In candid interviews with their peer Silindile Mlilo, fellows share their views on Africa’s challenges and opportunities, contributing to a better understanding of the African continent in terms of governance and beyond.
Launching on Tuesday 21 February with an episode on sustainable finance, the series’ dozen episodes will be published weekly on the STG's YouTube channel. The fellows of the 2022 cohort will address crucial issues concerning the development of the African continent during in-depth conversations, proposing solutions to these challenges. The fellows cover topics within their area of expertise, including climate and environment, gender, migration, peace and conflict, economics and more.
We asked Silindile Mlilo from Botswana, host and driving force behind the project, about why she wanted to interview her peers, which insights she gained from the conversations and what she hopes viewers will learn from the interviews.
What motivated you to embark on a series of in-depth interviews with other YALP fellows?
“It was my colleagues. When I got accepted into the fellowship, I took the decision to open my mind to learning as much I could by opening myself to new ideas and new ways of thinking about different issues affecting the continent. My colleagues made this super easy because of their brilliance and engaging insights on how we can move forward as a continent. The conversations during our class discussions were rich, thought-provoking and I must admit, sometimes intense. It was clear that we were all driven by our love and passion for changing the narrative about Africa and most importantly contributing to its development. It was through these engagements that the idea was born. I thought it would be a shame for our thoughts and opinions to end in the classroom. My colleagues have so much to offer through their expertise and knowledge that I felt it was important to broaden the discussion. Also, why not let young Africans tell us what they think are the pressing issues affecting their continent and the solutions they think could be developed to solve them? For me, it was important that we centre the voices of young Africans on issues affecting them. So with the encouragement of a few of my colleagues I shared the ideas with, I pitched the concept to the YALP and STG communications team.”
Which insights did you gain through this project?
“That I can work well under pressure, haha. On a more serious note, this experience has made me respect creatives. There is a lot of hard work that goes behind the scenes to put a product together. What you see in front of your screen is a result of a lot of planning and execution. At least ten episodes from this series were shot back to back in a space of two days. I have never been so tired in my life but the excitement and passion for the project kept me going. This project also gave me the space and platform to tap into my creative side. As an emerging academic, I often struggled with expressing my creative side. I didn’t feel there was space for me to do that in the academia so having to work on something like this and to see it through the end was such an affirming experience for me. It also made me realise that both my passions could co-exist. I guess I can now add ‘Creative’ and ‘Producer’ to my titles! Another insight gained was not to be afraid to ask. Even if you think your idea is crazy and no one will be interested. Just pluck the courage and pitch your idea. The worst response you can get is a no. I still don’t know how the YALP and STG communications teams bought into my idea but I am glad they did. The support I received from the beginning was so encouraging. I had never done something like this before so their confidence in my capabilities was invaluable. Also, I will be amiss not to give a huge shout out to my amazing colleagues, the level of seriousness and commitment at which they took this task to hand was so humbling. Most of them assisted with the curation of most of the questions unpacked in the series. I felt truly supported. This for me was a testament that so much can be achieved with supportive community and a shared vision.”
What would you like viewers to take away from these YouTube conversations?
“That in as much as there are challenges in Africa, there are also solutions being implemented by Africans to build the continent. For a long time Africa has been viewed as a lost cause but through the discussions with my colleagues, I hope viewers can see that we are not just sitting around waiting to be saved. We may not always get it right but there are people who are working every day to shape the continent. As my colleague Benard from Kenya was famous for saying during our engagements, and I will paraphrase – Africa is not a charity case waiting for aid, Africa is open to business through investment. I also want to point out that even though the series is Africa Answers, some of the challenges discussed and solutions proposed are context specific and may be applicable to certain regions or countries in the continent so it is important to engage with that context in mind. Otherwise, I hope viewers get to learn more about the continent from the perspective of young Africans and witness our dedication and passion for our continent as reflected in the discussions.”
What is your message for the incoming cohort of Young African Leaders?
“The YALP experience is what you make it out to be. Of course, there is a programme and an agenda curated to enhance the skills and knowledge of the fellows, but ultimately how the experience turns out, in the end, is up to each individual. No programme can singularly offer all the solutions nor should we expect it to. Fellows also have to take initiative and participate in their own learning experience and professional growth. I was fortunate to be part of a cohort that was vibrant and active in terms of initiating events that we felt would add value to our learning experience as well as contribute to the academic life of the STG in general. This was made possible through the YALP team, who were not only supportive but flexible to accommodate us within reason. So in a nutshell, my advice to the incoming cohort is that, make the most of this opportunity, be involved and engaged. Don't be shy to propose ideas that will enhance the programme and contribute to your learning experience or to ask the difficult questions that will push people to think critically about issues affecting the continent. Also, have fun while at it. Eat lots of pizza and gelato and explore. After, you will be in one of the most beautiful cities in the world – Firenze.”
Stay tuned for the first episode ‘Africa Answers: will sustainable finance save Africa's future?’, which will go live on Tuesday 21 February. Subscribe to not miss it!
More about the Young African Leaders Programme. The call for applications for the 2023 cohort is open until 22 February. Apply now!
Meet the 2022 cohort of Young African Leaders.