#AfricaLF17: 2017 Africa Liberty Forum Tackles Continent’s Barriers To Prosperity And Opportunity

During Africa Liberty Forum 2017, more than 125 influencers and think tank professionals from 16 countries gathered to discuss the best and the brightest work breaking down the barriers to prosperity and opportunity on the continent. Sponsored by Atlas Network with organizing host the South Africa-based Free Market Foundation (FMF), the conference took place May 23-25 in Johannesburg and presented an opportunity to discuss and exchange solutions that promote liberty and free-market reforms in the region. Major sponsorship was generously provided by the John Templeton Foundation and the Smith Family Foundation. Highlights of the event included the presentation of the Africa Liberty Award, the Regional Think Tank Shark Tank Competition, several inspirational and insightful speakers, and a special pre-event training session on effective fundraising in Africa.

The winner of the 2017 Africa Liberty Award was the FMF for its Khaya Lam Land Reform Project. The aim of this ongoing project is to convert state-owned rental properties into unambiguous freehold title, giving property rights to Africans previously denied this fundamental right. So far, more than 3,000 title deeds have been transferred.

According to the FMF team, when one beneficiary of the project, Mrs Maria Mothupi, received her title, she said she could finally say that for her, apartheid truly came to an end.

“Upon receiving title to her property, Mrs. Mothupi said she could now sleep peacefully and could stop worrying knowing that her children and grandchildren have a secure home. And her story is not unique,” explained Jasson Urbach, director of the FMF. “She is one of several thousand government tenants to benefit from the project; most, like Maria, have been waiting their entire lives for the day to be able to say they own the home they live in. The Khaya Lam project is a living example of a fundamental truth expressed by Sir John Templeton who said that property rights are essential for human rights. This project is about unlocking freedom that has been denied to black South Africans for over a century.”

Jasson Urbach, director of the FMF, discusses the Khaya Lam Land Reform Project

The two other 2017 Africa Liberty award finalists were the South African Institute of Race Relations for its Free Society Project and Audace Institut Afrique for its Rural Lands Project in Côte d’Ivoire.

Atlas Network’s CEO Brad Lips (right) presents the finalist and runners up awards to this year’s Africa Liberty Award finalists.

The much-anticipated Regional Think Tank Shark Tank Competition took place on the final day of the conference. Peter Bismark Kwofie of the Institute for Liberty and Policy Innovation (ILAPI-Ghana), won the competition for his pitch of the “National Undergraduate Debate and Essay Competitions.”

Peter Bismark Kwofie of ILAPI-Ghana presents his winning Regional Think Tank Shark Tank Competition pitch of the “National Undergraduate Debate and Essay Competitions.”

“Too many students in Ghana have a misguided role of government. They think government’s role is to create jobs, but we know that isn’t the case,” said Bismark Kwofie. “So these debate and essay competitions will help them learn, for the first time in many cases, the basic principles of freedom and classical liberalism as a fulcrum to creating prosperity for a free society.” The runners up were Michael Howe-Ely, of the Cape Town-based Independent Entrepreneurship Group (Ineng) and Jasson Urbach of the FMF.

Runners up of the Regional Think Tank Shark Tank Competition Jasson Urbach of the FMF (left) and Michael Howe-Ely of the Cape Town-based Ineng (right) along with winner Peter Bismark Kwofie of ILAPI-Ghana (center)

Open only to graduates of Atlas Network’s training program, Atlas Leadership Academy, three contestants were chosen for the Regional Think Tank Shark Tank Competition, in which they pitched their innovative projects before a panel of local and international judges for the chance to win $5,000 in project funding. A special thank you to our panel of expert judges: Chris Becker, Wally Gardiner, Terry Kibbe, and Johanna McDowell; and to Atlas Network’s very own Brad Lips as moderator of the program. “It’s exciting to see Africa’s pro-liberty voices getting more ambitious and sophisticated,” said Lips. The Regional Think Tank Shark Tank Competition is generously sponsored by the Smith Family Foundation.

Another one of the conference highlights was the inspirational closing talk by Temba Nolutshungu, of FMF, titled “Apartheid, Mandela, and Socialism: Time for Change.” He told the story of his family’s struggle through Apartheid, his relationships with Nelson Mandela and Milton Friedman, and his vision for a more free and prosperous South Africa. “In South Africa today there’s a betrayal of Mandela and what he stood for,” said Nolutshungu. “You cannot adopt policies that are like the policies that had been adopted during the time of Apartheid. And so what do we do now…we engage the challenges head on.” The entire talk is available here.

Tim Modise, South African journalist, (left) with Temba Nolutshungu, of FMF (right)

The pre-conference training “Lessons in Effective Fundraising in Africa” included hands-on activities like fundraising audits, messaging training, SWOT analyses, and practicing pitching. The training course was customized for a group of 16 participants and was about helping them “think big, think long term, and think smart,” said Manali Shah, independent facilitator and lead trainer of the session. “It pushed them to pull their existing efforts and new ways into a systematic plan to generate resources they need to get to their goals and long term vision.”

Manali Shah, independent facilitator and lead trainer of the pre-conference training session, (center standing), coaches José Ivo Correia of Mozambique-based CEMO on his fundraising strategy.

The participants of the training came from 12 countries around Africa. “I love hearing from and learning about the other think tanks on our continent,” said José Ivo Correia, chairman, CEMO, Mozambique. “It challenged me to think out of the box, not only in the area of fundraising, but also in the area of networking and relationship building.”

Africa Liberty Forum 2017 was part of Atlas Network’s Regional Liberty Forums, held annually in Latin America, Asia, Europe, and Africa. “This week of training has helped me immensely,” said Linda Kavuka Kiguhi, co-founder of Students for Liberty – Eastern Africa. “It has helped me come up with strategies and messaging that can help us attract more support and ultimately create a greater impact throughout all of Eastern Africa.”

Linda Kavuka Kiguhi, co-founder of Students for Liberty – Eastern Africa gets ideas and project feedback from Temba Nolutshungu during the Crowdsourcing for Liberty session.

Check out the full album of conference and training photos on Facebook here. And to see some of the social media conversation, check out hashtag #AfricaLF17 on Twitter and Instagram.