On the afternoon of Friday, June 21st, seventy-eight students graduated from the African Leadership Academy. This year’s graduation festivities marked ALA’s graduation of its fourth cohort of second-year students. Guests and families travelled from throughout the continent to attend this exciting event, which is by far one of the highlights of the year at ALA.
The diploma and certificate ceremony, the official marker of graduation from ALA, marked the culmination of the various events that took place throughout the graduation day. Graduation day started with an optional blessing early in the morning. In the afternoon there was a Leadership Symposium, which is a forum where members of our graduating class share innovative entrepreneurial ideas and community projects. Lord Michael Hastings CBE, KPMG International’s Global Head of Corporate Citizenship, was the keynote speaker of the Leadership Symposium and encouraged our young leaders to always challenge the norms and remain committed to impacting Africa beyond the walls of our Academy.
After the Leadership Symposium, there was an Entrepreneurial Leadership Thesis Exhibit where members of our graduating class were given the platform to display and present on key lessons learned through their Entrepreneurial Leadership courses, which make up the core of our unique curriculum at ALA.
The main graduation ceremony was the large and final event of the day. Dean Chris Bradford addressed the ALA community and spoke about the unique contributions that the graduating class made to the Academy during their time at ALA. Each class at ALA since the pioneering class has left a legacy and has also in various ways laid foundations for future classes and helped shape the culture of ALA. Among many other contributions to ALA, members from this year’s graduating class started ALA’s first student-run Honour Council, student-led an online computer science course through Stanford University’s Udacity program, launched the first-ever ALA musical showcase and Art exhibit, hosted a major South African Ideas Festival, and launched an International Relations Council that will host the first Model African Union conference at ALA next year.
CEO and Founder of ALA, Fred Swaniker gave a Founder’s Address to the ALA community following Dean Bradford’s address. The Guest of Honour and Keynote Speaker was Trevor Manuel, the former finance minister of South Africa who currently serves in the Cabinet of South Africa as the Minister of the National Planning Commission. Graca Machel, Mozambican politician and humanitarian and the wife of Nelson Mandela, was initially scheduled to be the keynote speaker for ALA’s graduation ceremony but unfortunately could not attend because of her husband’s health.
Following the Guest of Honour Address was the presentation of certificates and diplomas to the graduates.
There were also additional special graduation awards during the ceremony. The Dean Christopher Khaemba Academic Excellence Award, named after ALA’s first Dean, was given to Oluwasanmi Joshua Oyenuga from Nigeria, who will be attending Duke University on a full scholarship as a Robertson scholar. Afrik’art, a student enterprise that promotes arts and African culture at ALA, won the Spirit of Africa Award. The Leadership Award went to Bradley Opere from Kenya, who will be attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill through the prestigious Morehead Cain scholarship program. The Sani Prize went to Christian Modjaiso from the Democratic Republic of Congo who will be attending Harvey Mudd College. The Sani Prize recognizes the student whose tireless effort, innovative solutions and commitment to excellence serves to further the mission, vision, and values of ALA in the spirit of Mr. Iliyasu Adinoyi Sani, an African pioneer and member of the inaugural ALA faculty.
The announcement of the recipients of the Allan Gray awards for excellence in entrepreneurial thinking and entrepreneurial achievement was also made during the graduation ceremony. The inaugural recipients of these awards were announced at last year’s graduation ceremony and these awards, which are given in the form of unit trusts, now represent a partnership between ALA and Allan Gray.
Maimuna Yussuf from Somalia and Kenya won the ZAR15,000 Gold Award for excellence in entrepreneurship and Pakinam Moussa from Egypt, and Musila Muneve from Kenya each won the ZAR5,000 silver awards.
The ZAR15,000 Allan Gray Gold Award for Entrepreneurial Achievement went to Goodman Lepota, from South Africa. Julia Agodogo from Ghana and Sherryen Mutoka from Tanzania, each won the ZAR5,000 silver awards. These award was given to students in our graduating class who have performed extraordinarily well in their Entrepreneurial Leadership Student-Run Businesses.
After the graduation ceremony and reflecting on her two years at ALA, Maimuna Yussuf, a recent graduate from Somalia and Kenya said: “As a member of the graduating class of 2013, I have been fortunate enough to interact with the people that drew me to ALA. My experience naturally, has been shaped by ALA’13, arguably the best group of people I will ever meet. … I can honestly say to my fellow graduates, I am because you are. I will fondly remember the Entrepreneurial Leadership experientials that pushed us out of our comfort zones and I am humbled by the safe haven that we helped establish at ALA. It’s the reason why many ALAians were able to grow.”
Laura Kaub, the Director of the MasterCard Foundation Scholars program at African Leadership Academy, spoke enthusiastically and proudly about the graduating class. After the graduation ceremony, she said: “The transformation in the graduating class from when they joined our Academy is tremendous. I truly believe that each graduate is now equipped to be an agent of positive change on the continent.”
While we do not believe that our graduates truly ever graduate from our Academy because of the lifelong engagement and the lifelong network at ALA, graduation nonetheless marks the end of a significant chapter in our students’ leadership journeys.
Congratulations to the newest ALA graduates — the incoming class of 2011!
To view a complete photo album of this year’s graduation ceremony, click here.
Click here to watch a video of the ALA graduation ceremony.