The power of one
22-year-old Vanessa Ishimwe is the only one in her family to have completed high school. She did not understand why her family had to leave her home country for the refugee camp she now calls home: the Kyaka 2 camp in Uganda. The harsh realities of her own circumstances and those of over 40 000 refugees at the camp, half of which are children, prompted a deep passion for education in her: she founded a school that now educates over 317 children and provides comprehensive support to enable them to grow as entrepreneurial leaders.
One of her mentors, Joseph Munyambanza, originally from the DRC started a school at 14 years old when he saw the pressing need for education in his own refugee camp in Uganda. He now runs CIYOTA, which has educated hundreds and facilitated scholarships to prestigious schools around the world for beneficiaries. Joseph also mentors Benedict, a 23-year-old refugee, who has also founded a school which educates 300 children in his camp.
Joseph attended school with Bradley Opere, from Kenya, who has made history as he was inaugurated as the first African Student Body President at the University of North Carolina- Chapel Hill. It also turns out that Bradley is childhood friends with another young Kenyan Entrepreneur, Kevin Kibet: who was inspired to provide empowerment to smallholder farmers in Keruchi through providing them with land, resources, and training to produce avocados which they sell to sustain their families. In his first year, Kevin had 1000 trees on his demonstration farm and had buy-in from 150 smallholder farmers who joined his program. His friend, Bradley, helped him secure $20 000 in equity funding through a consortium he had founded. This has allowed him to grow his land and production base and enables him to reach many more farmers.
All this would be impressive enough for a 40-year-old to have achieved. However, all these young people are under 30 years of age and directly impact over 12 000 people and employ hundreds. The potential of young people to support and inspire each other once empowered is immense. This is what we call the demonstration effect.
One of African Leadership Academy’s fundamental founding beliefs that encapsulate this effect is the “Power of One”. The idea that one remarkable leader with their potential unleashed, their heart in the right place and with the right networks, they can create lasting and positive change for many more beyond themselves.
In just under a month, Vanessa will meet and connect with one of 20 remarkable young African entrepreneurs- Kevin. They have both been selected as 2018 Anzisha Prize finalists. Whatever comes from that and many other new relationships and connections across borders is unknown, yet exciting. The leadership of young people in Africa holds the greatest hope for the prosperity of the continent. There are many other stories like these spread out across the land, yet they are at the same time, one story.
This is the story of 5 young people, who through collaborative action and personal initiative now directly impact over 12000 people. They impact and grow their beneficiaries through their offerings, whilst also, and importantly, creating employment for many people.
Every one who believes in the power of youth has always known that young people are the key to unleashing development and impact on the continent. However, we still tend to speak about young people as “future” leaders with the implication that their impact will only be felt at some stage in the near or distant future. We cannot afford to think this way any longer. In just 6000 days, Africa will have the largest workforce, as well as the youngest population on the planet. We cannot afford to pay lip service to the value of the largest and most vibrant segment of the population. Young people should no longer be seen as “future” leaders who will only take up great challenges later in life, they are tackling them now, as such are leaders of today. Our investment and belief in them should echo that reality
Deep investment in one young person by organizations and people such as African Leadership Academy, Anzisha Prize and Mastercard Foundation amongst others, does unleash the potential of thousands more, there is no question about the value of that truth.
To Watch Vanessa, Kevin and other young entrepreneurs in action sign up to watch the Anzisha Gala & Pitches here.
*combined figures from entrepreneur’s reports or website or application and selection data.