Mandela Washington Fellows Advise Students to Join Young African Leaders Initiative Network

AUN students have been enjoined to seize the opportunity offered by the Mandela Washington Fellowship (MWF) to join the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) Network.

Two of the fellows spoke on September 9 at an information forum organized by the Office of Career Services.

An Instructor in SBE, Fardeen Dodo, and Sini Yakubu Wule, founder of the S1 Global Enterprise Integrated, shared their experiences with students and encouraged them to apply during the 2017/18 round of applications.  They said that joining the network is free, and it is an opportunity for youths who are ambitious to contribute to societal development and to be connected to their peers around Africa.

Mr. Dodo said the duo would work with the Office of Career Services to develop a structured support system so that students interested in the MWF can get motivated to apply.  Key to this program is ‘being the change young people want to see’ in their worlds, leveraging available resources and opportunities.

Although the competition to select 1,000 youths from across Sub-Saharan Africa to participate in the program every year is tough, Dodo was optimistic.  The fellowship seeks outstanding youths with leadership potential and commitment to impacting their communities.  “What people who recruit for the fellowship are looking for is not so many well-written applications.  It is people who have started incredible journeys of positive impact and good change.”

Dodo and Wule also shared their experiences of the six-week summer program in the US.  Mr. Dodo said it was a very good opportunity for his own self-discovery and how to grow in the future.  “It provided me with a space to look at my work in a different way…  It helped me figure out why I was doing what I was doing… you get challenged to give a TED-style talk.”  Dodo also noted that it was an opportunity for him to hear from different “breeds” of scholars in the field of entrepreneurship, and from young people running outstanding entrepreneurial ventures.  “I was able to get a lot of ideas …The networking opportunity is massive. Right now I have tons of contacts contacts that I have not yet fathomed how best to leverage.”

He shared tips on creating a strong application with the students.  He said the ability to demonstrate that having a vision that is greater than oneself is a plus.  “What you have achieved in the past isn’t the most important thing.  The consistency of your achievements and your vision and the way you are able to package everything is all that matters.  It is important to be original in the way you write.  It’s important to have someone look at your writing and propose amends.”

Perhaps what inspired Mr. Wule the most when he went to the US was the Future Farmers of America (FFA).  This US organization encourages young people to pursue a career in agriculture. He is already thinking of implementing something similar here in Nigeria.

The fellows also encouraged the students to consider applying to the YALI Regional Leadership Centers (RLC).  There are four of these regional hubs across Africa, established for youths who want to acquire leadership skills.  Wule said the opportunity to get a free online course or get grants for a community-based project or a business is not restricted to those who get the Mandela Washington Fellowship.  “Get involved and be part of the network, even if you do not have the time to go for the fellowship.”

For the students excited to learn about being global leaders, the Fellows concluded with two main points to take away:
Ideas can rule the world, and in a world desperate for change and improvement, young people like AUN students are best positioned to create, develop, and commercialize outstanding ideas for Africa, said Mr. Wule.

As you think about what your role will be in the world, know that there are two choices (or pills to take, if you like).  You either take the blue pill and flow with societal normalcy and make the best of a dysfunctional world, or take the red pill and take responsibility for a new future that will transform the world for the better.  – Fardeen Dodo

By Omorogbe Omorogiuwa

American University of Nigeria
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