A Decennial Worth Celebrating

February 28th, 2018

We are defined by stories. Our lives can be encapsulated in a quick summary or a lengthy tome. They are defined by the stories we choose to tell, and the stories others tell of us. The story of African Leadership Academy came to life at our recent Decennial Celebrations – and we couldn’t be prouder of how it relates and resonates.

ALA is an open book. Our vision is clear, and our mission is encapsulated in the stories we share. It aims to inspire others to connect with us, emulate our values and mission, encourage innovation and ensure an ongoing investment in Africa’s future.

This theme was carried through in our Decennial Celebrations and, if the response is anything to go by, we certainly succeeded.

We topped Twitter’s Trends list on Day 2 – but social media wasn’t the only platform to judge the success of our gathering by: the joy was tangible and unmistakable. It was evident even before launch day, with the steady stream of arrivals throughout the week – and the joyous reunions it brought.

There were countless shrieks of delight at encountering familiar faces after lengthy absences… “Oh Wow! You made it too? How long has it been?”… The pleasure of being able to, finally, put a face to a name that had until then, only been an electronic communication – “It’s so good to finally meet you!”…

That joy was evident throughout, on every face, every day; you can see it for yourself, by watching our video highlights here. The smiles everyone was wrapped in was wrought by the constant glimpses of long-lost friends, the array of dazzling traditional ensembles, or the sheer exhilaration of being surrounded by like-minded individuals in a setting that conveyed the power of mind over matter at every turn…

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‘Africa is not a problem or opportunity. Africa is a community of persons. To be an African is to see that our humanity is inextricably bound to every other human person.’ – Dean Hatim Eltayeb


ALA is built on networks. Our founders established a powerful connection, bonded by their common vision. That network continues to grow, resulting in no less than 1 000 students, staff, alumni, friends and investors from all works of life, 5 continents and 60 cities, converging on our campus to share their moving and inspiring stories of their introduction and connection to ALA – and their hopes and dreams for an Africa united in innovation.

‘Seize the times and go make your lives extraordinary. You will only fail if you seek to be ordinary.’ – Hakeem Belo Osagie

There were moments that had us pause for thought. Who’d’ve thought, for instance, that the indomitable Graca Machel, the only woman in history to have ever been First Lady of two countries, married to two revolutionary presidents, and a educational pioneer in her own right, would still face sexism and discrimination?

Or that there was more than one moment in time when ALA’s very existence seemed doomed – and founder Fred Swaniker managed to ‘hustle’ R5 million in one weekend?

Revelations abounded, and we doubt anyone in attendance did not leave inspired to take the values and mission of this visionary institution further. An intrepid young blogger, Pumzile Tracy Wilbon, aka Trace This Space, did just that, releasing her own awesome video of the celebrations and introducing ALA to her world.

'Leaders create, leaders transform, leaders invent. Never imitate. Young people need to redesign African institutions without leaving anyone behind.' – Graca Machel


The Pardee Learning Commons, the epitome of an innovative Future Learning centre, was the hub of it all. It was also where Student Enterprises proudly displayed their wares – and managed brisk sales, too – of the fruits of ALA’s most innovative student’s labours. More than one attendee – and, at the gala ceremony, our CEO – ended up sporting Lady B’s vibrant African print bowties. Our roving photographer, Master, caught Alumna Oyi Adefisayo (who facilitated the Science and Technology for Africa talk), vacillating on buying a vibrant African print jumpsuit – and encouraged her to ‘catwalk’ model it, which promptly decided the purchase for her. Many a guest got caught up in reading alumni books on sale, too.

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Innovation at ALA is an immersive experience, and guests shared in it in various ways, on Day 1, from the group discourses that followed after the screening of a short film by alumni Mohamed Echkouna to partaking in Seminal Readings and active classroom discussions, emerging from their various activities still in thrall to the experience. The best part of Day 1? Seeing students in earnest discussions with dignitaries and speakers, sharing inspiration, receiving advice and just, well… connecting. That, and the sheer exuberance of ALA’s Assembly, which only competed with Day 2’s African Dance that had some guests literally shimmying along.

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'There is a difference between good and great educational institutions. Good institutions focus on empowering individuals and their immediate family. Great institutions develop young people to tackle issues that are beyond themselves.’
– Hakeem Belo Osagie


The rallying call throughout our 10th birthday celebrations, was one to action: How will you play a role in shaping Africa’s future?

It was beautifully heeded by our many friends and donors, who rallied to raise R110 million in sponsorships, on the night – and the countless offers of donations of time and skills. Best yet? Ten years after our first class arrived to fulfill a vision that has been described as a ‘moonshot’, we have come full-circle, with some of those donors being ALA alumni!

It’s a call we’ll keep making, as we focus our energies on investing in Africa’s future.

What has failed Africa today, is lack of leaders ... The future of Africa is too important to leave the development of good leaders to chance.’ – Acha Leke