The following is an open letter to Risk and Assurance Professionals in the African space.
Fellow Risk & Assurance Professionals in Africa,
I know many of you may not have heard of me. That is all right. I keep a low profile unless circumstances require otherwise. There is an African proverb that says, “whenever you see a toad jumping in broad daylight, then know that something is after its life”. Today something important is brewing, a matter which we cannot afford to ignore. We need to talk. I know many of you also receive innumerable invitations to attend conferences. I come to invite you to yet another conference. If by now you have not stopped reading, I shall consider this a victory of sorts.
The Risk & Assurance Group (RAG) is hosting its inaugural conference in Johannesburg in September. Do I hear somebody groan? One more conference? I understand. You probably have attended conferences in the past that made you wonder what you were thinking when you registered for the event. We all have.
RAG Africa Edition is a conference with a difference. You can see the event details here and judge for yourself. I can vouch for the organisers of this conference. Actually I don’t need to. Please head to the website of RAG and enrol (for free), or take a look at the guidance in their library. If you find the type of work they have been doing to be shoddy, meaningless or lacking in quality (however you define quality), then at this point, you are free to dismiss my appeal and I shall leave you to get on with your busy life. I shall not take offence. However, if you find the stuff there amazing, meaningful and thought-provoking, then I would ask you to thank RAG by carrying forward its mission in a way that will put Africa on the map of assurance.
Do not worry. Thanking RAG is not a matter that requires you to fish out your cheque book or reach for your credit card in order to send a hefty donation. Just join us for the conference in Johannesburg and that will be enough. Trust me, I know how hard it is to justify travel in Africa. It is expensive and budget holders, especially high up in telcos, do not always rush to approve travel requests. That said, this conference represents a serious break with the past and I know it will be worth your time. RAG conferences are free for attendees. Yes, you pay ZERO.
Secondly, RAG conference is a great opportunity to meet with your fellow talented professionals and really share knowledge. You will not sit through long sessions of PowerPoint presentations crammed with industry jargon that makes you wonder if the presenter is some sort of robot. Instead, you will be in the audience of panel debates, asking questions, being presented with concise results of studies and you will find opportunity after opportunity to engage your brain. Above all, you will have a chance to share what you know and contribute to taking the assurance agenda in Africa forward. RAG conferences thrive because of this engagement. It is time for Africa to shine.
You know if you think about it, Africa is no stranger to the concept of conferences. I think our forefathers, long before the colonial period during which formal education was brought to us, had already perfected the art of holding conferences and using them as a reliable education forum. Among my people of Kikuyu in Central Kenya, our whole education system was based on oral literature, the narration of stories, the dissection of myth and legends, the use of proverbs and wise sayings. Proverbs, which were widely used as a learning aid, for example, were the fine distillation of ages of learning. Prominent African author, China Achebe, wrote in Things Fall Apart, that among the Igbo people of Nigeria, proverbs were the palm oil with which the words were eaten. Young boys would congregate at the feet of their elders in the evenings where wisdom was dispensed. Young girls would gather round their mothers and aunts as they prepared dinner and they would be trained in the way that they should grow up. Each evening, every hut in my village, a very lively conference was being hosted.
These daily conferences formed the backbone of our education system. And they worked wonderfully. So, Africa did not start holding conferences yesterday. Fast forward to “modern Africa” and it is sad that our deep heritage of learning via conferences got so desecrated by charlatans who, in their quest for the quick buck, scam people to attend meaningless sessions in expensive conferences. RAG is seeking to change this and I am willing to bet on them because their practice, somehow fits excellently into our traditional way of life. The sharing of knowledge is free and learning is, at its most basic, best carried out via human interaction. I invite you, as a fellow professional, to become part of this wave.
The wisdom of our forefathers is being proven true, yet again, in the modern world. My appeal to you is simple: be a firm part of it. Another of our African proverbs states, “one finger does not, by itself, squash lice”. If we can get enough professionals owning this wave in Africa, the momentum so built will ensure that invaluable knowledge starts flowing. It will be a wave that no charlatan can stop.
It is only apt that I leave you with a proverb from the people of Gabon:
Eyes that have seen the ocean cannot be satisfied by a mere lagoon
I look forward to seeing some of the people who read this post, at the conference. You will never be satisfied by mediocre conferences after this one.