“I founded ALA because it was the right thing to do.”
These are the simple words of ALA co-founder Peter Mombaur when asked to comment on what had motivated him and his three friends Acha Leke, Chris Bradford, and Fred Swaniker to start African Leadership Academy. They sought to build a world class institution that would be the training ground for a new calibre of African leaders, one who was globally relevant, forward thinking and passionate. A pan-African doer with the ability to effect wide scale positive change.
The Academy has a bold audacious mission – to identify, develop, and connect a new generation of leaders who will transform the African continent. The founders were guided by five beliefs which continue to inform the way we work:
- Address the underlying causes of problems – treat root causes, not symptoms, to create lasting positive change;
- The power of one – individuals catalyze the actions of large groups and transform societies;
- The power of youth – young people can dream big, take action and change the world;
- The need for pan-African cooperation – collaboration will stimulate growth and development across the continent; and
- Entrepreneurship is key for growth – look beyond existing constraints and pursue opportunities to create value.
Every year, on the first weekend of February, we recognise the four ALA co-founders for the ingenuity, passion and commitment they demonstrated in starting the Academy. Their action was a vote of confidence in youth, in the untapped potential of highly energetic young people. The founders’ punt was that in the right environment and with access to mentors, influencers and networks, high potential young people can accelerate their individual impact. They were right.
Perhaps the biggest impact of ALA has been, in the words of Chris Bradford, “Changing the conversation about the role young people can and do play – right now – in shaping the future of the continent.” This impact is already evident: in 31 of the 54 African countries there exists a venture that was founded by an ALA alum.
The Academy’s community of young leaders – 735 and growing towards the 6, 000 mark are a diverse community reflective of the African continent. They come from 45 different countries, and are pursuing their ambitions in a variety of fields including entrepreneurship, science, medicine, the arts, and technology.
As we prepare for another Founders’ Day celebration. We realise that the work continues. Our challenge as educators, parents and mentors of young Africans is to equip them with the critical thinking skills to identify opportunity and develop impactful ideas and then to empower them with access to global networks that will scale their influence.