years of withholding the award due to shortage of deserving candidates, the Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership finally went earlier this month to Cape Verde’s former President Pedro Verona Pires. The award coincided with the release of 2011 Ibrahim Index of African Governance, the continent’s leading assessment of governance indicators in four core categories: safety and rule of law; participation and human rights; sustainable economic opportunity; and human development.

This year the top five countries out of the 53 evaluated were Mauritius, Cape Verde, Botswana, Seychelles, and South Africa. At the bottom of the list were the Central African Republic, Congo, Zimbabwe, Chad, and Somalia. But the index reveals more than just country ranking. In its fifth edition, the index shows a strong link between balanced approach to improving all categories of governance and long-term economic performance. In other words, the most economically successful African countries also consistently achieve high scores across all four governance categories.

As Lord Cairns, member of the board of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, put it, “freedom to participate in the creation of economic wealth is a key right for all citizens and governments have an overwhelming duty to develop an enabling framework.” Creating that enabling framework is what good governance is all about. Therefore, governments that restrict political participation or repress human rights not surprisingly have a hard time with providing an environment for inclusive opportunity for their people even if they manage to achieve a measure of macroeconomic growth.

That should be a lesson for the African leaders who fall short when it comes to the traits sought by the Ibrahim Prize. In the words of Mo Ibrahim, “if economic progress is not translated into better quality of life and respect for citizens’ rights, we will witness more Tahrir Squares in Africa.”

Putting the ‘business’ in business association

Hammad Siddiqui, CIPE Program Manager, facilitating a workshop for women's business associations in Pakistan. (Photo: CIPE)

After having worked with over 100 business associations (chambers, trade association, women chambers) in Pakistan and several international locations such as Nepal, Bangladesh, Azerbaijan etc, I can confidently say that the missing piece of the puzzle for many chambers is their marketing function.

In the developing countries, bringing professionalism and reducing politicization in business associations is a daunting task. In such countries business associations are generally formed by a group of influential business people, and despite several years of election process, what I call “Founder’s Syndrome” remains the dominating factor. Elected leadership is still bound to take ‘guidance’ from the founders who are now retired and have little interest in providing service to members.

Astonishingly, most founders I have interacted with do not consider business associations a business. Their concept of non-profit is an organization that is NOT required to make profits and run more like a charity! As a result, many of the chambers I have encountered over the years are lacking in key business functions.

As Peter Drucker says, “Any business enterprise has two and only two, basic functions – marketing and innovation. Peter emphasises on the importance of marketing: “Any organization in which marketing is either absent or incidental is not a business.” My opinion is that business associations are required to focus on two major areas: service and marketing.

Innovation, service, marketing and branding are closely intertwined. Innovation introduces products or services, marketing understands these products or services and creates a brand value for this customers, in case of business associations, their members.

In my view, there is a need to engage business associations in debate on becoming “innovative” and forward looking organizations and essentially introducing a completely integrated marketing function within. That perhaps is the best route to bring these business associations in tandem with the modern dynamics of business organizations.

Successful Women Prove that Value Has No Gender

Femina VIP awards ceremony

Each year the world celebrates March as a special month for honoring women. Different organizations hold seminars, conferences, and workshops about women’s role in the society, while media devotes a lot of attention to women issues.

But we at CIPE don’t think about women only in March. During the entire year we seek ways to improve women’s lives, their businesses, and their families’ livelihood. We work closely with women business associations, chambers of commerce for women, and other groups dedicated to building women’s leadership in public, community, and business life.

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Ukraine’s descent into chaos

Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has a strong following in Ukraine.

Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has a strong following in Ukraine. (http://www.flickr.com/photos/str1ker/123675588/)

With the election of President Viktor Yushchenko in 2004, many in the west marked the occasion as the decisive moment when Ukrainians stood up and made a choice to face westward and move forward with European integration.  The five disastrous years of his presidency have reminded many that while elections can be turning points in history, if there are no institutions (or will by the leadership) to carry out reform, only turmoil, stagnation, or a combination of these two can ensue.

While the global economy had been happily buzzing along in recent years, Ukrainian politics was a messy but avoidable sideshow for many who did business in Ukraine. 

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LiderAcción: Putting Ideas into Action in Peru

Cynthia is senior in business administration at a university in the remote city of Juliaca in the Puno region of Peru. She is not the average student. On January 31, with only 20 years she decided to open her own business, a fruit juice store called DeliFru.

Last year Cynthia participated in new program called LiderAcción, an innovative course in leadership and entrepreneurship designed and conducted by CIPE and Instituto Invertir. Cynthia won one of the 15 scholarships awarded to a selective group of students from the Puno region and joined 200 other students from all over Peru.

Starting her own business had crossed Cynthia’s mind before. It wasn’t until she participated in LiderAcción that she decided to take her ideas a step further. After reading an article about juice stores, she identified a great opportunity for such a business in Juliaca. Apart from street vendors, there are no juice stores there. Cynthia developed her idea and made it a reality.

DeliFru operates in the first floor of her house. Thanks to a US$350 loan from the NGO Caritas, she was able to equip her business with all she needed in order to make it work.

“Since I read an article about juice stores, I was interested in this particular business. I wanted to have my own business and I realized that in Juliaca there is not one single Juice Store with a nice place that offers a large variety of juices in a hygienic environment. Apart from that, the natural culture and a light life style are growing faster and faster in Puno. Young people are now worried about calories and eating healthy, so I saw an opportunity and thanks to what I learned and lived in LiderAcción, I took it.”

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