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Leadership Development In Africa

M&S sources a lot of food from Kenya including tea, coffee, vegetables and flowers, as well as wine, fruit and flowers from South Africa. Keeping an ongoing supply coming from these countries depends on communities there functioning well. This means helping to address some of the challenges they face - rapid urbanisation, climate change, rapid inflation and declining yields, to name just a few. 

Leadership skills training has really helped: as leadership and confidence is developed, communities are able to come up with solutions to the problems they face themselves, making them more resilient and able to sustain supply.

The partnership between Emerging Leaders and M&S began in 2012 with a pilot in Kenya, which the M&S Innovation Fund helped to fund. Since then we’ve supported EL to achieve match funding to help roll out the programme.

EL runs a 3 day training course and another modular course, which involves shorter sessions spread out over a longer period. The course emphasises the importance of taking responsibility for the problems you see around you and seeing what you can do to make a difference, working with others to achieve a goal. It tackles certain negative mindsets that would stop people from taking leadership actions, such as thinking ‘I can’t’ or ‘it’s up to someone else’. 

Training includes managing basic finances and how to start up an income-generating project and/or a community project. The course includes lots of interaction, games and discussion and encourages attendees to teach what they have learned to others. EL has trained local trainers to deliver the course both within our supply chain and workers’ communities.

Key facts
To date over 9,000 people have been trained, mainly in Kenya and South Africa, but there are plans underway to expand the reach. 65% of participants in Kenya set up a community project to tackle the multiple challenges within their local neighbourhoods (including planting indigenous trees, garbage disposal and planting nutritious food) – a total of 36 community projects. 83% set up an income-generating activity, a total of 52 new businesses. For every 1 person trained, they shared the information with an addition 13 people. The increased financial literacy has led to better livelihoods for many people, which in turns means more children are being sent to school. In fact, household income of Kenyan participants increased by 43% and household savings by 161%.

As well as benefiting communities, EL has resulted in great improvements in the workplace. Trainees became more positive and more inclined to look for solutions to problems. In South Africa absenteeism shrunk rapidly, while at one Kenyan supplier, 47% of participants said they felt very satisfied with their job, compared to just 14% before the training.

The effects spread to wellbeing too - 84% of those trained reported their health had improved since the project, thanks to better hygiene and nutrition and cutting down on drinking and smoking to save money. Finally, a number of female attendees, whose husbands attended the training, reported that they receive more respect at home and they are now able to work together as a couple to solve problems and manage finances. They report being given more freedom to work on income generating projects themselves.

Find out more about EL and this great project at

Partners in this programme are:
-Emerging Leaders
-UK Department for International Development