On the evening of Friday, June 15, ninety students graduated from the African Leadership Academy, making it the third class to officially graduate from ALA. As graduates mingled with family members and special guests who had travelled from far and wide to be there, the excitement and nervous energy of the graduates was tangible.
The diploma ceremony, the official marker of graduation from ALA, marked the culmination of a week-long graduation build-up. For ALA students the graduation ceremony marks the end of a significant chapter in their leadership journeys. In her address to the graduates, principal Jenny Ketley explained that “This does this mark the end of their two year tenure at the ALA campus. Your ALA journeys began in your home countries when you decided to make a difference.”
Linda Rebeiz, a graduate from Senegal, said of her ALA experience that it had been life-shaping: “It shapes who you to be who you want to be and shows you how to get there. ALA opens your horizons and makes you a more curious person. ALA has been worth everything I could ask for.” Linda will be attending Duke University and UNC-Chapel Hill as a Robertson Scholar on a full academic scholarship.
Mr. Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, was the keynote speaker at the certificate ceremony. Mr. Sanusi’s address touched on the imperatives of forging a path to Africa’s socio-economic prosperity by encouraging self-sufficiency. He encouraged the ALA graduates to “take control of Africa (because) the problems of Africa can be solved by African leaders.” Mr. Sanusi, who was also attending the ceremony as a proud parent of his daughter Shahida (one of the graduating students, who will be attending New York University later this year), was granted the Academy’s 3rd Honorary Degree in Leadership.
The ceremony also marked the announcement of the inaugural recipients of the Allan Gray awards for excellence in entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial thinking. These awards (in the form of unit trusts), present a new partnership between ALA and Allan Gray and selection was based on essays on entrepreneurial thinking and entrepreneurial achievement. Fred Swaniker, and Thando Mhlambiso of Allan Gray,presented awards in two categories: entrepreneurial thinking and entrepreneurial achievement. Kenza Bouhaj from Morocco won the Gold Prize for Entrepreneurial Thinking, worth R15,000 in Allan Gray unit trusts. Nadine Zoro from Cote d’Ivoire and Daniel Mahatlane from South Africa won the silver prizes, worth R5000 each. Rima Tahini from Sierra Leone won the Gold Prize for Entrepreneurial Achievement, with Olaotan Awoyomi from Nigeria and Steve Bob Oluoch from Kenya each winning the silver prizes respectively.
The other awards given out at graduation recognized excellence in leadership, academics, innovation, and a commitment to Africa. Alexis Teyie from Kenya was awarded the Leadership Award, given to the graduating student in the graduating class whose leadership is a model and inspiration for the students, faculty, and staff in the ALA community. The Spirit of Africa Award went to Maurice Bukenya from Uganda, and the award for Academic Excellence went to Kenza Bouhaj from Morocco. The Sani Prize went to Abdramane Diabate from Mali, recognizing the student whose tireless effort, innovative solutions, lofty ideals, 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.
Towards the end of the ceremony, Alexis Teyie’s speech about graduating was a poignant rendition of the bittersweet nature of moving on, and yet getting ready for new beginnings.
Niifio Kotei, father of ALA graduate Barbara Kotei from Ghana, said that he has noticed many changes in his daughter as a result of being a student at ALA -“She’s more confident, more articulate, more certain that she can do what she wants to do and that she can make a change. I don’t think she’ll ever regret coming to ALA.”
Tom Obiri from Kenya, winner of the inaugural Colgate-Palmolive bursaries for study at African universities, was enthusiastic about his experience and graduating from ALA. He said, “ALA has made me realize my potential. I’m excited to start this new chapter of my life because I want to live up to the potential that I’ve come to realize I have.”
The recently capped and gowned graduates ended the evening with a choreographed dance in celebration of the event. To view a complete photo album of this year’s graduation ceremony, click here.