When Emmanuel Murairi first arrived at African Leadership Academy in September 2018, he was instantly recognizable, with his trusted accomplice often found balanced on his chin and its accompanying appendage in his right hand. Emmanuel’s dexterity with the violin quickly earned him a reputation on campus, as he performed at several campus events ranging from the weekly all-community Assembly to the annual Taalu welcoming ceremony. Emmanuel had learned to play the violin as part of a church orchestra in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, and it formed an essential part of his personality. However, by the time he graduated from ALA in June 2020, he had become known for something entirely different – he was the “IT guy”.
How do you organise an event that encapsulates community and celebrates the achievements of our graduates, during a global pandemic? Find out how ALA pulled off one of the most memorable graduation ceremonies yet! On Thursday, 18th June 2020, African Leadership Academy had the honor of hosting its first-ever virtual graduation ceremony, giving the entering Class of 2018 the send-off they deserved – despite the effects of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
In the week leading up to the 11th annual ALA graduation ceremony, the Class of 2018 presented their final Thesis to the community. Although this year, due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Thesis presentations were completed virtually, the opportunity allowed for a more diverse group of attendees ranging from family members to donors and alumni to engage in meaningful conversation. The ALA Thesis is composed of three components: 1) Presentation, 2) Discussion and 3) Reflection. The presentation pushes the students to explore an issue using the seven ALA Traits (Africanist, Autodidactic, Entrepreneurial, Ethical, Collaborator, Communicator, Critical Thinker) and share how they have grown as leaders in the past two years.
Anannyabrata Mandal ’18 Working to Create Sustainable Agricultural Practices for Cocoa Farmers in Cote d’Ivoire
Anannyabrata Mandal ’18 came to ALA from Cote d’Ivoire with a piqued interest in learning about other cultures and societies. As his passion for research developed, his focus shifted into farming and agricultural sustainability, and it is through some of his most memorable classes at ALA, like African Studies and Model African Union (MAU) research that he was able to identify a need in his community back home, and expand his skill set. Anannya has been accepted to Cornell University and plans to continue his research to develop an economic model that will help to address growth and development in the agricultural sector simultaneously.
Before her graduation ceremony from Skidmore College was unfortunately curtailed as a fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, Naira Abdula ’14 from Mozambique was scheduled to be one of the student speakers at the ceremony. It would have been a fitting conclusion to her momentous journey at the College where she was graduating with seven top awards and a double major in Economics and Business Management. Coming from Mozambique, Naira’s early ambition was to be an Engineer, but she references the Entrepreneurial Leadership curriculum at African Leadership Academy as her introduction to the world of practical business, with modules on business models, profit making and strategy being particularly influential in her decision on undergraduate study. She applied to Skidmore College in New York because of the opportunity to study Business Management.
Musodiq Tolu Ogunlowo ‘14 graduates from the University of Notre Dame after completing his Capstone Project within the school’s Formula Hybrid racing program. Tolu, who hails from Lagos, Nigeria, came into Notre Dame already knowing that he wanted to study Electrical Engineering. He credits ALA for this strong sense of purpose, even as a first year university student. He says that the Academy taught him that, “when you’re trying to decide what you want to do with your career, think about… how can you merge your interests and your skills with a challenge that will actually impact the lives of a lot of people?.” This lesson is what helped Tolu narrow his Electrical Engineering studies to focus on renewable energy.
During the month of March, as the COVID-19 outbreak took off in South Africa, the ALA community set out to implement remote learning for all students, enabling the continuation of the current academic year. As an educational institution, we had to ask ourselves: how can we ensure learning continues while prioritizing the health and safety of our students, staff and broader community during the COVID-19 outbreak?
African Leadership Academy alumnae, Abii-Tah Bih ‘14, from Cameroon, was elected by The 57th General Assembly of the Associated Students of Michigan State University (MSU) to be the new Undergraduate Student Body President for the 2020-21 academic year. Abii-Tah most recently served as a representative in the General Assembly, for the James Madison College, and has served as chair of the cultural exchange committee and an ASMSU representative in the University Council.
The world as we know it has changed. As communities around the world grapple with a ‘new normal’ brought about by the devastating COVID-19 outbreak, the world is uniting through the creative arts whether it be through virtual concerts in John Legend’s living room, or online museum tours, the arts are virtually bringing us together in a time of social distancing. As a result, the ALA community has found various ways to stay engaged, vibrant and connected to one another. In Tanzania, Emmanuel Mushy ’11 launched a street art campaign promoting good hygiene and alternative modes of greeting in Kigogo, a rural part of Tanzania. The art mural, titled Zingatia – which means ‘consider’, was installed in the locale with over 57,000 residents, many of whom are low income and illiterate. For people who are at high risk of contracting COVID-19, this campaign communicates clearly in a language easily understood.
