The group of 86 smiling and happy faces of the fifth cohort to graduate from the African Leadership Academy (ALA) radiated out onto the audience as they received their diplomas on June 20, 2014. For the first time in the school’s history, the graduation ceremony was not only witness by friends and family, who were present, but was watched via live streaming over the Internet to loved ones of the graduating class from around the world.
For these students, who arrived at the prestigious school in September, 2012, this is a pivotal moment, when their studies and efforts at creating enterprises poised to change African society will now be tested. For Tisiya Mahoro, a student from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, this means implementing her plan to develop an entrepreneurial leadership programme in the refugee camp where she was raised. Gift Pola Kiti will return to Kenya to pursue her efforts with the Elimu Project she founded, which assists in the education of underprivileged Kenyan children. These are just a few of the real-world projects students of ALA are required to create while attending the school.
The ALA was established in 2008 as a way to identify Africa’s future leaders and nurture their leadership abilities as well as provide them with opportunities for transforming their lives and those of others in their country. For those who have gained a coveted spot in the academy, approximately 2,900 students apply each year for only 100 available openings, entrepreneurial initiatives are only part of their education as each student is also expected to carry a full course load, designed to help them get into the world’s leading institutions of higher learning. For this fifth cohort of graduates, this means attending Harvard, Yale, Oxford or one of the top African universities.
The presentation of diplomas came after a unique ceremony that included a celebration of 21 South African icons, including a special moderated conversation with Lillian Cingo and Sophia Williams De Bruyn. After the graduation ceremony was complete, ALA founder and CEO, Fred Swaniker, recognised the long-term support offered throughout the years by Tunde Folawiyo, including being a member of their Global Advisory Board, by naming the walkway surrounding the ALA Quadrangle after him and in honour of his efforts and commitment to the next generation of African leaders. Photos of the ceremony and the presentation of the walkway plaque have been included on the Tunde Folawiyo image pins on Pinterest.