The YALI program was introduced by the former President Barack Obama and his government. YALI is the abbreviated form of Young African leaders Initiative. The YALI RLC (Regional Leadership Center) West Africa is run by the American government and the USAID with sponsors and partners like MasterCard Foundation, Microsoft, Africa 2.0 and GIMPA.
I got into the YALI RLC West Africa Cohort 9 after a rigorous application and selection process. I felt so many emotions (except anger and sadness) when I received the email that I got in! I can’t count the number of times I carefully read the congratulatory email just to make sure I actually got in and it wasn’t another newsletter from the YALI Network. Things got real and I joined a WhatsApp group with the other participants from the different parts of West Africa. I started with a two week online course which centred on ethical leadership, gender equality and other critical topics which addressed the issues of Africa. Even though the online course was intensive, it was a teaser of the onsite training. Taking the online course only made me look forward to the onsite training more.
I arrived at the GIMPA executive hostel on March 3, 2018. Settling in wasn’t exactly difficult because most of us had socialized on the WhatsApp group and all we had to do was to match faces with names. Country heads were selected and country group pictures were taken. The ‘honeymoon’ period was over just after two days. There were serious lectures right before the official welcome ceremony. I believe this was to prove a point that time is very essential and when used effectively, will produce results. We had series of lectures that allowed us to further understand the online classes and also hear the views of other participants. For me, this was the time to test my open-mindedness because I found myself strongly disagreeing with different opinions especially during one discussion about gender equality.
I decided to listen and understand these point of views and also have conversations about these views; it helped out a lot. One of the speeches I enjoyed was from the Mad Duck; she asked us to write five things we would do if we were given just three months to live. Most of us listed quite a number of things. She later answered the question saying she wouldn’t do anything if she was to live for just 3 months because she has been doing the things she’s passionate about and that is what we should be doing.
We were privileged to be the first cohort to have a centre to ourselves. There were three lecture rooms; the civic track room, the entrepreneurship track room and the public policy track room. All of these lecture rooms were designed to provide a conducive environment to enhance practical learning and the purpose was achieved. I was in the entrepreneurship track which was headed by Chico Cissoko Amadou. Chico made us understand the actual concept of social entrepreneurs and how the successful businesses mostly have servant leaders. He started his lectures by helping us to know ourselves and what truly drives us to do the things we do. Once this achieved, he guided us to identify the problems in Africa, the root causes, how to solve these problems and of course, how to earn a living from changing lives and Africa positively. This exercise also prepared us for the design thinking process.
My group, TeamBella decided to work on agriculture. We used tools like the empathy map, POV and value proposition to identify and solve these issues. I had the chance to introduce google drive to my fellow group members.
Participants were put into groups of nine named after the various rivers in Africa. The task was to design posters that will depict an issue in Africa, the causes and the solutions. In my group many ideas sprung up; from corruption to teenage pregnancy and poverty in Africa. I then suggested that the other groups will tackle these issues so we should look into global warming. After deliberating for a long time, my idea was chosen. We found innovative ways to put our message forward. On the final preparation day, participants from other groups saw our poster and were very interested in our topic. Mission accomplished.
We did not win the poster competition but the message was communicated well. We were then grouped into different countries and the AU/UN for a simulation competition. The topic was about reducing youth unemployment and poverty in Africa. I opted to be in the AU/UN group and I got the chance play Christine Lagarde, the IMF director. The simulation opened my eyes to so many issues happening in Africa and how we as future leaders have to think critically and strategically to make Africa the Wakanda it really is.
Blog post written by Anabella Boateng (ASA Admin Officer)