By Abdou Njie
Shy of media coverage, the Gambia has continued to produce some outstanding results at the leadership training facilitated through the Young African Leaders Initiative or YALI. Its most recent batch of nine young people, returned home in April this year at the completion of a five-week intensive mentoring in leadership, entrepreneurship and public management hosted at the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA).
The Young African Leaders Initiative or YALI was launched in 2010 by then US president Barrack Obama to provide leadership training for Africa’s emerging leaders. It is his signature effort to invest in the next generation of African leaders. Like every leader, there is always a legacy after he is done and dusted at a particular time in history. That would be for America’s first black President, the launch of the most successful training programme for Africa’s youth. Yes, he made history as the first black President of the world’s most powerful country. But many have argued if that has not reflected substantially below expectation in the continent where he hailed. That, except for this platform, which graduates yet again another cohort of Gambian students at the completion of a five-week intensive mentoring at the Accra Regional Leadership Centre (RLC).
This group of nine has since returned home promising to give back to their country, the YALI way. That is at the very least reassuring, and generally means defying the odds to accomplish a set goal. Anna Jaiteh, a young lawyer who was recently called to the Bar said it in perhaps the most provocative language yet spoken by any YALI fellow. “I personally went to Ghana with so many ideas following the cliché of thinking outside the box, but with YALI I, was taught to think as if there is no box. Africa has great minds and I Anna Jaiteh from The Gambia, I am one of those with great minds and the world would hear about me,” she said.
Isatou Joof, another YALI fellow was mild but genuine in her own narration. “Participating in YALI RLC is the best thing that ever happened to my life. It exposed me and changed me for the better”. Giving back the YALI way to Isatou is within grasp and is nothing more than inspiring sharing her experience with a cross section of society through a radio show she plans to host. The female voice setting the pace of the narrative showed no sign of slowing down. Binta Minteh, a Marketing agent for Gamcel and another YALI fellow said, “NEVER”, has ceased to be a term she refused association with. She’s been enriched in mind and soul and is determined to make the impossible possible.
What YALI continues to accomplish are set leadership goals, tailor-made for Africa’s emerging leaders. It best suits the continent which currently struggles to come to terms with unforeseen leadership crises, impacting negatively on its politic and economy. Nonetheless, YALI presumes better days for the African continent, but relying heavily on the products it continues to graduate from its various training programmes.
Ndey Badjan, another fellow qualified former US President Barrack Obama’s presumption that the continent of Africa though endowed with resources, lacks ethics that substantiate good leadership. She returned home ambitious and determined to start a new lease of a very productive life.
Omar Gibba, presently a student at MDI said “it was a golden and life-changing experience which enabled me to see the world through another spectrum”. This is now a peep hole through which all these fellows see the world. The young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) has been but a platform worthed the dawn to dusk drills from the various classrooms at GIMPA to the many site visits that account for the Cohorts graduation. This Sulayman Jallow did say, “I might not have agreed before, but coming out of this programme well informed, it made me realize that not only are there solutions to our problems but so many opportunities”. This is generally shared by the Cohort, with Isaac Jabang, currently the Coordinator of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, The Gambia, saying he now sees Africa’s mounting challenges as opportunities that require collective action and deliberation to provide the right solution.
It is only fair to say, YALI’s success in changing perception is by far its biggest achievement. Each of these fellows including Musa Sawaneh and Muhammed Kinteh are now looking at the continent through new lenses to sweep clean the stains carried for far too long in history.