Archive for the ‘Youth Leadership Development’ Category

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!

Youth Leadership Development Gaining Traction in Senegal

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

On June 18, 2010, Leadership Africa USA announced plans to work with Senegal’s Ministry of Education to distribute more than 100,000 copies of our youth leadership training curriculum to Senegal’s middle schools. The launch was a delightful opportunity to express gratitude to USAID including the USAID/Senegal office and the Africa Education Initiative ; to Senegal’s Ministry of Primary Education including the Academic Inspectorate; and to our local partners, who have all significantly contributed to the development and success of our youth leadership training initiative in Senegal.

Below are excerpts of my remarks from the launch event and you can find USAID/Senegal’s Mission Director, Kevin Mullally’s speech here (in French).

Leadership Africa USA’s vision is to enable the youngest generation of African leaders to overcome the many development challenges confronting post-conflict societies through leadership training and peer-to-peer character building.

Today’s event is a celebration of the youth leadership training initiatives being implemented in Senegal’s Casamance Region by Leadership Africa USA since 2008 and proof the time is now for a revolution in leadership training that focuses on youth, especially girls. Senegal’s Ministry of Education, academic inspectors, principals, teachers, and students have demonstrated their support for this expansion. They have stepped-up and today Senegal is the only Francophone country implementing a leadership training curriculum for middle school students.

This is an important model to expand Africa’s peace dividend. Our leadership training curriculum is positive recognition of the important relationship linking effective leadership to sustainable peace. We believe youth leadership training at an early stage in a child’s development, will empower the next generation of leaders in Africa and our future and Senegal’s future is in their hands tied to the choices and the contributions they make to their communities.

Leadership Africa’s goal and development agenda in Senegal going forward is to expand academic inspector, principal and teacher- training in order to effectively deliver the leadership curriculum in Senegal’s school system.

In closing, we stand by our commitments and I pledge to you that Leadership Africa USA will renew and expand our actions. We understand expressing commitments alone will not achieve results — results require actions and success mandates that Leadership Africa, Senegal’s Ministry of Education, USAID, and our local partners all do our part.

 Rest assured, we will.

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.

Building the Youth Leadership Paradigm

Monday, April 19th, 2010

Walker A. Williams

With 44 percent of sub-Saharan Africa’s population under 15 yrs (visit the Population Reference Bureau for more population data), there is little doubt that Africa’s youth will play a significant role in the region’s economic, social and political prosperity in the years to come. The U.S. administration recognizes the opportunity to be gained by stressing the importance of youth development in Africa. During his trip to Ghana, President Obama encouraged Ghana’s and Africa’s youth to be the force of change they can be.

“You have the power to hold your leaders accountable, and to build institutions that serve the people. You can serve in your communities, and harness your energy and education to create new wealth and build new connections to the world But these things can only be done if all of you take responsibility for your future .” (Remarks by President Obama to the Ghanaian Parliament, July 11, 2009).

 Secretary of State Hillary Clinton  during her trip to the Demcratic Republic of the Congo in August of 2009, called for the mobilization of DRC youth, especially girls, to speak out about the challenges, particularly in the areas of corrpition and violence, of DRC.  She called for the students to “write a new chapter in Congolese history”. Here at Leadership Africa USA, we recognize the importance of calling upon the younger generations to promote effective leadership abilities that can inspire change within a nation.

Leadership Africa USA’s mission is compatible with the U.S. Administration’s emerging Africa policy through our youth leadership programs in several African countries to empower African youth through leadership training; promote skills transfer; support peer-to-peer outreach; and implement proven character building exercises.

 I believe inspired African leadership is key to Africa’s sustainable development in this global economy in order to solve the poverty equation impacting African people.  Effective leadership training is empowerment.

 Leadership Africa USA recognizes that the Africa’s future is dependent on cultivating positive and effective leadership among today’s African youth. As such, we partner with African educators and government officials to promote middle school leadership training.   Our emphasis on always working with our African counterparts stems from our view that “Made in America” doesn’t work in 21st Century Africa.

 Going forward, my goal is to develop creative ways to increase the delivery of leadership training with additional strategic partners and appropriate use of new technology. Youth leadership training should be a more focused initiative of U.S. and African policy if we are to deliver on the promise of accessible quality education for Africa’s children, especially girls.

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.