The COVID-19 global pandemic has affected all spheres of society in unprecedented ways. We believe it is imperative to understand the far-reaching effects of the virus on the African continent. Enter the ALA Executive Seminar Series, a weekly digital engagement that connects distinguished professionals from the African continent to the broader ALA community in the form of insightful talks that help participants ponder on pertinent issues facing Africa. In April, the community heard from ALA co-founder and Senior Partner a McKinsey & Company, Dr Acha Leke; Regional Representative for Epicenter Africa, the research arm of Doctors Without Borders, Professor Yap Boum ll; CEO of Decolonial Mental Health, Zolani Metu, and former judge of the Constitutional Court of South Africa, Justice Edwin Cameron.
Oyindamola Adefisayo ’08, currently doing her Ph.D. in Immunology and Microbial Pathogenesis at The Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences, speaks on the COVID-19 pandemic and how scientific research can contribute towards finding a cure. In analyzing the current pandemic, Oyindamola said, “The success of SARS-CoV-2 as a pathogen leading to a pandemic is based on the fact that it is newly emerged, highly infectious but not extremely lethal especially when compared to other viral infections such as Ebola. These characteristics have led to governments and scientists having to play catch-up as the full impact of the virus only started to become apparent after it had already established a widespread infection across the globe.”
Each year, students from a group of schools across Southern Africa come together for Derby Day, an activity-filled day comprising a range of sports and academic challenges. This year’s event was hosted at Maru-a-Pula School in Botswana, where, early this month, two ALA students walked away with both first and second prizes in the STEM competition. Fifteen different students took part in the competition, representing four schools from two countries. Out of those fifteen, Kenyan Michael Jembe Bongo ’18 came in 1st place with his “Co-Production of Energy from Wind and Solar” presentation, and Moroccan, Skylar Grace Montague Redecke ’18, won 2nd place with her presentation titled “Antibacterial Effects of Garlic”.
After noticing a big problem with fires, electric shocks, and house break-ins in his community in Arusha, Tanzania, first-year student Erick Simon Laizer ’19 decided to do something about it. Following a joint effort with his former classmate in 2015, the two problem solvers designed a unique smoke detector that connects to mobile networks to send automatic alerts to emergency response units within five seconds. For Erick, ALA has provided him with the opportunity to think even more deeply about his business and how he can strengthen it. “ALA was my number one choice because I have always loved how the school brings students from different countries together and having them focus on their entrepreneurial skills.
Every year, the African Leadership Academy Entrepreneurial Leadership department hosts an Entrepreneurial Festival, also known as E-Fest, which showcases unique solutions to grand challenges designed by first year students through the Original Ideas for Development (OID) units of the curriculum. The winning enterprise was ViC, a group of four students from Kenya, Tunisia, Madagascar and Burundi, who created an application that integrates sign language to text in order to bridge the gap between the hearing-impaired and hearing communities in Africa.
The Living Machine, a sustainable wastewater treatment system designed and implemented by African Leadership Academy alumni Wuntia Gomda ’17 of Ghana and Jesse Forrester ’17 of Kenya in 2019, has become a central component of teaching and learning in the Biology classroom at ALA. Head of Science and Technology Department, Hans Sowder, who has been leading The Living Machine installation, has incorporated this machine into his curriculum.
Since joining African Leadership Academy six years ago, Jake Galloway has held a variety of roles: Writing & Rhetoric faculty, Entrepreneurial Leadership faculty, and Year 1 Head. These days, Jake combines his teaching and advising responsibilities with a rigorous professional development program. Taking advantage of professional development opportunities available to faculty and staff at ALA, Jake is currently enrolled in a program at Columbia University, USA that will earn him a Master’s Degree in Private School Leadership.
African Leadership Academy Global Advisory Council member, donor and long-term friend, Ed Brakeman, facilitated a workshop on Impact Investment for second year students during the 2020 Enterprise Festival (E-Fest) on March 13, 2020. Ed was the co-founder and co-head of Bain Capital’s public equity investment business, and is a Director of Umsizi Fund, a private foundation that advances the development of global leaders, innovators, and entrepreneurs.
During the month of February, African Leadership Academy hosted the eight annual South African Ideas Festival (SAIF), bringing together 35 scholars from high schools and universities around South Africa, working on the theme: “Self-Taught Leadership”.
SAIF is a culmination of a year-long leadership development program, which enables a select group of ALA students to acquire skills and knowledge, firstly through participating at the Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado, USA, and secondly through the Student Enterprise Program at ALA.
Over the past month, 16 first year students in ALA’s International Relations Council were selected to attend two of the world’s most internationally acclaimed Model United nations simulations; namely, the Harvard Model United Nations that takes place in Boston each year, and the Georgetown University Model United Nations that takes place in Qatar.
Growing up in small agricultural town called Kitali in northern Rift Valley, Kenya, Maxwell Simba discovered from a young age that that he had a passion for the arts, specifically acting. Today at African Leadership Academy, Maxwell is often found not only flexing his acting muscles with his peers in the Ubuntu Theatre Troupe on campus but also behind the camera documenting events as he aspires to pursue a path in film directing.