The Africa Cup of Nations soccer tournament began in Cameroon this week. It has already provided the excitement fans were hoping for. While watching, I wonder how African countries will perform in the World Cup tournament at the end of the year. Is this the tournament where an African team wins, validating those who have predicted such victory for decades?
Predictions of an African world cup win are like the vision statements governments across Africa pen that see their low-income economies becoming competitive high-income ones by 2030, or 2040 in some instances. Such vision statements and predictions engender hope. But is this hope warranted? Is there really a chance that these amazing things will happen?
My new working paper tackles this question using African soccer as an example. I posit that African countries will only win the World Cup if they can compete with the world’s best countries (Hence the title, ‘Can Africa Compete in World Soccer?’). This requires that they compete as both ‘participants’ and ‘rivals’ in the world context, gaining and retaining access to the most consequential contests and competitions and winning regularly in these engagements.
Guest blog written by Molebogeng Amanda (Tshoma) Mazibuko
This is a blog series written by the alumni of the Leading Economic Growth Executive Education Program at the Harvard Kennedy School. 65 Participants successfully completed this 10-week online course in May 2021. These are their learning journey stories.
For five years, I have had a vision to help a specific group of people; a relegated and prejudiced gender with immense potential to create positive economic impact.
I have written strategic documents and struggled to match them to executable plans; either because of authority or know-how related challenges. As noble my intention was to help, I just did not have the know-how and had no idea of how to accumulate it.
My ‘laundry-list’ approach led to an aggregation of factors to a point where the real root cause was hidden under a symptom.
During my journey on PDIA through the Leading Economic Growth with Harvard Kennedy School I identified multiple flaws which implied that my level of know how was a limitation to advance the project’s intention. PDIA made me question formerly held principles in understanding and driving change. I managed to identify key functional asymmetries and learnt to measure progress via functionality-legitimacy practical framework.
This is a blog series written by the alumni of the Implementing Public Policy Executive Education Program at the Harvard Kennedy School. Participants successfully completed this 6-month online learning course in December 2020. These are their learning journey stories.
“Hello, welcome to what will be some of your most difficult, but fruitful years of your career. We look forward to your leadership…”
Those are the words I remember when I think back on the day I joined the National Heritage Council of South Africa as the Head of Core Business. I remember these specific words because they stand out as a reminder of the indeed difficult journey that has been the past two years, but also as I come to the end of the IPP program, I note the fruitfulness which was referred to on that very first day of duty. After two years shy of a decade in the academia and research consulting industries, I made the leap and joined the public service in 2018.
Was it an easy transition? Absolutely not! But on each day, I saw glimpses of small victories which reminded me why it was a worthy change in career trajectory. I still bemoan my flexible working hours and dress code, but I digress. Let me take you through a little journey of what ultimately brought me in search of a program which has not only changed my thinking, but made sense of the challenges I experienced in attempting to do things differently within the public service.
Reality Check: Kindly find attached herewith your mammoth task
As Head of Core Business, one of the units under my portfolio is called the Resistance Liberation Heritage Route. This tongue-twister of a unit is tasked with documenting the heritage of South Africa’s resistance to colonialism and the liberation struggle during the apartheid era leading up to democracy in the year 1994. In a country as diverse as South Africa, carrying the painful history and legacies of the past, documenting the contribution of the old and young alike is beautiful for documenting stories and cementing them in stone for future generations. However, the key word here is pain; the pain of loss, the pain of suffering; the pain of accepting that life as you had known it prior to a specific date etched in your memory for ever will never be your reality; pain of lives that will never be lived; pain of smiles which will never be seen; pain of dreams which will never be fulfilled; and pain of unprepared for goodbyes and so-longs. The pain of those who gave their lives so that future generations can know freedom and democracy. Many of these lives, lost in far-away countries.
This is a blog series written by the alumni of the Leading Economic Growth Executive Education Program at the Harvard Kennedy School. Participants successfully completed this 10-week online course in July 2020. These are their learning journey stories.
I’ve made some interesting choices in my life. They may not always have been the best decisions for my own long-term prospects, but without fail, they have taken me on journeys of discovery and growth. Always stemming from my over-riding desire to “fix” things, to contribute, to make a difference, to bring about positive change in areas that matter to me, these have not been easy pathways to tread. But, along the way, I have met amazing fellow-travellers who care deeply, who are driven by purpose, who – twee as it may sound – make the world a better place through their thoughts, words and actions.
Given the opportunity last year to coordinate a “War Room” in the Western Cape, South Africa, brought the interesting experience of testing Problem Driven Iterative Adaptive (PDIA) methodology.
Tasked with addressing five problem statements, seen to be important in unlocking economic growth in the Province, we brought together teams of senior officials to work differently. Since this was a six-month pilot, limited resources were put behind the work. This was a real challenge: the approach was new and nothing like it had been tried before; none of us understood how PDIA worked; the hierarchical nature of the bureaucracy was stifling, with deeply-rooted animosities between some of the representatives of two different spheres of government involved; and the contestation amongst a newly elected group of politicians had not yet settled to any degree of comfort.
Cautiously setting out on this road, I met my first fellow-traveller, Professor Matt Andrews. In the way of guides on every pioneering journey, with generosity of spirit and complete commitment to the adventure and its success, he opened his map, shared his wisdom, talked us through each step, gave us a hand to climb over the hurdles, walked with us out of the valleys.
