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Bridging Continents and Cultures: Yvann Karamoko's Vision for Empowering African Leaders


Portrait of Yvann Karamoko

CEO and Executive Coach at Be&Do


Key Takeaways

  1. Yvann was not the typical kid next door. Raised as the son of an ambassador, his childhood was a crash course in politics, unveiling the intricate gears of society's machinery.

  2. When he was only 10, he was already dissecting global economics. He identified distinct developmental disparities between Africa and the US, sparking a passionate desire to contribute to the betterment of the African continent.

  3. Astonishingly, this led him to seek gaps in society and find ways to fill them by 16. Identifying a dearth of proper vetting systems to hold leaders accountable in many African nations, Yvann advocates for strategies to foster diverse leadership perspectives.


Twenty-one years ago, Yvann's life took a significant turn when his father secured a diplomat position at the United Nations (UN). At the tender age of ten, Yvann and his family bid farewell to the Ivory Coast and embarked on a transformative journey to the United States.


The shift marked a profound change in every aspect of their lives, exposing them to a world vastly different from what they had known culturally and environmentally.

"I call Ivory Coast the most beautiful country in the world. I am very biased, and that's okay." — Yvann

Now, Yvann is the executive coach and CEO of Be&Do, a firm that deals with talent and leadership development. He works with organizations and individual executive leaders on the coaching side.


Yvann's dream of establishing a leadership consultancy was sparked during his childhood, shaped by his unique experiences as the son of a diplomat. Growing up in the realm of politics, he gained intimate insights into diplomacy and foreign relations. His exposure went beyond what conventional news could offer, encompassing a broader understanding of global matters and intricate political dynamics.


Yvann Karamoko was deeply intrigued by the striking disparities in development across continents. He often found himself pondering why countries in Europe and others like the United States were prospering, while Africa grappled with numerous challenges. This curiosity drove him to frequently question his father, seeking to understand the underlying reasons behind these differences. He learned about the vast economic gap, noting that the GDP of Europe and similar regions was significantly larger than that of Africa, a fact that further fueled his interest in global development and economics.


Is It a Matter of Not Having Resources or Opportunity?


Yvann grappled with the question of whether the root cause lay in Africa's perceived lack of resources or the absence of ample opportunities. He carried with him a profound understanding of his peoplea hardworking and brilliant lot eager to progress. Yet, despite this inherent potential, every attempt to advance seemed to encounter obstacles, leaving him in a perpetual state of confusion.

"I would ask him 'Okay, so how much money would you estimate that the country or the government makes per day? What activities are leading?'" — Yvann

Though his father could not provide all the answers, he offered educated guesses based on his knowledge. Motivated by a deep desire to understand, Yvann pursued further research. This journey led him to a significant discovery: Africa is rich in both renewable and non-renewable natural resources (Takeuchi & Aginam, 2011).


A Leadership Problem in Africa: The Mindset Towards Public Service


Yvann's investigation led him to challenge the commonly held belief in Africa's scarcity. He discovered two pivotal, yet divergent, elements that were impacting progress: a constrained mindset and a lack of effective leadership. This insight broadened his perspective, not just about Africa, but about developing nations in general. He realized that while these nations were rich in resources, they were often hampered by a need for a paradigm shift in mindset and stronger leadership. This recognition solidified his understanding that these two elements are crucial, yet frequently absent, in the formula for development.

"When you look at countries like the United States, Canada, France, or any European nation, people in the public service had careers and were pillars in the community. They then chose to serve in political office and add value to make society better." — Yvann

In the Ivory Coast and across Africa, a common mindset centered on acquiring power for personal gain prevailed. This attitude stemmed from a perception of scarce opportunities on the continent, leading individuals to prioritize their advancement by pursuing influential positions. Although seeking betterment for oneself and one's family is natural, problems arise when such aspirations result in disproportionate benefits for the leaders and their families at the expense of the broader population. This imbalance in benefit distribution becomes a critical issue.


Corruption, including fraud and embezzlement, further exacerbates the situation, stripping crucial funds from vital sectors like healthcare, agriculture, education, and infrastructure. This not only hinders development but also perpetuates a cycle of disadvantage (Ndikumana, 2012).


Yvann observed that Africa often found itself in a passive role in the global power dynamic. His new mission became to shift Africa from a passive recipient to an active participant on the world stage. He envisioned a future where Africa's "cups" would not only be full but would overflow, symbolizing a reciprocal and beneficial exchange with the world.

"For the longest time, Africa and developing countries have probably survived on crumbs." — Yvann

A Journey of a Thousand Miles...


At just sixteen, Yvann embarked on his entrepreneurial journey. With an eye for opportunity and a knack for identifying market gaps, he launched a social media management company, despite facing resource limitations. This innovative step allowed him to bypass the conventional employment path and directly venture into consulting as a social media manager. His clients were impressed by what seemed like his natural understanding of contemporary trends, though Yvann himself was learning as he went. Fortunately, his efforts paid off as he successfully attracted clients and managed his venture.


Central to Yvann's approach was a deep-rooted passion for driving his clients' success. He realized that aiding others in achieving their goals was not just beneficial for them; it also significantly contributed to his own sense of accomplishment and fulfillment.


Turning Passion Into Venture


Motivated by a desire to help others succeed, Yvann founded Be&Do, a leadership coaching program. He designed this program to align with the unique definitions of success and leadership aspirations of each individual. His method focuses on setting clear goals, utilizing research and data, and integrating his expertise and experience to assist clients in realizing their full potential.

"The large part of what I do with individuals is holding them accountable to the things they said they would do." — Yvann

To further his mission of addressing societal gaps, Yvann pursued advanced studies at Oral Roberts University. Working towards a doctorate in Strategic Leadership, he engaged in an in-depth analysis of leadership research, identifying a critical disconnect between theoretical concepts and practical application.


