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How Strong Governance Can Pave the Way for a Prosperous Continent

Trust is at the centre of any working society. Without it, people withhold their support, be this through effort or funds. Trust in organisations needs to be built across the continent for it to prosper.

By William Frater, Founder at Kutumikia

Organisations coordinate the efforts of numerous people as well as resources towards a common purpose. Strong organisations are going to be needed in a continent facing the challenges and opportunities of a diverse and expanding young population. Businesses in all sectors need to flourish, infrastructure needs to be built, education needs to be improved to meet the challenges of a new century, healthcare needs to be extended, and, in addition economies need to transition towards a low carbon future. The challenges are huge and coherent organisations will be needed to embrace the opportunities of a more prosperous, equitable, accountable and just society.  

There can be little doubt that good governance transforms organisations be they large or small, for profit or not. It enables them to fulfill their purpose in a manner which is effective, ethical and responsible while also being transparent and accountable. Organisations that are well governed tend to be more resilient and allocate resources better. Good governance is core to stakeholders trusting the organisation to deliver on its purpose. Accordingly, a well governed organisation is likely to get better access to finance, be it equity, debt or grant. There is good reason for this. A well governed organisation will be able to more easily cope with often needed transitions in the executive as well as the vacuum that arises when the founder leaves the business. Good governance is a bastion against the mis-allocation and mis-appropriation of resources and a departure from the purpose of the organisation. It ensures that the strategy devised by those managing the organisation is consistent with its purpose and that they are held to account for its delivery. The governing body steers the organisation through the context within which it finds itself towards meeting the needs of its stakeholders. It does this through its in-depth understanding of the organisation and its context.

Governance is not easy. It requires diligence, dedication and skill. The context in which all organisations find themselves is complex and fraught with challenges. Navigating an organisation through this context requires people who think differently and who can approach a problem from different perspectives, yet collaborate to ensure that the organisation has a clear direction that enables its purpose to be fulfilled.

Trust is at the centre of any working society. Without it, people withhold their support, be this through effort or funds. Trust in organisations needs to be built across the continent for it to prosper. People need to be assured that organisations will answer to their needs, and do so accountably. They need to know that the products that they purchase are safe, that the organisations that they work in will have safe and just working conditions, that the schools they entrust their children to will enable them to reach their potential, that the healthcare systems will give them the best possible care and so on. All of this is founded on the governance quality of the organisations which act in these spaces – be they national or local, small or large, public or private.     

To grow, small organisations need to take governance seriously. It is a prerequisite for obtaining funding from investors and lenders. It is key for planning and developing and adhering to strategy. Governing body members should have the skills and independence to apply this oversight. Accordingly, they should be trained in what they have to do, and should be prepared to take on the responsibilities that stewardship over an organisation entails. They should be kept informed on all aspects of the organisation – not just the positive, and they should have authority.  

The people who govern organisations well are the heroes of our time. They are often un-paid. They are often in the frontline protecting organisations from mis-appropriation and mis-management. They are often lonely in this task and face the stress of holding their ground against forces who have a vested and selfish interest in redirecting effort and resources to meet their own ends. They should be appreciated and celebrated and above all, we should invest time and resources in them to enable them to do their jobs better for the best of all. 

After an activist career that spanned development and asset management, William has focussed on organisational governance for the past decade. His focus is particularly on how better governance can add value to small medium sized public, private and civic organisations. To this effect he is in the process of forming a mobile phone based governance training programme that is accessible for all and can teach the basic of organisational governance to people at every corner of the African continent and beyond.