Former Refugee Defies the Odds and Graduates as an Industrial Engineer

After 20 years as a refugee, African Leadership Academy (ALA) alumnus Jeanbat Busisi, celebrates graduating as an Industrial Engineer from Arizona State University. His journey has inspired many to continue to lead change in their communities and across the globe.

Busisi, born in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) had fled to Uganda in 1998 from his country with his family due to unbearable circumstances.

Busisi came to study at ALA in 2013 from Kyangwali Refugee Settlement, located in western Uganda.

Jeanbat Busisi (2014) during his days at ALA

In 2007, during his time in Uganda, Busisi became a member of COBURWAS and then in the following year he became a pioneering member of the COBURWAS and took part in the Hoima Hostels Program-a program designed to allow students from the refugee camp, and neighbouring Ugandan communities to access secondary school education outside of the refugee camp.

“I believe in the mission of transforming Africa by educating and empowering socially responsible entrepreneurial leaders to unite communities and create sustainable peace, love and prosperity,” says Busisi. It is this thinking that helps one understand why Busisi would go on to studying at ALA.

While studying at ALA, Busisi got accepted to Arizona State University where he later went onto study Industrial Engineering. “When I went to college, I knew I wanted to do engineering, but did not want to just be an engineer who makes cool products. I had graduated from a unique and one-of-the-best leadership institutions of its level. I had just fallen in love with the leadership idea that when I see something wrong, I will do my best to fix it regardless of whether it is science or engineering related or not. For instance, when our societies feel broken, I want to feel like I can do my part to fix it irrespective of what I studied.

Jeanbat Busisi at Arizona State University

‘After a semester of exploration, I knew that Industrial Engineering is the only engineering that can grant me my wish; the ability to diagnose and find efficient ways to achieve optimal system results in systems; systems involving people and technology and performs any forms of processes,” says Busisi.

At Arizona State University Busisi took his passion for leadership seriously and actively participated in student organisations while on campus. He served as the President of the Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineering (IISE) during 2018 -2019. IISE is the world’s largest professional society dedicated solely to supporting the Industrial and Systems Engineering profession and individuals involved in improving quality and productivity.

“My team was dedicated to supporting students in the Industrial and Systems programs in their pursuit to grow as professional engineers through guest speaker series, industry tours, industry workshops, resume review, academic competitions and other community improving events. During my term, I focused on reshaping the chapter to reflect the diversity in the university,” adds Busisi.

Busisi landed himself an internship with Rogers Corporation, an American Company, which he intends to uses to expand on his engineering knowledge and experience. During this time he will also continue to work with his mother’s organization, CIYOTA, on the ongoing CIYOTA-Think Africa Program. This program aims at preparing youths to become change makers and global citizens capable of solving global challenges.

“At CIYOTA-Think Africa Program, youths from various tribes live together at CIYOTA centre to train in English, entrepreneurial leadership and active non-violence and information computer technology, all so that they are empowered to become change makers in their communities and the world,” shares Busisi.

With all this already on his plate, one would think Busisi would slow down but this young leader is just getting started. Busisi intends to return to Africa to help better education opportunities for all young African children. “When I return to Africa I would like to build a support system for any child, irrespective of where and how they were raised, to have the hunger to learn and dream like there is no limit. Quality education opens doors of opportunities, and any student who did their work will find ways to earn a living and define their future,” he adds.


In the spirit of young leaders breaking barriers and defying the odds, read the story of Eddie Ndopu an ALA alum who went on to take on the world by graduating from both Carleton University in Canada and Oxford University in the UK, and recently getting appointed by the United Nations Secretary General as one of 17 high-profile Sustainable Development Goals Advocates: http://www.africanleadershipacademy.org/blog/eddie-ndopu-joins-the-un-sustainable-development-goals-advocates/