This academic pursuit serves two key purposes for Yvann. Firstly, it deepens his understanding and passion for leadership. Secondly, it reveals opportunities for further research and innovation in the field. His client interactions at Be&Do have informed the unique perspective he intends to present in his dissertation.


At Be&Do, Yvann's strategy involves blending academic theory with real-world experiences. This approach not only enriches his personal growth but also incorporates insights from various accomplished leaders and organizations, fostering tangible progress in leadership practice.


Crucial Leadership Philosophies


Yvann's career progression has led him to deeper insights into leadership. He understands leadership as more than directing a team towards a goal; it's about sharing in the struggle and commitment to achieve meaningful results. This perspective requires self-leadership, where a leader's consistency in meeting their commitments reflects their ability to stick to goals, objectives, and habits, defining effective leadership.

"Some people are great at doing it by themselves. But unless there's the accountability piece, most of the things they want to do don't end up happening." — Yvann

In his view, checks and balances are crucial to prevent individuals or groups from gaining too much power. This system ensures that the well-being of cities, regions, or countries takes precedence over personal agendas. According to "The Catalyst" (2017), Africa's progress hinges on a network of ethical, entrepreneurial leaders dedicated to serving their communities.


Yvann proposes that leaders should ask themselves, "Would you follow yourself?". This question shifts the focus from traditional traits like charisma and achieving results to considering the experience of those led. Leadership effectiveness is redefined by the satisfaction of the followers.


He also believes in the profound value inherent in everyone. People's unique gifts, talents, ideas, and creativity are not solely for personal enjoyment but should be shared for the greater good. This sharing of individual qualities highlights a collective benefit, underscoring the importance of community in leadership.


Leadership Development Vision in Africa- Bridging the Gap



Having spent 21 years in the United States, Yvann believes that the operational methods he observed in Western countries can be effectively implemented in Africa. His approach to problem-solving involves actively identifying and addressing societal gaps.


In Africa, he sees the primary challenge as bridging the leadership gap across various sectors, including the marketplace and organizations. His goal is to improve leadership skills and effectiveness in diverse environments, aiming for comprehensive development and progress.


Looking ahead, Yvann focuses on the importance of adding value and empowering leaders. He envisions leaders contributing solutions that reach beyond Africa's borders, fostering a global outlook that benefits humanity as a whole. His aim is to transcend geographical limitations and create a significant, wide-reaching impact.


Ushering in a New Era: The Undiscovered Potential Within Africa



Africa is making strides on the international stage, reaching a level of competitiveness once thought unachievable. This shift is credited to the effective utilization of its vast resources and the talent of its people.


Historically, Africa has struggled in global economic competitiveness due to market fragmentation that impacted efficiency. The introduction of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) aims to unify these markets, enhancing the continent's production capabilities (Sidiropoulos, 2022).


The Ivory Coast stands out in its development, as highlighted in the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Report. It ranks among the top 140 competitive nations globally and is renowned as the leading producer and exporter of cocoa, cashew nuts, and cola (LULUCF, 2018).


Furthermore, Africa is experiencing a surge in technology and innovation. Visionary leaders and organizations are combining efforts to improve business environments, support entrepreneurs, and boost organizational capacities. This collaborative approach is central to the continent's ongoing growth and development.

"One of the organizations that is doing it very well is Smart Africa. They are bringing businesses, organizations, and governments to show up and compete on the global stage." — Yvann

In any industry, the competition for market share drives even the smallest player to find creative ways to enhance their offerings and gain a competitive edge. Africa incorporating this perpetual push for improvement benefits the entire world, fostering overall growth and raising the standard for quality and innovation.


Are You Living a Valuable Life as a Leader?

One of the things that motivates me is, 'Give everything and die empty.'" — Yvann

For Yvann, the true measure of a fulfilling life is found in the myriad ways one contributes to others. Whether it's through financial aid, personal engagement, time, or any form of assistance, the real value lies in a life committed to enriching others, creating a legacy that transcends individual achievements.


His belief in the joy and rejuvenation found in giving is best captured by the proverb, "Those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed." This highlights how sharing with others not only brings fulfillment but also a deep sense of joy and renewal.


Yvann's dedication is unmistakable: he is committed to empowering leaders to reach their fullest potential. Through executive coaching for individuals and organizations, he facilitates growth and effective change.


Ultimately, the true essence of leadership is not just visible; it's palpable in the unified pulse of a vibrant team. Leaders, whether in business or politics, act as catalysts for enhanced performance and profitability. They are more than just decision-makers; they are architects of culture, crafting a shared vision that binds and inspires, fueling outcomes that are not just successful but also profoundly impactful.


References


LULUCF. (2018). Ivory Coast winning back its forests. Land Use Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) Country Profile: Ivory Coast. https://www.climate-chance.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/en_fp17-utcatf-cote-divoire_def.pdf


Ndikumana, L. (2012, September 10). Africa Bled by Illicit Cash Outflows - Report. VoA Africa. https://www.voaafrica.com/a/africa-bled-by-illicit-cash-outflows---report/6750772.html


Sidiropoulos, E. (2022, February 17). Africa: Aspiring to Greater Global Agency. Carnegie Europe. https://carnegieeurope.eu/2022/02/17/africa-aspiring-to-greater-global-agency-pub-86371



Takeuchi, K., & Aginam, O. (2011). Sustainability challenges and opportunities in Africa. Sustainability Science, 6, 3-5.


The Catalyst. (2017). Africa's Hopeful Future: A Look at Tomorrow’s Opportunities and Challenges. George W. Bush Institute, Issue 07. https://www.bushcenter.org/catalyst/africa/rising-leaders

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