KUFUOR SCHOLARS REFLECT ON LEADERSHIP TRAINING IN JAPAN
Two Kufuor Scholars, Adutwumwaa Owusu Sarpong and Salman Mohammed participated in the three-week 2016 BXAI Summer Leadership Program at Waseda University, Tokyo, Japan, in August 2016. Below are personal reflections of the scholars on what was certainly a unique experience, studying among 134 scholars from various universities in Asia.
Reflections by Adutwumwaa Owusu Sarpong,
University of Ghana
The three weeks in Japan has been an experience of a life time, I never knew that this experience had taken deep roots in my heart until it was time to leave, the tears that flowed down my cheeks as I said goodbye to the friends I had made only within two weeks, but they felt like childhood friends, was indeed a very sad moment. How do I put an amazing moment on just a page? I can only try.
The program started with the academic sessions, with topics that covered nuclear power, the ageing society, historical and territorial disputes in East Asia, politics of cultures and many others. I must say as a political science student from a different background, these sessions were quite insightful, it gave me deep understanding about issues I had only read in books or heard on the news. The opinions of other students and questions, followed by the clarity of answers given by professors in charge, were highly intellectual. But on the other side of the coin, this also posed as a challenge.
The main focus of the BXAI is to bring together people, especially the youth, from different background and cultures to learn and understand each other better to help create a better Asia in the near future. And so, the focus of studies was mainly on Asia. This rendered me and other non-Asians, to not contribute fully according to our capacity. Most invited speakers on this program were very inspirational. One speaker Tadashi Yanai, the CEO of UNIQLO, a famous clothing brand with multiple sale shops across East Asia, is a successful man with a clear vision. His aim is to create democracy in clothing. He believes that we dress to protect our lives, whether social, business, casual or conventional, also that we are all different and it is good to be different and to know who you are.
Therefore UNIQLO provides a means by which difference can be tolerated and expressed in the manner of dressing up. And these clothes are of good quality, affordable; trendy and quite stylish. This brought me thinking back home, to the rich Ghanaian African dressing and how it may be losing its value amidst today’s youth and generation. After this speech, I was highly motivated; I realized no impact can be considered too little. This made me extra proud because when packing my suitcase for Japan, I made a conscious effort to take only, clothes in Ghana prints. I still remember the fuss and fascination my Asian counterparts made about my dressing and even a few orders made for my seamstress to profit from.
After a week of intensive studies in the academic sessions, the following weeks were a little relaxed. It comprised of field trips, sightseeing, sessions on personal grooming, branding, public speaking and many others. Japan is a modernized country with high level of technology, the operating system of the country is highly recommendable. From the accurate timing of their transportation service to the division of trash into different sectors, are responsibilities incorporated into the citizens that are still maintained even without supervision.
As a future leader, this experience got me thinking, how I can inspire my people (Ghanaians), to take to heart such little responsibilities, and even, to the extent of doing so without supervision. Every journey must begin at a point, and my journey to Japan is the beginning point, for the change I wish to cause in my country.
Reflections by Salman Mohammed
University of Cape Coast
At first I could not decipher the deepness of the quotation, “Unless you transform the lives of ordinary people, you cannot hope to transform Africa,” attributed to H.E. John Agyekum Kufuor, former President of Ghana. However, my brief experience in Asia revealed to me that such opulent words must have come from a sage. The Bai Xian Asia Institute and The John A. Kufuor Foundation are path-breakers of the 21st century selling out the same idea – Leadership, Governance and Development.
After a 19-hour flight to Japan, I could not but further affirm the role leadership plays in the growth of a nation along the development trajectory. I was welcomed by the nicest people of Japan and even the clean streets of Tokyo. The order and pattern of day-to-day activities were so prompt and result-oriented that I began to recall the appalling conditions back home. All throughout my stay, my fragile brain had to reconcile with cultural shocks generated from interactions with participating cultures. I kept asking myself, is it possible to replicate such level of development in our dear continent? Then I realized that “Good governance is the biggest challenge our continent faces for the foreseeable future”
Of course, the academic sessions of the summer program were designed to cater for the needs of Asia. That means, as a participating African, tact and diplomacy had to be my guiding principles. Key topics such as:science and sustainability, aging society and women’s role in Asia, globalization and poverty were of keen interest to me. I find it enthralling how there exist similar social structures and values in terms of family systems, marriage proceedings, care for the elderly, and modes of greetings between Asians and Africans. This foretells that Asia shares the problems we face today in Africa.
However, the difference again lies in leadership. Malaysia is case in point. Interacting with Mary Anne Choo, a managing director at Goldman Sachs in Hong Kong, she shared her thoughts on how import driven Ghana is. The prospects for an economy overly dependent on the outside world cannot be strong and resilient. This may explain the recurrent downturns in the economies of developing countries. The need for leadership to turn things around cannot be over-emphasized.
Given Ghana as one of the fast emerging economies and especially a beacon of Africa, I realize that our development would sail through a smooth path on grounds that we take cognizance to a great deal of lessons and experience from Asia. As pronounced earlier, just as we share common values, our problems are alike. We may head into similar developmental challenges of contemporary Asia if we neglect the role of the youth in international education of this sort. The major reason is that the youths are promises of a better future. The way we groom them reflects a picture of our future.
“We must make sure our young people have hope. Our future is in their hands.” I am inspired and my life has been transformed. Indeed, the greatest legacy leaders can bequeath to their followers is indeed to groom them to take up their place. Thank you!