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Young & Emerging Leaders of 2018 are stepping “out of the YELP bubble”

Moving beyond the ‘self’ – from achieving personal success to significance in society – this was the guideline for the last seminar of the 2018 YELP class. From 25th to 27th January 2019, LéO Africa Institute arranged the graduation seminar at the Lake Victoria Serena Resort for the class of their Young and Emerging Leaders Project (YELP) in cooperation with the Konrad-Adenauer Stiftung and Stanbic Bank. The second cohort of the program comprises more than 20 outstanding thought leaders from Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Zambia, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi that have backgrounds in media, social enterprise, politics, military, arts and business.

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YELP is a fellowship program implemented by the LéO Africa Institute for young leaders which is designed to train and orient values of self-advancement, integrity, social responsibility, and socioeconomic transformation. After two successfully completed seminars, the graduation seminar challenged the fellows in conversations with leaders from various sectors and reading and interactive sessions with ensuing discussions to impart critical skills needed in leadership that transforms the individual and society around them.

After the arrival at Lake Victoria, controversial reading sessions based on texts of important leaders like Theodore Roosevelt and Martin Luther King pushed the fellows to critically reflect and discuss the concept of servant leadership: the idea of submitting one’s self to the betterment of lives of others and a better society.

Friday’s highlight, the LéO Africa Gala Dinner at the Kampala Serena Hotel provided a unique platform for the fellows to network with other leaders of Africa to celebrate the 5th anniversary of the Institute and to review its story of ‘tears, sweat and blood’ with an inspiring movie about the last five years. Future plans presented by the founder Awel Uwihanganye included the building of an own retreat center, the Institute’s “cathedral”, and the aspiration to graduate 600 fellows in the next ten years.

Inspiring personal insights on leadership in changing times were presented by the key note speaker Mrs. Molly Kamukama, the Principal Private Secretary to the President of Uganda. She recommended the fellows: “Identify your abilities and focus on your strength. Sacrifice and deny yourself life's pleasures so you can be able to embark on your path as a leader.”

The next morning, the fellows discussed with Apollo N Makubaya, the author of “Protection, Patronage, Or Plunder?”, the necessity of understanding the past for finding solutions to Africa’s challenges. The fellows underlined: “We need to be radical enough to change the system left behind by colonialism.”

Together with Lucy Mbabazi, the participants examined the characteristics a servant leader must have, like openness, creating a culture of trust, empowering others and long-term thinking. Subsequently, this stimulated discussions on how to balance persuasion and commanding as a leader and if there is room for force in leadership.

The most outstanding part of the weekend was the Graduation Ceremony. Besides various fellows who showcased the impact YELP had on their personal growth, further stakeholders expressed their wishes and advices for the participants.  William Babigumira, one of the board members of the Institute, reminded the fellows to keep the network alive. Barbara Kasekende from the Stanbic Bank supported the fellows to ignore “the background noise from the people who don’t understand your vision” and Donnas Ojok from KAS appealed to the fellows “to step out of the YELP bubble” in order to achieve significance in society.  Valedictorian Wanjuhi Njoroge gave a powerful account of the impact YELP has had on her and the value of the networks she has formed.

On Sunday, the last day of the seminar, Danstan Mugarura, an Entrepreneur & Marketing Coach, advised the fellows in an interactive session to leverage their fears and encouraged them in becoming a voice of hope to “change the narrative of Africa”.

“The dream of the East African Community – We are the ones who can make it happen”, Awel Uwihanganye stressed in the reflection session that closed the weekend. As the fellows underlined: “It may feel like it’s an end, but actually it’s a beginning. The real work begins now.” all of them seemed to have been strengthened in their vision to be a leader in the area they work in and to achieve significance in society.

written by Madita Schulte

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