Leon Schreiber

Senior research specialist, Princeton ISS Programme

Leon Schreiber has always been fascinated by how politics, social values and economics shape our world. He spent a decade studying political science and international relations to try and understand how the puzzle pieces of our world fit together. S

ince obtaining his PhD in Germany in 2015, Leon has focused on using his knowledge in a practical way to contribute to a future where South Africa and other African countries are managed by effective and accountable governments.

At 28, Schreiber is a senior research specialist with Princeton University’s Innovations for Successful Societies (ISS) programme, documenting and disseminating the experiences of how African countries have successfully solved difficult governance problems. Examples include how Liberia managed to contain the deadly 2014 Ebola outbreak; how former enemies worked together in South Africa; Kenya’s Governments of National Unity cabinets; and how reformers in Tanzania, Mozambique and Rwanda are working to secure rural land rights.

“What makes me particularly proud to work with Princeton ISS is that we produce academic work with real, practical impact. The courses and training programs built around my work allows African reformers to learn directly from each other’s experiences. For example, healthcare officials use the Ebola studies to draw lessons on how to prepare for the next epidemic, and cabinet ministers and officials from around the world can apply the lessons from other postconflict Governments of National Unity to their contexts,” explains Leon. This work, he says, gives practical effect to the lessons of learning from the slogan “African solutions for African problems”.

“Although my work focuses on the successes of African governance, it is also humbling to see the scale of the challenges still faced by our continent. Many African states remain crippled by corruption and maladministration, and it is heartbreaking to see how the efforts of honest and hardworking public servants are often undermined by broken politics. “While the scale of the challenge can be discouraging, the knowledge that I am making a contribution to potentially solving these complex problems keeps me motivated. Africa’s population is set to double by 2050 — and if we don’t urgently improve governance on the continent, this could lead to a humanitarian disaster. At the same time, if reformers succeed in building effective and accountable states, then Africa’s future is bright.”

— Linda Doke

Twitter: @leon_schreib