ALA Bezos Scholars Celebrate a Decade of Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship

The Bezos Scholars Program (BSP) and the African Leadership Academy (ALA) are excited to announce its 2021 cohort of ALA Scholars. A team of five rising year two students and an educator coach from the Academy are tasked with hosting the 10th annual South African Ideas Festival (SAIF). 

Each year since 2011, BSP collaborates with ALA to select a team who plans the entrepreneurial development festival, which convenes African youth to learn, discuss and design innovative ways to spark change in their community through social innovation and entrepreneurship.

The Bezos Scholars Program (BSP), in partnership with the Aspen Institute, is a year-long youth development program that supports students in identifying and flexing their leadership skills while creating a project that will make a meaningful impact for the greater good. 

 As in previous years, the applicant pool was extremely competitive. African applicants are required to attend ALA and scholars are selected based on their commitment to education, demonstrated leadership abilities, willingness to embrace challenges, and desire to create positive change in their communities.

“This year’s impressive group of Scholars represents five African countries and eight states across the U.S.,” said Molly Pencke, Bezos Scholars Program Manager at the Bezos Family Foundation. “The cohort of Scholars has shown their incredible resilience throughout the pandemic in a school environment like none other, and we can’t wait to see how they impact local communities. We are honored to work and learn alongside these changemakers.”

The 2021 ALA Bezos Scholars are:

From left: Suyash Nowbut ’20, Jaelene Sharveshni Iyman ’20, Selima Terras ’20, Saifeddine Lahmar ’20, Panashe Noel Jonga ’20

Jaelene Sharveshni Iyman ’20 (Pretoria, South Africa)
Jaelene is excited to network and engage with young leaders and foster the entrepreneurial spirit within her community to create positive social change. Jaelene is passionate about international relations, wildlife conservation, feminism and entrepreneurship. Jaelene is a top South African female chess player and former captain of the national provincial team. She is also well-versed in Model United Nations and has received awards at all her conferences. Jaelene is concerned about protecting and preserving wildlife and biodiversity on the African continent. She aspires to eradicate poaching and the illegal wildlife trade markets by raising awareness and conducting educational-based programs.

Panashe Noel Jonga ’20 (Harare, Zimbabwe)
Inspired by his fellow Zimbabweans’ persistence and efforts to progress, Panashe is energized by creating solutions for infrastructure and agriculture innovation as well as ethical entrepreneurship. He is a board member for Nyemwerera Foundation, a non-profit start-up assisting youth and children in Zimbabwe. He is also a provincial-level athlete, advocating for health and fitness serving as his school’s Sports Representative. Making use of his computer-aided design and entrepreneurship skills, Panashe is committed to designing and building strong and safe infrastructure for residents in the Chimanimani region, Zimbabwe, which is regularly hit by cyclones. Panashe believes the only thing better than realizing opportunities is sharing them.

Saifeddine Lahmar ’20 (Djerba Midoun, Tunisia)
Inspired by his mother, Saifeddine’s dedication to taking risks guides him towards the beauty of life’s challenges. Saifeddine is co-founder of the tourist startup ‘Djescover’ and winner of the best delegate award from Georgetown University Model United Nations in Qatar. He was the president of Junior Chamber International in Midoun, an international organization that encourages young people to become active citizens and to participate in efforts towards social and economic development. He is also an Access Program Tunisia Alumnus. Saifeddine believes that, through media, we can paint humanity’s history. As a skilled content creator, he is advocating for reforming the media industry to share more than a single story about Africa to the world. He is excited to thrive outside of his comfort zone by building connections with young entrepreneurs across the globe and creating equal opportunities. He is the catalyst in the team and the laughter giver in the group.

Suyash Nowbut ’20 (Trou D’eau Douce, Mauritius)
Suyash is a business consultant at the African Leadership Consulting Group and received a Bronze Award from the Duke of Edinburgh Program in Mauritius, an internationally recognized program designed to encourage young people to develop positive skills and lifestyle habits. Suyash is also a Model United Nations Best Delegation Winner and collaborative researcher working to better understand his community. He is interested in business, psychology and sociology. His goal is to find the synergy between his passion and the inhibition of innovative change to accelerate the development of Africa. Passionate about change-making, Suyash intends to acquire innovative skills to be a positive catalyst in his community and curate a festival that incubates youth impact. 

Selima Terras ’20 (Tunis, Tunisia)
Selima is a young composer and songwriter. She uses her medium to advocate for the issues that are important to her: racial inequality, social injustice and youth empowerment. She studies Arab music theory at her local conservatory and spends most of her summers in the orchestra room as a cello player. Selima is the co-founder of “Colorful Tunisia” an organization to raise awareness about racism in her country through arts and education. As a Kennedy-Lugar Study Abroad exchange student in the U.S., she represented her country and culture in various international conferences. Selima is passionate about history, international relations, and art. Her goal is to promote intercultural understanding through creative arts and advocacy to foster a strong and united Africa. 

Ssanyu Sematimba (Kampala, Uganda) is returning for a second year as an Educator Scholar. She also supported and coached the 2020 ALA Scholar team in successfully leading the first-ever virtual South African Ideas Festival. Ssanyu believes that design and design thinking play a key role in new products and services, breakthrough innovation, and strategic leadership. She created the Afrikan Collective, an online community that showcases a spectrum of African visual communication and that aspires to become the hub of African creative content. In 2018, Ssanyu was selected as of one of 100 Goalkeepers in Africa by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. She was also voted one of 40 top upcoming creatives in South Africa by the Emerging Creatives Program, hosted by the Design Indaba which provides support, education and mentoring for South Africa’s future designers. Ssanyu is most excited to become a better coach and advocate for the incredible student leaders she is so lucky to work with. 


The Bezos Scholars Program is a year-long leadership development program for rising high school seniors and an educator from their school from across the United States and Africa. For 16 years, Scholar teams have mobilized communities around a range of critical issues.  

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