The First Africa Leaders Academy – Serving the Vison of a Waste Free World

On the plain beneath Table Mountain, leaders from 24 African countries (the African network has 42 leaders) gathered for an historic chapter in the African continent’s history..

A 4 day conference of lectures, group works, workshops, days full of inspiration and knowledge how to be part of and organise the biggest positive civic action of human history. This is the fifth Leaders Academy uniting leaders from the let’s Do It! Network to develop and improve regional cooperation. And Hotel Verde, the ‘Greenest Hotel in Africa’, is the venue for the massive undertaking of removing illegal trash from a continent. South African powerhouse Mariette Hopley (African Ambassador for the Network) and her team have assembled an impressive roster of participants, facilitators and activities. Speakers from the government, recycling companies, seabird rescuers, arts and crafts innovators, JCI, and more, provide punchy and engaging presentations and declarations of intent. This is the first time so many African countries have been brought together to cooperate on such a scale and tackling the issue of our time, waste and how to ‘minimise leakage from the circular economy’. As well as presentations from some of South Africa’s most innovative and greenest organisations we are treated to a ‘Song for Africa’ called (“You can Do It”) what is set to be the anthem for the Let’s Do It! African Continent and using the power of music to bring the message to the world. From the birthplace of mankind a new hope is rising, harnessing international knowhow and experience to make our planet clean again and keeping it clean. World Clean Up day 2018 just took a step closer to realisation with the activation of the 1.216 billion people who call Africa home.

Day one, Murmuration, the Global Overview, and the Personal Challenge. Nara Petrovic (Facilitator, Slovenian Leader) ran a group exercise illustrating how a team moves, the flow of energy, and also how a group starts and stops – and starts again. Then the lighting of the candle. A Symbolic moment reflecting the Clean World Conference, in Tallinn 2017, where a young woman named Marian Karamazundo (Zimbabwe leader) came for the first time to Tallinn as part of Let’s Do It World. Marian lit the first candle when she was pregnant – and now she has a baby girl she called…Light.

Heidi Solba (Head of Network) then presented the global picture and the aims of Let’s Do It World to the group of mainly newly appointed team leaders in the LDIW network. She greeted us from the LDI Foundation and Estonia, the country of warm hearts and great minds – the country that inspired 20 million people to cleanup so far. The biggest threat is believing somebody else will solve our problems and change begins with ourselves. Mariette shared how her biggest motivation is her young daughter whose mantra is reduce , reuse, recycle.

Katrin Köster (facilitator and Let’s Do It! Germany) led a session where in pairs we made a list of the 10 things we find most and least enjoyable. The exercise enabled those working together to gain a better understanding of what they perceive in others and how we are they perceived by others. Then the first of series where a panel critiqued four African team leaders who were giving a three minute presentation on their country project. The first brave volunteers were Tanswell Rooinasie from Namibia, Stephen Senkubuge from Uganda, Anna Rocha from Tanzania and Nyasha Blessing Karamazundo from Zimbabwe.

In the evening we were invited to Mariette’s home where we were greeted by traditional South African cultural dancers, who encouraged us to boogy down into the venue. The food was prepared by Mariette’s family and we chatted, ate and bonded into the night. This was the evening everyone fell in love with Africa, or reaffirmed once again what an amazing, beautiful, lively, young yet ancient, continent we were experiencing.

Day two and an Introduction to Zero Waste and the GROW model.. We first visited a Handicraft centre in a township where craftsmen were making fashionable design items using reclaimed waste and recycled materials to make unique and memorable hard crafted items including shoes, handbags clothing and jewellery. Then onto a nearby patch of land in the centre of the community that had become a dump site. And our flash-trash mob proceeded to collected waste filling forty bags in 30 minutes. A curious crowd of locals gathered as Päl Martenson (Zero Waste guru from Sweden) began to sort the waste and explain the value of reuse and recyclability of each item we had collected.

Mariette delivered a session on Tips for Business and Environmental Projects. As an investor, entrepreneur and respected member of the business community, Mariette has been pitched, presented and reviewed thousands of business plans. She shared with the delegates the key attributes and the format and presentation that would make her compelled to support a project financially. Nara, who was the main MC and linkman then presented the GROW model, a recognized and accepted coaching technique designed to allow participants to explore, understand and focus on the main areas where they excel, where they struggle. The acronym stands for Goal, Reality, Options, and Willingness. Anca Banita (Romanian Let’s Do It! Team) shared her strategy for fund raising.

Day three, Logistics and Mapping was led by Kadri Maripuu from the Technology team in Tallinn. Kadri shared the World Cleanup Day Mapping APP incorporating 8 existing mapping databases in one in-order to create a world trash map. To demonstrate how the World Cleanup mapping tool can be used in Africa, Christine Sayo (Kenya team leader) explained the mapping process where they tested the Mapping APP in collaboration with Kisya Esya Hoola (LDI in Kenya). Anca presented the 7+1 Steps to how to create an effective team using her extensive experience and knowledge in building the team in Romania. Jaka Kranjc (Slovenian Team leader) followed with logistics tips providing a tried and tested methodology which is adaptable for the African continent. His common sense approach and practical guide is always a favourite session at the Leader’s Academies, coming from Slovenia where they have the record with 13.6% of their population participating in national clean-ups, and the first government taking real steps to become the first Zero Waste Capital in Europe – Ljubljana. The group divided into teams where four main questions were posed and each member shared their answers to the following: How Do I Spread the Message about WCD. What Do I Fear the Most, What is my Biggest Open Question, Why Do I Think I am the Right Person for WCD. This exercise provided focus on the task in hand, was a useful way to review the information that had been absorbed and was of use to the delegates. In the evening we travelled into the centre of Cape Town for an award ceremony in the City Aquarium, where we also heard about local activists who are campaigning to ban the plastic bag in South Africa.

On the fourth day, more delegates presented their country clean-ups to the panel who provided feedback. Nara facilitated any outstanding questions, ran some nice processes including the group handshake. The delegates one by one shared their experiences, there were tears, cheers, realisation and revelations, as every spoke warmly and with great optimism about the huge challenge ahead, but how as part of this extended family they found strength, confidence, courage and the determination to make it happen. We then proceeded to the South African parliament where we observed the President being asked some tough questions and then a tour of the parliament building gaining a deeper understanding of South Africa’s recent turbulent history and the obstacles overcome with the guidance of Nelson Mandela (“Madiba”). African mentors Stephane Senghor (Senegal), Nyasha Blessing Karumazondo (Zimbabwe), Raj Chintaram (Mauritius), Tania Hamilton (Tanzania) were selected. This was a life changing event for everyone involved, the conference was impeccably organised (thank you Louanne), generating enormous amounts of energy, where friendships and alliances were cemented, and bold plans made with measureable steps to create a clean world.

Written by Paul Emmet – Mentor of Let’s Do It! World