A group of driven individuals have created an organisation that aims to harness the untapped power of Africa’s youth for the good of the African continent as a whole.
The Youth Alliance for Leadership and Development in Africa (YALDA) has its roots in a discussion that was hosted by the African Students Association of the prestigious Harvard University.
The discussion was focused on what people of the African Diaspora could do to help the continent and the revelation that emerged from these talks was that the most important thing would be to establish first-hand knowledge of the realities on the ground.
The consensus was that the best way to do this would be by creating links with young people, motivated to make a positive change, across the continent.
Bukamu Laone Hulela and a handful of other Africans studying at the university took up the challenge of creating such an organisation and in September 2004, YALDA was officially established.
The organisation is now gearing up for its third international conference, slated to take place in Gaborone from August 18th to the 21st of this year under the theme, “Spotlight on Africa: Youth Owning the Continent’s Development Wave.”
In explaining the inspiration for this theme, Bukamu cites a 2010 report by McKinsey and Company which revealed that the annual revenue of the African continent is projected to rise to $2.6 trillion by 2020, almost doubling the continents current GDP.
“Our concern is that young people aren’t being exposed to this kind of information and realising the diverse range of opportunities around them. This conference is aimed at being a positive step in raising the awareness of young people to exciting prospects in their own environment,” says Bukamu.
Dr. Raymonde Agossou, Head of the youth division of the African Union, is already confirmed to be amongst the keynote speakers for this year’s conference.
In addition to the University of Botswana, YALDA also has members at universities in Egypt, Tunisia, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria, South Africa and Cameroon, many of whom will be present at the conference.
The first YALDA conference was held in September 2006 at the American University of Cairo in Egypt under the theme “An African Course in Development: Youth Redefining Leadership.” Mr Colin Coleman, Managing Director of Goldman Sachs in South Africa and Mrs Mmasekgoa Masire-Mwamba, the former CEO of BEDIA were amongst the important speakers at the event. The organisation then held its second conference in 2008 at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda under the theme, “Overcoming Obstacles on the Continent and beyond.”
Hope Wamukota, a Ugandan student at the University of Botswana and a YALDA executive director is particularly excited about the organisation’s plans to hold workshops in different towns and major villages around Botswana.
YALDA plans to collaborate with local stakeholders such as Youth Councils and organisations concerned with promoting entrepreneurship in an effort to use these workshops to impart young people with vital information and resources. The emphasis will not be solely on starting businesses though ÔÇô it will also include community projects such as helping the disadvantaged.
Bukamu laments at how the call of the Botswana National Youth Council (BNYC) to submit proposals for projects related to the month of youth against AIDS attracted disappointingly few proposals. She goes on to express her suspicion that these situations arise because most young people have not been sensitised to the importance of taking advantage of such opportunities.
The organisation has fixed quotas for how many people they can accept to join from each African region and applications for those interested in participating in the upcoming conference close on the 15th of June. Wamukota stresses that one does not already need to be an established leader to join the organisation ÔÇô the only quality that is required is a desire to make a positive change in one’s immediate environment.
The conference however, which is by application only, calls for young people who have already done some significant work as leaders in their community, whether it be through entrepreneurship or otherwise. Bukamu explains that the conference will be more beneficial to people who are already actively engaged in relevant projects, as it will help them build on their progress.
These people can then pass on the knowledge they acquire to their peers, especially to members of the organisation who are yet to start their own initiatives. More information and application forms can be found on the organisation’s website ÔÇô yaldafrica.org.