“One day with a great teacher is better than a thousand years of diligent studies”. This well captured thought of the Japanese speaks of the crucial role that mentorship plays in the lives of people. A mentor can be described as someone with a relatively higher experience or wisdom that shares insights or tutors a less experienced person often called a mentee or protégé. The relevance of this institution is well appreciated from the Greek epic ’Odyssey’. In Odyssey, King Odysseus placed his son, Telemachus, under the care, guidance, leadership and tutelage of his friend, Mentor, when he, the king, had to go for the protracted Trojan War. The concept is even captured more aptly when the goddess of wisdom, Athena, had to disguise herself to assume the personality of Mentor each time she came to visit Telemachus. The crucial role of Athena as Mentor in providing plans for Telemachus on how he will deal with personal dilemmas made the personal name Mentor to be gradually adapted as a term in the English language to describe someone who impacts wisdom to and shares knowledge with a less experienced person.
Role Model Africa is a mentoring platform designed for the African Youth who want to replicate the success of their businesses in other African countries and beyond. The main feature of Role Model Africa is a quarterly ‘Corporate Dialogue’ that engages African personalities whose contributions on the continent and beyond are worthy of emulation. The platform, an initiative of INVENTS and managed by PM Media was launched in Accra in September 2015. The Corporate Dialogue, which has received mentions by Ghana Business and Finance Magazine (Ghana), Daily Sun Newspaper (Nigeria) and Africa Rizing (an offshoot of Voice of America), has been honoured by remarkable personalities including former World Bank official, Dr. Samuel Onwona; C.E.O. of Rex Oil, who is the former Managing Director of ENGEN; Mr. Caleb Ayiku; Legendary Award-winning hiplife artiste, Michael Okyere-Darko (Obrafour), and the Director of News for Citi FM, Mr. Bernard Avle.
The exclusive editions have also interviewed personalities such as the pioneer of the hiplife genre, Reggie Rockstone. Each edition of the Corporate Dialogue focuses on a defined area: First Quarter – Business, Second Quarter – Arts, Third Quarter – Christianity, and Fourth Quarter –Governance.
Mentoring Activist and Co-Creator of the Project, Samuel Agyeman-Prempeh, explains that the project is designed to provide one-on-one mentoring for individuals with specific needs and group mentoring to individuals with a common area of study.
Mr. Agyeman-Prempeh believes that the African Youth can leverage the opportunities of mentoring that the platform offers to scale up their businesses and provide a global competition for their products and services.
The role of Mentor, as a person, to Telemachus in the introductory story can be expanded to appreciate the critical role that mentors contribute to the life of a person:
- Rich pool of resource: It should no longer be a disconcerting challenge for someone to start a business, launch a product or even grow an existing one. A person can tap and benefit from the many years of learning and experience of an accomplished person. One does not have to re-invent the wheel to know what works and what does not.
- Shortens the learning curve: As captured earlier, ‘One day with a great teacher is better than thousand years of diligent studies’. Mentorship, essentially, shortens the ‘Learning Curve’. The term, Learning Curve, originally adapted from the Psychologist, Herman Ebbinghaus in 1885, is used to represent the increase of learning with experience. The concept fundamentally captures the rate of a person’s progress or improvement in learning new skills, acquiring new experiences and/or performing new functions over time. Basically, it explains that the more a person does something, the better he becomes. A mentor has often travelled the path that a person wants to assume and one is better off learning from someone who has been where they are yet to be.
- Avoiding errors: Attributed to Lloyd Morgan, the term, ‘Trial and Error’ describes the instance where success is achieved after several trials. This concept is closely related to the idea captured before this point. It says that one may have to do something continually before achieving perfection. The point is even clearer when we get to know that several trials mean that one has bounced back from repetitively failed attempts. It was Thorndike, an American psychologist who explained in his ‘Law of Effect’ that “learning is promoted by positive results”. In other words, failed attempts (in as much as we do not want them to) tend to discourage many from making their dreams happen. What a mentor does here is therefore irreplaceable as they help one to avoid potential pitfalls.
- Direction: The term ‘direction’ is used to represent where things are in relation to others. The function of the word can be appreciated from a number of perspectives; position and movement. Where a person sits in relation to another is the direction of the person. In the sentence, ‘Telemachus sits at the right side of Mentor’, the direction of Telemachus is to the right side of Mentor. In other words, if you want to paint a picture or if you may, direct someone to where Telemachus is seated you would have to make reference to his position to Mentor. The other is movement. Telemachus can walk forward or backwards and he can turn right or left. Each movement therefore of Telemachus represents his direction. Predominantly a mentor can influence your position – that is, where you sit, and your movement – the path you take.
Africa has Role Models.