NU Young African leader’s Valedictory

25 July 2019| Five weeks of hard work, countless team building exercises, paradigm shifting discussions and incredible relationships built; today we celebrate an experience I struggle to put into words- it’s the post institute graduation ceremony. The Mandela Washington Fellowship (MWF) 2019 at Northwestern University is by far one of a kind.

I struggle to put this experience into words, because I believe it’s a classic case of “you need to experience it” to fully grasp the depth of my emotions; but the purpose of this blog is to share such experiences, so let’s dive right in.

The MWF at Northwestern was amazing, inspiring, fast paced, emotional, eye opening and experiential all in one. I am not doing it enough justice by using these words, but you got to give me credit for trying right?

We arrived at Northwestern University on the 19th June 2019 and I remember how proud and competitive we all were. I am talking about Africa’s best 25 young leaders, determined to showcase and represent their countries as best as they could. Our introductions were perfect- well structured and delivered with confidence. The room was full with leaders from Lesotho, South Africa, Togo, Senegal, Guinea-Bissau, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Niger, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Burundi, Ethiopia, Cameroon, Sudan and Nigeria. There was a feeling of unity as each person introduced themselves, but also an under tone of competition; YALI is very competitive after all.

Fast forward to 5 weeks later after many leadership sessions, team building exercises, countless site visits, community dinners and late nights- we have come full circle. We’ve had incredible professors share business techniques and frameworks that we can apply immediately to our respective businesses, we had leadership sessions that challenged us to think differently and to be intentional about being servant leaders. We’ve also gone through all the phases of team development; forming, storming, norming and performing. For a group as competitive as ours, we managed to smash many of our projects by working together as a team and delivered exceptional results. And here we are today- proud, young, African and Kellogg certified.

I reflect on this journey because I’ve seen the passion each of the fellows have for Africa and the phenomenal work each is doing. I’ve experienced how committed and determined we are about solving African problems ranging from financial illiteracy, financial exclusion, education, health, youth unemployment and lack of access to technology. I’ve been privileged to work with a cohort of young Africans who are using state of the art technology and applications to tackle maternal mortality. Fellows who are relentlessly working to provide opportunities for the youth with the goal of making them employable. We had fellows who are manufacturing products to help the youth reinstate their self confidence, to helping small businesses get access to financial products. I do not know about you, but if you are still not convinced that Africa has potential, then I don’t know what will change your mind.

I am inspired! I am energized because I saw that it’s possible to build a Africa that is capable of delivering exceptional results. I’ve seen that it is possible to build a collaborative team, where young people can contribute meaningfully to the economy of the continent and have positive social impact. I am excited about working with all the fellows I’ve met here and about doing my part to make a difference, to touch a life and to make our continent great.

As we head to Washington DC, to continue our fellowship, I leave Northwestern University empowered, inspired and connected to a network of professors, coaches and fellows who can help me drive Africa’s financial wellness programs to build a financially literate and inclusive continent. Not only am I inspired, but I hope that I’ve inspired another young person to see just how brilliant Africans are. Africa is alive with possibilities, we just need to take the leap of faith, believe it and do it.

“…. As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates other” Marianne Williamson.

#NUYALI2019 #MWF2019 #YALILesotho2019

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