African Leadership Academy (ALA) graduated its fifth cohort of young leaders on Friday June 20th, 2014. Eighty-seven members of the Class of 2012 who arrived at the Academy in September 2012 joined ALA’s growing global alumni community. For the first time ever, we were able to livestream the ceremony via the internet to friends and family across the world.
The graduation ceremony was preceded by a showcase celebrating 21 South Africa Icons. Adrian Steirn, curator of the showcase, moderated a conversation with two of the icons, Lillian Cingo and Sophia Williams De Bruyn as part of the Leadership Symposium. Three graduating ALA students then shared their unique leadership journeys and entrepreneurial projects. Tisiya Mahoro (Democratic Republic of Congo) shared her plan to organize an entrepreneurial leadership program at the refugee camp where she grew up. Gift Pola Kiti (Kenya) presented the progress report from the Elimu Project which she founded to sponsor the education of underprivileged children in Kenya. Aken Ngor Tong (South Sudan) talked about the vision behind BuildSudans, the organization which he incorporated to foster shared growth between the Republics of Sudan and South Sudan.
The highlight of the graduation ceremony was the presentation of diplomas to the graduating class, many of whom will proceed to study at top universities across the world, while others opt for a gap year to develop entrepreneurial projects. In his introductory speech, Ashish Thakkar, CEO of the Mara Group, expressed his optimism that Africa will not only catch up with the rest of the world, but lead the way in the new century. His thoughts were further echoed by keynote speaker, Hugh Masekela, who also gave a rousing musical rendition to the delight of all in attendance.
Four members of the graduating class were specially recognized for their outstanding contributions to the ALA community: Jihane Bettahi (Morocco) who received the Dean Christopher Khaemba award for academic excellence; Magnifique Nsengimana (Burundi) who received the Sanni Prize for entrepreneurial thinking; Eric Umeofia (Nigeria) who received the Spirit of Africa Award; and Oluwasanya Awe (Nigeria) who received the Leadership Award for living up to ALA’s values of integrity, humility, compassion, curiosity, diversity and excellence.
The graduation ceremony also served as an opportune moment to recognize two of ALA’s long-term supporters, Tunde and Reni Folawiyo of the Yinka Folawiyo Group in Nigeria. The walkway surrounding the ALA Quadrangle was named in honour of the Folawiyos for their continuous commitment to the cause of developing the next generation of African leaders. We are deeply grateful to them and to all our supporters across Africa and around the world.