Author Archive

Impressions of Senegal

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

by Jeannine Wilson*

The hustle and lively nature of Senegal struck me immediately as I left the Dakar airport at 5:00 am. As we commenced our drive to Saint Louis, the streets of Dakar filled, business as usual — commerce at its finest. The colourful markets, construction projects, and traffic of the city created a ‘morning energy’ different from any city I have been to before.

Our drive to Saint Louis was scenic and eye opening to say the least. The beautiful backdrop clashed with the disparities of the people. Despite the vibrant coloured dresses of women with child on their back, the little boys playing in the dust and men are trying to cultivate whatever possible the struggle to provide is evident. Upon arrival in Saint Louis, the surprising differences from Dakar are noticed in the post-colonial laid-back nature of the city. As youth fill the streets to start their day it becomes clear to me exactly why it is that targeting leadership in this generation is so important. The liveliness of this youthful generation is apparent in their big smiles, friendly nature, and love of sports as they are glued to the television watching the 2010 FIFA World Cup (See former intern, Meghan Davis’ post on ‘Sports and Youth Leadership). The opportunities to focus this energy into productive and effective manners to better their communities, regions, and country is a crucial realisation that has so easily slid under the radar of development programs. I am excited to continue my work here with Leadership Africa USA and I look forward to all the adventures ahead as I now believe and understand first hand why leadership is such a crucial aspect in ensuring socio-economic and political development in Senegal.

*Jeannine Wilson is one of Leadership Africa USA’s summer interns and is a rising senior at the University of Alberta, Canada. She is an honors major in political science with a focus on international relations.

Goal! Youth leadership through sports

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

by Meghan Davis*

It is a mere few weeks before the frenzy of the 2010 World Cup and the spotlight is now on soccer, which for millions across the world is more than a game.  Even to the Federation Internationale de Football Association, or as many people know it, FIFA, soccer is used as symbol of hope and integration. The organization promotes cultural diversity and educational and humanitarian values through the sport. For the first time in the World Cup’s history, it will be hosted in an African Nation—South Africa. This tournament could not have come at a more opportune time for the nation. Since the end of apartheid in 1994, South Africa has achieved many successes but also faced many challenges as a young, integrated democracy.

One of these challenges post-apartheid South Africa faces is the vulnerability of its youth population. The FIFA World Cup has come at an appropriate time to aid the youth to develop the necessary skills they need to achieve success in life. The FIFA World Cup has the potential to become a strong catalyst for creating positive change for the younger generations. South Africa should utilize its power as a host country for this tournament to engage FIFA and organizations into further developing the youth through partnering sports with leadership training.

The combination of leadership development and sports is one of high importance. Sports, soccer in particular, are globalized; anyone, no matter their gender, disability, ethnicity, social background, or religion, can take part in games. Sport and games have the power to reach and teach like no other channel.

There is emerging indication that when youth are given the opportunity to engage in sports, there is an increase in academic performance, higher levels of motivation, improvements in school attendance, and reductions in aggressive behaviors. Sports, game, and play and leadership development training, provide mutual reinforcement of skills acquired on and off the field.

The World Cup has inspired organizations to further incorporate sports into developing strong youth leaders within the community. Here at Leadership Africa USA, we work with the younger generations, helping them to acquire the skill sets that will align their futures with success. Students leave with an enhanced feeling of self-confidence, improved critical thinking and analytical abilities, and improved communication capabilities. It is this same level of self-confidence that exudes from a child when they engage in sporting events.

*Meghan Davis is Leadership Africa USA’s Spring 2010 intern. She is a rising senior at Suffolk University.

Addressing National Security Issues: Youth & Violence in Africa

Monday, April 19th, 2010

by: Giovanni Guerra*

Giovanni Guerra (right)

Through my studies of national security issues, I have come to the resolution that solutions and efforts need to involve more individual actors. Today, nations face numerous security issues ranging from poverty, hunger, health endemics, to wars and conflicts ( both internal and external). Although these issues seem almost impossible to resolve, I must argue that small changes, can greatly impact a nation’s effort to address various security issues.

For instance, let’s take a particular national security issue common within many African nations, civil conflict and unrest and how addressing the ‘youth’ issue may impact this security issue. According to a study  by Population Action International, there was a strong correlation between civil conflict within nations and the large number of youth populations (sometimes referred to as a youth bulge). 

This youth bulge is a relatively common phenomenon amongst many African nations. Unfortunately, it has been linked to instability within nations, especially in connection to starting civil unrest and thus making it an important national security issue.  As this civil unrest within nation’s increasingly foster criminal activities and violence within gangs and paramilitary groups amongst youth, it would seem that a simple way to address the issues is by decreasing the effects of civil unrest within nations.

The magnitude and severity of civil unrest requires multiple actors both large and small. For individuals stepping up to the challenge of addressing this issue, there is, I think, need to address the fact that youth involvement in criminal activity cannot be seen purely in a derogative manner. To me, many people believe that people partake in criminal activity and engage in violence simply because they are evil. But it is important to understand that in reality, individual participation in such crimes are simply part of the rational-choice theory in criminal studies. This theory states that people who participate in violence and criminal activity do so not because they are evil but as they see no rational alternative.

Using this logic, the best strategies to resolve the national security threat that youth in gangs and paramilitaries pose involves a holistic approach that not only addresses natural resource issues  resulting from urbanization and the ‘youth bulge,’ but also addresses social development within youths themselves. One such strategy is the creation of youth development programs as part of educational programs that stresses both conflict resolution skills and leadership skills. Finding and supporting educational programs are the simplest way for both individuals and states to approach and tackle such national security issues.  

There are positive side effects nationally, regionally and even globally, when focus is paid on decreasing the hostility and likelihood of civil unrest among communities by increasing both the leadership and the conflict resolution capabilities of its youth population.  So, let’s take a step in the right direction, support and become involved in youth educational programs that focus on conflict-resolution and leadership development; they make a lasting impact in nations and ameliorate the problems of national security issues.

*Giovanni was Leadership Africa USA’s Fall 2008 intern.