Interviewed by Ireneaus Chongwain Chia
The African Leadership Academy is offering ambitious young men and women in Africa an opportunity to acquire upright and ethical leadership skills that the continent so desperately needs. One of its officials, Elmahdi Oummih, was in Cameroon recently and explained in greater detail what his institution is doing to ensure transformational leadership for Africa. Excerpts:
You have been in Cameroon for close to a week now. May we know what has brought you to Cameroon?
African Leadership Academy (ALA) seeks to enroll the brightest young people from every country on the continent. Cameroonian students at the Academy have historically stood out. Recent ALA graduates Marie Elimbi Moudio and Stanley Ewala are prime example. They are at MIT and Williams College in their first year of university. They were also top performers in the Southern Africa Science Olympiad last year.
Listening to you talk to American Language Center students recently one would conclude that present leadership in Africa has crossed a point of no return in bad and uninspiring governance. Is the present governance pattern so irretrievable that hope is only embodied in the young?
The Academy was founded on the premise that the root cause of all of the continent’s problems is poor leadership. We focus on grooming ethical leaders who are opportunity seekers and have a true passion for Africa. We believe in the promise that young people hold.
You also cited some African countries that are leadership models, yet these countries are not governed by young people. Does this not indicate that through thoughtful actions the present dreary leadership can still be overhauled?
A person’s leadership journey begins when they are young and impressionable. Old habits die hard, bad habits die harder! We look to instill strong values and take our students through real leadership challenges while they are young so that they are ready to face the challenges that are bound to come along when they become leaders in various fields across the continent.
But many professional schools in Africa are training young people to assume leadership positions eventually.
There are not many that focus on combining African studies and Entrepreneurial Leadership. Africa is the land of opportunity and we are building leaders who understand the context of the continent.
What’s your academy’s unique selling proposition? In other words, how is your institution different from these professional schools in different African countries?
We are also unique in that we stay connected with all of our students even beyond the two years they spend at the Academy. Once you are part of African Leadership Academy you join a lifelong network of transformative leaders. We are excited to see the impact of this network on our continent.
It is too early, perhaps, to measure the impact of the work your academy is doing, but are graduates from the African Leadership Academy already making their presence felt in their different countries? If yes, how?
Many of our students have been making an impact even before they arrived at the Academy. Indeed this is one of our selection criteria. Below are a few notable examples:
o Sophie Umazi a recent graduate started the “I am Kenyan project” which seeks to bring together persons from all over the world including Kenyans through photography to promote peace and unity during the 2013 upcoming Kenyan elections https://www.iamkenyan.or.ke/
o Madelle Kangha our first college grad started an organization called “Youth for change” https://www.africanleadershipacademy.org/nurturing-network/alumni-experience/alumni-news/words-ala%E2%80%99s-first-college-graduate-%E2%80%93-madelle-kangha
o Joseph Munyambaza started “COBURWAS” an education services NGO in Kyangwali Refugee Settlement ,Uganda. https://www.coburwas.org/
What is African Leadership Academy’s long term objective? When do you expect graduates from your academy to have a positive massive influence on governance in Africa?
The ALA long term objective is to create 6000 Leaders over the next 50 years and over 150,000 Finalists who will be a part of the Network of Africans that will one day transform the continent. Our Graduates will have an ever increasing impact on the continent as time progresses, but it is clear from some of the initiatives launched by our recent alumni that they have already had a positive influence on governance in Africa. For example, Jihad Hajjouji and Hafsa Anouar won the $10,000 Davis peace prize, leveraged that with a large grant from a foundation and ran an entrepreneurial camp for youth for a week in Morocco! I believe that the world will know ALA in the near future much the same way they have come to know Harvard, but while it took Harvard centuries to build their reputation, it will take us less than one decade.
So, what does it take to enroll in your academy?
The enrollment process is very simple. Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask me for an application in French or English. I will send it to you. Complete the application, email it back to me, and you will have started the process towards a better Africa. Telling people about this opportunity is the best gift you could give anyone.