Florence Mugarula 19 May 2011 President Jakaya Kikwete yesterday said Africa needs strong and visionary leaders capable of addressing challenges currently facing the continent.Speaking during the official launch of the Uongozi Institute board in Dar es Salaam, he said: "It is quite clear our continent is facing a lot challenges politically and economically, we need strong and committed leaders to change the situation." The main objective of Uongozi Institute is to support leaders to excel in their role of transforming society to realise Africa's development potential in a sustainable manner. The institute's operations are jointly funded by the government of Finland and Tanzania.President Kikwete said the institute would help to shape both Tanzanian leaders and others from different parts of Africa, adding that he was confident it would create positive changes in the leadership skills in the region. "I hope that this regional institute will help leaders in capacity building and strengthen development in the region," he said. According to the President, apart from leadership, the African continent has also been facing other challenges such as those caused by climate change, poor security and poverty, which the newly established institute should strive to address. He said Africa needs leaders who listen, and are committed and ready to face challenges for their nations' interests. He advised the institute to use and tap knowledge from retired leaders and academicians in its activities. "The institute should offer knowledge to others; it should also utilise retired leaders' skills and knowledge for the betterment of current leaders," the President said. Earlier, Uongozi Institute's board chairperson, Ms Ritva Koikkku Ronde, also concurred that Africa needs strong leadership for sustainable development.She said that the rule of law, democracy and respect of human rights should be regarded as potential elements in the countries' efforts to reduce poverty and bring better life for wananchi. According to Ms Ronde, there is need for all leaders to concentrate on implementing their countries' development policies, if they are really intending to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)."This institute is focusing at training leaders on how to make good use of policies, especially in poverty reduction," said Ms Ronde. The institute's chief executive officer, Prof Joseph Semboja, said the academic facility will initially enrol senior leaders from the public service, but would include others from business and civil societies in future.He said: "The institute will work to develop the national agenda and oversee the implementation of national strategies, analyse and understand local, global and regional development."