Morris Koffa, an American Public University graduate, has helped establish a non-profit organization, Africa Environmental Watch. In this article, he discusses his group’s work with local governments in Africa to provide better education and leadership resources for its citizens, helping prevent events such as the Ebola crisis.
Q: What is the Africa Environmental Watch, and what’s your role within the organization?
Koffa: I am the co-founder of the Africa Environmental Watch, which was formerly the Liberia Environmental Watch. Our initial purpose was to deal with post-war environmental issues following the 14-year civil conflict ending in 2003. There were many serious environmental and humanitarian issues in Liberia; today, this includes the current Ebola contagion. We also include issues impacting the entire African community — and we’re continuing our mission by providing environmental expertise on protecting human health and the environment through educational awareness. It’s our hope to create, lead and maintain safe living environments and a sustainable future for all of Africa’s citizens.
Q: What is your approach to leadership, and what’s the impact you’ve experienced as a result of your work?
Koffa: When I meet with leaders, I share a clear sense of direction and leadership — much of which I learned during my studies at American Public University. I find there needs to be passion for your work. Passion inspires leaders to make a difference, therefore driving protocol, which is how you create a level of connection with the people and the causes you support. Leadership is about how effective you are in creating new relationships and building upon established ones to bring together the science, policies, procedures and awareness that’s needed to solve problems. So I talk about the need for creating partnerships as well as for education to drive worldwide impact.I emphasize education, because there is a deficiency. Working with the Liberian EPA, I found that about 90 percent of the agency’s 150 employees had less education than a high school diploma. It’s difficult to solve technical issues with this lack of training. We volunteered our time to educate people, starting with how to do an environmental impact assessment (EIA). That worked well, but we also wanted to ensure the next step was addressed, which was leadership training.
It is critical for any organization, agency or country as a whole to overcome the lack of training and education. Then you must provide the right leadership skills to actualize the training into results. Only when you have trained, well-qualified people who know exactly what they must do, can you achieve the greater goal. It’s through education, training and effective leadership communication that we can bring change in the traditional protocols to eradicate this crisis.
We’ve helped to create a level of heightened awareness that never existed before. Today, no company does business without first conducting an environmental impact assessment. We’ve also added a corporate social responsibility clause, which ensures that corporations provide incentives for the communities in which they operate, including employment, schools, clinics and more. It’s all about development through education, training and opportunity. We hope to build on the progress that is under way in hopes we can reach a level in Liberia so (a) it’s no longer considered a country of misfortune, but instead, a country of hope and (b) to inspire positive changes toward worldwide social and environmental impact.
—The author, Tatiana Sterling, has more than 10 years of combined experience in corporate and strategic partnerships for leadership, talent, and professional development across industries.
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