The Archbishop Desmond Tutu Leadership Fellowship Program

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The last eMail I sent with my former laptop was to the African Leadership Institute (AfLI), to submit my application for the Archbishop Desmond Tutu Leadership Fellowship program, having been nominated by Prof. Bolaji Aluko — one of Nigeria’s proud sons in the US (both in terms of his national pride towards Nigeria, and the nation’s pride in him for his evidently diverse expertise). I considered the nomination a huge honour, having read on the AfLI website that the program is “a prestigious programme with the main objective of providing a unique multi-faceted leadership learning experience for the next generation of Africa’s leaders” and that the selected fellows are usually the “cream of Africa’s future leaders in all sectors.” The program website also stated that “20 young people between the ages of 25 and 40 are selected as high potential leaders from across Africa based on their leadership potential.”

Two days ago, I was notified of my selection along with 19 others (8 men and 11 women) and you can imagine my excitement. What adds value to this for me is the fact that it comes as a perfect fit towards my research and career plans. The Archbishop Desmond Tutu Leadership Fellowship program is a one year part-time programme, which allows students have follow-on participation as Archbishop Desmond Tutu Fellows of AfLI network, with expectation to attend AfLI’s leadership learning and Alumni events. The program consists of two 10-day Group Learning Modules in South Africa and Oxford; group projects between modules; individual leadership project to apply and develop leadership in community; ongoing coaching/mentoring; and networked interaction and debate on global & African issues. “The Archbishop Desmond Tutu Leadership Fellowship program is the flagship program of the AfLI which aims to provide a platform for learning by potential future leaders across the African continent. The aim is to introduce young achievers who are likely to become leaders in the various sectors from business, government to community levels to key principles, requirements and challenges of leadership. The program, as planned, is intended to initiate the generation that will become leaders in Africa in the future to issues of leadership, expose them to ideas on how to lead and to be successful leaders, and help them to experience leadership issues before they become leaders themselves.”

At the end of the program, trainees become Archbishop Desmond Tutu Leadership Fellows and “[t]he aim is assist in developing a network of future leaders that will have the capacity and the vision to contribute to the transformation of the African continent and that can provide support to each other.” The program’s curriculum includes exploring “leadership theory and in particular the specifics of African leadership during the workshop in Stellenbosch, as well as developing a greater awareness of themselves as leaders. In line with Oxford’s philosophy, the tutorial approach is applied to stimulate wider and deeper thinking about the subject, and personal reflection to understand and develop their own leadership capabilities in both an African and global context, and to set their own leadership goals. A variety of speakers share their experiences and perspectives on leadership and practical exercises in groups throw new light on the challenges of leadership.”

It continues, “[t]he workshop will also explore and debate the harder issues of the challenges African leaders face now and in the future if Africa is to be successful, which sets the scene for a group project which runs the full length of the programme — the development of scenarios of the future of Africa. Work on this project will continue between the workshops by electronic communication using the Institute’s private web-site facilities.” I look forward to the program — meeting the other 19, learning more about leadership, becoming a better leader, etc. I’m also excited that “a mentoring programme will be established to support and nurture the Fellows between and after the workshops, and provide a vehicle through which they can review and continuously reflect upon their leadership learning, and the goals they will set for themselves on the programme.” And just listen to this: “In addition, Fellows will be required as an integral part of the programme, to apply their learning to the benefit of the broader community. This implies leading a project outside their normal work environment, for the betterment of the broader community.” Did I hear someone whisper youth-led social technopreneurship?

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