By Lutz Ziob
Dean of 4Afrika Academy
“Desire! That’s the one secret of every person’s career. Not education. Not being born with hidden talents. Desire,” Johnny Carson
There is no shortage of desire amongst African youth - desire to learn, desire to achieve, desire to make a difference. The goal of the Microsoft 4Afrika Initiative is to harness this desire and empower youth to turn their dreams into reality. So, we are thrilled to be hosting 14 Mandela Washington Fellows as part of U.S. President Obama’s Young African Leadership Initiative, for a three month fellowship at Microsoft’s offices around the continent. This will be the first group of fellows who have been meticulously selected from some of the most passionate young Africans out there. All of them are working on their own ventures, finding innovative ways to solve local problems that are close to their hearts, for example: Haleta Giday from Ethiopia who is a lecturer and public prosecutor. She focuses on improving women’s and children’s rights. Her desire after the fellowship is to work with the United Nations and African Union on peacekeeping and conflict issues as well as conduct trainings on gender equality and women empowerment.
The fellowship will enable these youth to drive their projects with the encouragement of Microsoft and its broad network of partners and world-class expertise in a fast-paced environment. Access to a variety of powerful influencers will enable all to benefit even if they are not necessarily adopting a technological solution.
During the three months, fellows can practice pitching for finance, receive personal feedback on their solutions and business models, get introduced to startup accelerators and shadow Microsoft’s top decision-makers while attending high-level meetings. Most fellows have not worked in a multinational company before so the exposure to doing business across borders and to international best practices is an invaluable experience. Microsoft will also be offering 360 degree evaluation for each fellow and leadership training from professional coaches. All of this will take place while being immersed in a modern working environment with the must-have tools of the modern workplace. Fellows will learn how to utilise the power of technology to achieve their ambitions including Microsoft’s Cloud-based productivity tools like Office 365, and Azure.
But this immense opportunity is not just for the fellows. Microsoft will have the privilege to learn from them: What challenges do they face every day? What are the grassroots needs and opportunities in their countries? How can Microsoft work with them to create sustainable growth and career solutions on the continent?
These young leaders will help inform Microsoft, as a global company, of the African challenges and opportunities with a perspective that is completely aligned to their markets and consumers. We look forward to the fellows providing an injection of curiosity and questioning, not allowing us to become set in our ways. They are part of our investment into human capital on the continent, one of the primary drivers of the Microsoft 4Afrika Initiative.
So, it is with excitement and pleasure to introduce our first group of fellows:
Nigerian, Mfonobong Ekpo, is a maritime lawyer, award-winning author, founder of the Discovery Center and chief operating officer for the Future Project Africa. She is most excited for the internship because it is an “opportunity to be in an intense learning environment, which offers tangible opportunities for growth and development. Microsoft embodies this kind of environment and culture. “
Ugandan, Humphrey Anjoga, is co-founder & chief operations officer at the Uganda School of Professional Development. His goal is to become an accomplished ICT professional particularly in e-Government and Information Systems Audits. “My dream is to engage the rural community in the use of ICT through establishing regional ICT centers.”
Kenyan, Emily Murabu, is the founder of Tunaweza. She wants to see more women as entrepreneurs, who are able to embrace technology to solve their social problems and elevate their social status. In the next five years, she would like to see persons living in the rural areas having access to internet services
Charlene Migwe from Kenya has three years of experience in IT and is building solutions to help African citizens contribute to the betterment of their countries. She believes the Yali internship will help her learn better management skills, that will spur the growth of her company to more sustainable levels.
Tanzanian, Ruth Elineema, is a lecturer at the University of Arusha and founder of Gongali Model Company Limited. “The YALI internship is an opportunity to share my initiative and network with experts and gain relevant that can help it grow. She aims to develop a holistic transformation of small communities and under-served groups by giving them access to appropriate technologies through creative and customised financial solutions.
Laud Boateng in Ghana is a trainee public health physician who “wants to see a country positioned for health and wealth among its populace - an environment where people will have the strength and aptitude to contribute their talents to the total development of the region and the global village. It is my desire that the current youth bulge will be instrumental in driving this change with mentors shaping this dream.”
Namibian, Mandy Shemuvalula, is founder and CEO of Gloca Inc and believes that the state of ICT in Namibia is growing and evolving, but not fast enough. “A lot of businesses are not able to reach optimal levels of efficiency and effectiveness and this reflects on their poor performance. Those that are, become a beacon of hope for the rest. It is still a virgin industry.”
Aarthi Burtony from Mauritius is chairperson of the DIS-MOI. Her personal goal is to ensure ICT forms a part of daily life for every Mauritian irrespective of their social class. “It must include specialised technology for persons with disabilities. I hope to make a difference in the lives of those who never thought they would one day have access to ICT.”
David Chakombera from Zambia is a senior advisor at Ernst & Young and co-founder of Africa Lead, an incubator for gifted entrepreneurs. He is also a member of the ‘Lead Us Today’ board where he aims to empower young people to lead community development efforts and upscale mentorship for the informal sector in Zimbabwe
Hastings Mkandawire has over ten years of experience in rural alternative energy and social-economic initiatives to uplift the youth. Currently, he serves as country coordinator for Media & Technology of the Youth (MTESO). Post the fellowship, he plans to conduct workshops trainings to strengthen youth economic activities in support of youth in isolated rural areas of Malawi.
Haleta Giday from Ethiopia is a lecturer and public prosecutor. She focuses on improving women’s and children’s rights. Her desire after the fellowship is to work with the United Nations and African Union on peacekeeping and conflict issues as well as conduct trainings on gender equality and women empowerment.