YALI: Leading societies through the energy of youth and the power of integrity
Following the success of the Africa Leadership Initiative, Isaac and Khumo Shongwe founded a younger generation of ALI, which is today known as YALI: The Young Africa Leadership Initiative. The motive behind the conception was to reach out to Africa’s future leaders in their younger days and prepare them to lead their societies with integrity.
YALI carries the same principles and core values as its older counterpart. It defines itself as a Pan-African youth initiative with an aim of transforming young African professionals into values-based African leaders.
“The YALI programme has been an incredibly rewarding and enriching experience. The use of provoking works of literature, short stories, biographies and poetry to engage with questions around leadership, personal growth, and importantly, your role and purpose in the world have had a deep impact on my thinking and outlook.” – Leanne Govindsamy (YALI Fellow).
The age profile of YALI Fellows ranges between the ages of 25 — 35. Unlike ALI, this youth arm is more action-oriented and fervently encourages its young Fellows to be agents of ACTION, in order to be significant African leaders. Moreover, YALI provides a platform upon which its Fellows can be brave in opinion and speech, and take on the societal challenges facing their own communities.
YALI Fellows’ relevance in our current socio-political climate is paramount to shaping our societies. They are often the first to voice out their views and disapprovals against injustices, as they did in 2015 when they were the first to publicly offer their disagreements against the dismissal of Nhlanhla Nene. Such boldness is scarce and needs to be cultivated daily if the youth is to positively impact societies.
YALI continues to work closely with ALI on the scaling of projects and will continue to remain a Pan-African organisation with the aim to transform young leaders into great leaders who lead with Integrity.
YALI Fellows share their perspective:
Leanne Govindsamy on the impact of the YALI Programme:
The programme has allowed for and promoted my own personal growth and professional development. I have always sought to make a difference in society through my work, and when I began the programme, I was working at a great law firm which did work for union members through strategic litigation and other interesting and novel pieces of work.
I thoroughly enjoyed the work and benefited from working with lawyers who were all leaders in their fields of practice. However, joining the programme as part of the inaugural class, Mbewu, made me realise that I should be doing a great deal more in order to create real change in the world, and to use my talents and skills in a more meaningful and impactful way. I did this mid-way through the programme by leaving the law firm to join an anti-corruption NGO.
The impact of the programme has therefore been immense, I see the achievement of my own career goals within the broader framework of achieving the fulfillment of human rights, and the promotion of an equal and democratic society as being my lifelong project, one that I hope will bring change, no matter how large or small.
Brief views by Yoliswa Msweli on the YALI Programme:
The magic that is created when like-minded individuals who care deeply about the country’s immense and complex social justice challenges are brought together is undeniable and serves as a force for change. The YALI programme does this as clarity is established that the ultimate purpose of life – is to aspire to lead the life of significance in all spaces that one occupies. Anything less, ought not to be desired.
Being in YALI has already had the following impact on me:
I am bolder – more courageous to challenge injustices in all instances where they occur (respectfully). As such – as a result of the influence of my YALI fellows, and what they have modelled – I have become more vocal to challenge maintaining the status quo where it yields mediocrity.
Rorisang Tshabala, on the YALI Programme:
The YALI Programme has been a life-changing experience that has enabled me to surface, interrogate and reset my underpinning philosophy of being. I must admit to having been sceptical and somewhat blasé about the programme in the beginning, writing it off as one of those “kumbaya” sessions with tired platitudes on leadership. My preconceptions were thankfully proven wrong as the unique process of reflective inquiry forced my mind and my heart into unexplored intellectual and emotional territory, very ably navigated through it all by strong moderators who preferred to provoke rather than to prescribe. When one thinks of leadership, one’s mind tends to instinctively be driven towards the leadership of others; yet the YALI programme focused much more extensively on self-leadership and self-awareness within the safe-space of one’s fellows.
Mike Mulcahy on the YALI programme:
The YALI program has been among the best professional and personal experiences of my life. The structure of moderated discussions means that relationships and an understanding of each others perspective and views are formed very quickly. This leads to intensely personal conversations, both inside and outside of the sessions.
The true value of the YALI program, in my view, is the exposure to other young professionals that are trying hard to succeed in an ethical, caring and uncompromising fashion. All of us will face increasing responsibility into the future and being able to pick up the phone, talk to or confide in friends who understand the pressures – but can lend you their strength when you need it!
Kayan Leung on the YALI Programme:
The foundational principles of service and ethics are ingrained in the fellowship and its teachings. The programme has helped shape my thinking in application in my day-to-day projects in service as a leader. I am able to share these views with my peers and young people which I mentor and challenge their perspectives. I have also adjusted my leadership style or strategically in dealing within my teams – a direct immediate improvement in my leadership development. On several occasions, I have reconsidered my actions and positions in interactions with others after pausing on intrinsic ethical lessons I have learnt from YALI which speaks to a network of friends in my YALI class whom I am accountable to. Most importantly, I have been catapulted into action to create an additional community project to address SGBV that I am currently developing and exploring partnerships with other YALI fellows and resources in addition to the existing work at the NGO which I work at.