Author Archive

A Celebration of the Past & the Future: the President’s Forum with Young African Leaders

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010

Between August 3rd and August 5th, Washington, DC will be host to a group of dynamic young African leaders selected to participate in the inaugural President’s Forum with Young African Leaders. (PFYAL). In recognition of the 50 years of independence that a large number of African nations (see CNN map to see which countries) are celebrating this year (see the Rush Resolution unanimously adopted in the U.S. House of Representatives), President Obama wanted to bring together the faces of Africa’s future to not only mark the achievements made by these African countries over the last 50 years, but to also focus on what is in store for Africa for the next 50 years and beyond. In a phone conference, Michelle Gavin, Special Assistant to the President & Senior Director for African Affairs at the National Security Council, noted that the President was personally involved and committed to the goals of the PFYAL and also that the PFYAL was guided by his speech in Ghana where he underscored that the future of Africa is in Africa’s hands. The Forum is to hear from these young African leaders on the challenges and opportunities they and their countries face, in order to shape U.S. policy towards Africa.

African nations, like many other developing and emerging countries, have very youthful populations (approximately 44 percent of sub-Saharan Africa’s population is under 15 years— see Population Reference Bureau for population data). The challenges of this ‘youth bulge’ have been much discussed (youth unemployment; increased risk of conflict and crime; strained social services; and so on); but the opportunities must also be equally highlighted (a large labor force; a more ‘plugged’ in generation with increasing access to technology; increased global awareness due to access to technology; and so forth). Therefore, the future of the continent of Africa, in my hardly waning optimistic opinion, is bright. If you think I am joking, check out the profile of the PFYAL participants!

Leadership Africa USA’s president, Walker A. Williams, was part of a distinguished panel who met with these Young African Leaders to discuss the challenges and opportunities related to quality education and skills training in Africa. Walker underscored the importance of leadership and life skills training in helping to shape the lives of Africa’s youth. Enhancing academic learning with skills that promote self-confidence; improve communication skills;  and stimulate the entrepreneurial spirit is a recipe for charting Africa’s next 50 years on a road to sustainable growth and development.

Interestingly, the Young African Leaders noted that they do wish to receive more leadership training in order to strengthen their effectiveness in their various fields. Food for thought for U.S. policy towards Africa’s youth…

That ‘G’ word again…..

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

I’ve been following with avid interest the G(irls) 20 Summit in Canada and the passion behind finding workable solutions to meet the Millennium Development Goals that most impact women and girls (by the way, what are these goals you think?).

The Summit brought together one girl from each of the G20 countries (as the Summit was modeled after the G20 Summit) ten days before the actual Toronto G20 Summit to start exploring solutions. The 20 countries represented were: Argentina;  Australia; Brazil; Canada; China; France; Germany; India; Indonesia; Italy; Japan; Mexico; Russia; Saudi Arabia; South Africa; South Korea; Turkey; UK; USA and a representative of the European Union.

The importance of investing in women and girls cannot be denied (see our Facebook note on empowering girls…and join our Facebook page!). I look forward to following the progress of the G(irls) 20 Summit.

Do you have any workable solutions to meet these MDGs that most impact women and girls? Integrating leadership development programs and other life skills development programs into girls’ formal schooling, perhaps? I want to hear them!

Who is the leader of your country? I don’t know ….

Monday, April 19th, 2010

Karelle Samuda

It is no secret that for a while most of Africa faced a leadership crisis, with coups, brutal civil conflicts, and dictatorships being more of the rule than the exception during the 1970s and up to the mid-1990s. (See a 2004 Foreign Affairs article (membership required) on the pervasiveness of despotic rule in Africa). However, the tide has drastically changed for most of the African countries, as young democracies have been emerging and slowly gaining stronghold in African societies (President Johnson Sirleaf & Steve Radelet note that in 1989 there were four democracies and in 2008, there are 18 democracies and counting). A new cadre of African leaders is determined to chart their countries and continent on a path where positive and effective leadership and rule of law are the order of the day (see Greg Simpkins’ blog posting on one such leader, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf).

Yet, I was reminded of the leadership challenges some African countries continue to face when Guinea-Bissau underwent yet another coup; and this is but one of Guinea-Bissau’s many problems. This time I was not sitting in the comforts of my living room in the U.S. watching the news, I was in Ziguinchor in Senegal’s Casamance region which borders Guinea-Bissau.  (Thankfully, there was little indication that the coup attempt would have negative repercussions in Ziguinchor). The general response to ‘What’s the latest on what’s happening in Guinea-Bissau?’ was, ‘I don’t know.’  Then it struck me, a leadership crisis, cripples the basic functioning of any group, organization and/or country. It breeds an environment of confusion (imagine the majority of Guinea-Bissau’s population responding  with ‘I don’t know’ to questions regarding the leadership of their country!) that is inimical to producing the outputs and outcomes needed to develop a country. Obvious, I know…. but something that is fundamental to understanding why promoting leadership development at ALL levels is critical. There needs to be a mindset that is fostered from a young age that positive and effective leadership is not despotic; dictatorial; and oblivious to rule of law.

The closest I could get to the Guinea-Bissau border the day after the coup attempt.