For Tshepelayi Kabata, the outgoing Mo Ibrahim Foundation Fellow at the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), there was no greater year than 2015 to be involved in development work. The year proved to be a developmental milestone validated by the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals, and the conferences on Financing for Development in Addis Ababa and Climate Change (COP 20) in Paris.
From working with President Johnson-Sirleaf on the Sustainable Development Goals, assisting during the African Union Summit, to facilitating cooperation between ECA and other African institutions, Kabata returns home, having fulfilled one of his ambitions to learn about leadership and influence on policy makers.
During his tenure at ECA, he has learnt that “to be a good leader is to be a good follower.”
When he applied for the fellowship, he did not quite imagine the magnitude of the process and the work entailed. The high work pace of the first month at ECA braced him for the demanding work in the later months of 2015. Kabata’s first assignment saw him preparing for a high level panel mission in New York, followed by a visit to Africa Utility Week, which he regarded as his first serious mission. Concurrently, he inherited a project between ECA and the University of Cape Town to formalise the cooperation between two institutions.
The Third International Conference on Financing for Development was the highlight of his tenure in Addis Ababa. “I take pride in assisting my country, the Democratic Republic of Congo, during this conference, in detailing their opinions and position.”
From observing the work of high level panels, how leadership interacts, how ECA influences policy makers to working on the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), Kabata sums up his tenure as a continuation of learning diplomacy, political sensitivity, and relations with member states.
Kabata advises future fellows to define their own expectations and discuss these with leadership. He also believes flexibility is an important quality to have when working with an economic policy institution like ECA which closely collaborates with the AU, a political institution.