I have worked in a government environment on previous projects, and willingly admit to non-existent patience with unnecessary bureaucracy, delays, obfuscation and failure to grasp opportunities that present, and that could significantly improve the lives of the very people government is meant to serve. My country is deeply wounded, suffering the consequences of a devastatingly destructive past that twenty-six years post-democracy has not addressed. That makes me angry. And while people have individual responsibility to use opportunities presented, ultimately it is government that must provide the enabling environment that makes those opportunities available.
So I approached this challenge with great excitement. Was this a way in which we could support personal and professional development for capable government officials, encourage them to really understand their problems, deliver relevant actions that would have real impact?
This is a blog series written by the alumni of the Implementing Public Policy Executive Education Program at the Harvard Kennedy School. Participants successfully completed this 7-month blended learning course in December 2019. These are their learning journey stories.
From the moment I saw the advert on Twitter and read through the content provided, something just told me this is the real deal. I felt there was no way I could not find more about the course. It has always been my approach not to do any academic course for the sake of just obtaining a qualification but to engage in a course that speaks to real issues that we get confronted with as Public Servants on a daily basis.
The initial assignment already gave a hint of what was to come and the approach in terms of policy analysis and implementation. Breaking down the policy challenge in terms of who the critical stakeholders are, determining upfront what meaning of success one has to attach to its implementation was key.
Getting to HKS, one was struck by the diversity of participants in the course from all walks of life and different continents. Amazingly, there were lots of similarities in terms of the challenges we encounter in our policy environments. The course turned out to be more than what I had expected. It was more interactive and practical and the wealth of experience and knowledge from the team of experts presenting was exceptional.
The course leader provided insights into experiences from different continents and the examples of real life situations and the kind of challenges encountered helped to us to realise that PDIA is not a theoretical but practical approach to policy implementation.
Some key learnings
One of the key insights from the course was the distinction between the Plan and Control policies which most institutions use and PDIA. The former may be useful in ensuring the achievement of policy products on time and within budget and this becomes the drill. PDIA on the other hand seeks to drill down to the heart of the problem, explore a variety of options and ensures that policy impacts are achieved which is what people mostly are looking for.
Building State Capability (BSC) has been successfully applying its Problem Driven Iterative Adaptation (PDIA) methodology in various governments across the world, including in growth enhancing policy initiatives directly related to the promotion of investment.
In August 2019, BSC signed an MOU to work with 5 teams of individuals drawn from the Western Cape Provincial Government and the City of Cape Town, with facilitators from Wesgro, to promote economic growth in the region using their PDIA methodology. This was initiated by the Premier Alan Winde.
The teams are working on five priority sectors which include:
Construction and property development
Atlantis special economic zone (manufacturing hub that focuses on green energy)
Information technology and business process outsourcing
This engagement entails the creation of an economic war room where BSC provides online learning environment where the teams learn how to apply the PDIA approach to solving their complex problems. The teams report jointly to the Premier and the Mayor of Cape Town.
Guest blog written by Lindiwe Ndlela, Subethri Naidoo, Xavier MacMaster
This team works for the Government of South Africa. They successfully completed the 15-week Practice of PDIA online course that ended in December 2018. This is their story.
Our PDIA journey started quite innocently with us seeing it as an escape from the routine of the everyday run of the mill challenges of public service. We thought we had a chance to engage with something theoretical, relevant, but ultimately which would remain an intellectual exercise. We are now PDIA converts, for the first time excited about the potential for practical change in our bureaucracy!
During the individual submissions, we were ecstatic about what we were learning. Reality crept in when we received our first group assignment. By assignment 7, frustration set in as we faced the challenge of deconstructing our problem. We learnt that our initial problem construction was inadequate and weak. The reality was hard, particularly in drilling down to answer analytical questions of why it mattered, to whom; and who needed to care more.
We learnt that we could not fast forward to a solution, which is a typical, default behavior. This was new to us. For the first time we had to think deeply, about the need to unpack the problem, using the tools to which were being exposed.
Guest blog written by Lolo Isabelle Balindile Manzini, Xolani Innocent Mthembu, Katerina Nicolaou-Manias, Godfrey F. Phetla, Vijay Valla
This team works for the Department of Small Business Development (DSBD) in the Government of South Africa. They successfully completed the 15-week Practice of PDIA online course that ended in December 2018. This is their story.
It sounds counter-intuitive to go back over and over again in order to go forward. Going back to the drawing board to re-examine, re-assess, review, refine and revise the problem statement and its root causes is one of the key underpinning principles of Problem Driven Iterative Adaptation (PDIA) on a path towards achieving either policy reform, sustainable development or providing enabling support to small business in the mainstream economy. PDIA fosters constant learning, both on a professional and personal level, while devising context-specific, small, actionable steps that promote success, through identifying pockets of excellence (positive deviance) and then building dynamic sustainable solutions to the problem being addressed.
After a 15-week time-intensive and demanding course both professionally and personally, you cannot possibly walk away without turning all of your pre-conceived ideas of problems in every aspect of your life (and how you problem solve them) upside down and inside out.
The PDIA experience teaches you continual reflection, re-examination, re-assessment, revision and refinement in your approach to addressing all facets of the problem, making progress by learning about the problem and through putting small steps into place to address it, making progress towards solving it.