ALA’s South African Ideas Festival 2019

Every year, 24 student and educator scholar teams from across the U.S. and a team of six from the African Leadership Academy are selected as Bezos Scholars.

The Bezos Scholars Program is a year-long leadership development program that originated from a commitment to support and amplify youth voice and youth-led actions—particularly for students who have the ambition to create good in their communities.

Scholars are teams made up of a student and their educator, who have demonstrated accomplishment, embraced new challenges, and aspire to lead change in their community.

ALA is the only school in Africa offered with this amazing opportunity to join the Bezos Scholars Program.

After being immersed in learning at the Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado, United States, and engaging in year-long leadership development, scholars and educators are tasked to organize a local ideas festival in their own community alongside a USD 1,000 grant.

The South African Ideas Festival (SAIF) is a culmination of the skills and knowledge learned at the Aspen Ideas Festival. The 3-day local Ideas Festival held in South Africa hosted at the Academy, brings together innovative and passionate African youth from around the continent to develop and showcase their BIG ideas and solutions to help eradicate some of Africa’s greatest challenges.  

This year, over 70 participants tackled what social entrepreneurship means to them, and developed and showcased their BIG Ideas for impact. 

“Social entrepreneurship for me is the highest form of giving back to my community and humanity in general,” says Jonathan Banza, SAIF 2019, Head of Logistics, “It is creating a better and prosperous future for my community and society, through providing innovative solutions to pressing social problems; turning social problems into opportunities!”

SAIF hosts some of the most inspirational speakers and facilitators from around the world, especially Africa. The speakers talk about their experience in the world of business and offer advice and skills to our participants on how they can develop their ideas into businesses and create impact. The lineup this year included Mfundo Shozi, Founder and Managing Director of UvoLwethu, and Lesego Serolong, co-founder and chair of Raise the Children International, a registered non-profit in South Africa, the USA and UK.


The ALA Bezos Team who were tasked to organize SAIF this year are Samkelo Ntetha (South Africa), Jelissa Kamguem (Cameroon), Rutendo Njawaya (Zimbabwe), Salome Maina (Kenya) and Jonathan Banza (Republic of Congo).

Tsion Tesfaye, ALA Entrepreneurial Leadership Fellow is the educator guiding and coaching the team as they continue on their leadership development journey.

During the festival, SAIF participants dive into our BUILD model, which helps them prepare to pitch their ideas to their peers and a panel of judges.

The peer led program, facilitated by the ALA Bezos Scholars delivers critical entrepreneurial training over three days.

Students are first trained to BELIEVE that they have the power to change the world around them, and embrace a mind-set of contuniual improvement. They then learn to build empathy and UNDERSTAND they community they intend to serve with an entrepreneurial venture.
Young entrepreneurs then INVENT a wide range of possible solutions, prototyping and testing their ideas by LISTENING to feedback. After a process of iteration and improvement, they DELIVER impactful new ventures and solutions by mobilizing resources and leveraging networks.

“”Our vision is to make tomorrows leaders into today’s agents of change. Together, we can truly make meaningful change, today,” says Samkelo Ntetha, ALA Bezos Scholar and SAIF 2019 CEO.

If you would like to learn more about the festival, or become a contributor, please visit the South African Ideas Festival for information.