YALI Takes Leadership to New Heights in Johannesburg

Meridian’s Senior Vice President of External Affairs, Gregory D. Houston (Center) moderates a panel discussion on YALI Stories of Success
Meridian’s Senior Vice President of External Affairs, Gregory D. Houston (Center) moderates a panel discussion on YALI Stories of Success

On September 25-26, 2013, more than 50 Young African Leaders met in Johannesburg, South Africa for the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) Alumni Reunion Seminars.

The 2-day conference, which was hosted by Meridian International Center in close collaboration with the U.S. Department of State, was a dynamic event at which young African leaders from more than twenty African countries solidified their plans for taking the leadership of their organizations, communities, and countries to new heights.

On September 25th, the session was opened by Jason Green from the Bureau of African Affairs, U.S. Department of State; Melissa Ford, Country Public Affairs Officer, U.S. Embassy Pretoria; and Gregory D. Houston, Senior Vice President of External Affairs at Meridian International Center. The opening session set the tone for several interactive discussions between the young leaders on core leadership topics, which were moderated by industry experts, including Doing Business in Africa, led by Sylvester Taku of Ernst & Young Ltd.; and Pushing the Envelope Daily, led by Charles Maisel of Innovation Shack. The young leaders also had the opportunity to gain key insights from Meridian’s staff members, including Meg Clifford-Poole, Director, Global Service Leaders, who shared strategies for creating successful social enterprises and volunteer networks; and Monique McSween and Page Terlizzi who delivered the presentation – Lights, Action, Camera: How To Win Followers and Influence Media.

On September 26th, the Meridian and Department of State teams took the YALI seminar experience beyond the conference room to the state-of-the-art campus of the African Leadership Academy (ALA). A world-class, pan-African secondary institution located on the outskirts of Johannesburg, the ALA seeks to transform Africa by identifying, developing, and connecting the next generation of African leaders. The ALA houses approximately 100 students who are enrolled in their world-class programs, which include a Pre-University Program that strongly focuses on Entrepreneurial Leadership and African Studies; a Gap-Year Program in which students design and deliver a service-based learning program, and complete a guided final capstone project; and a Global Scholars Program which is an intensive, three-week, global leadership summer program for a select group of secondary school students from across the world. The YALI participants shared their leadership experiences with ALA’s students and, in many cases, agreed to mentor the students and recommend candidates from their countries for future ALA programs.

The YALI group also enjoyed a reception which was hosted by The Honorable Earl Miller, U.S. Consul General on the evening of September 25th, as well as tours of the Hector Pieterson Museum and The Nelson Mandela Museum.

At the end of the YALI Seminar in Johannesburg, many participants made solid plans for maintaining the momentum created over 3-years of YALI programs (2010-2012), and openly expressed their commitment to taking leadership to new heights in their communities and countries.

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