“Development Through Transformational Leadership”

On April 13th and 14th, 2012 YAAPD and its supporters hosted approximately 200 students from a number of colleges across the East Coast for its inaugural African Youth Empowerment Conference. The conference aimed to equip students with the necessary tools, network, and mentorship that they need to lead the process of change.

Some of the conferences key events were the opening dinner, which featured student speakers and keynote speaker MK Asante, the Morning Address, which was also characterized by student speeches and a keynote address by the acclaimed Dr. Chris Abani, and a variety of panels. There was also a banquet held at the Omni Hotel, with a keynote address delivered by Magatte Wade Magatte Wade, and a Cultural Show that featured acts by African groups from various universities. Proceeds from this show went towards CAMME.

The theme of the conference was “Development Through Transformational Leadership”, stemming from the belief that only good leadership can provide Africa with long-term sustainable growth. The conference tackled some of the most significant issues facing Africa and provided conference-goers with unparalleled opportunities to learn from and network with leaders in African peace and development.

Our keynote speakers are distinguished leaders in their respective fields. Chris Abani is a Professor at University of California Riverside and Ted Speaker who was imprisoned three times by the Nigerian government and turned his experience into acclaimed poems. MK Asante is a tenured professor of creative writing and film at Morgan State University and an award-winning author, filmmaker, and professor who CNN calls “a master storyteller and major creative force.” Magatte Wade is an entrepreneurial talent, named by the World Economic Forum as one of their 2011 “Young Global Leaders, and named by Forbes as one of the “20 Youngest Powerful Women in Africa” in 2011.

There were also several student speakers to inspire conference goers by highlighting the capabilities of their peers. Clemantine Wamariya is a Rwandan genocide survivor who has spoken of her experiences as a survivor and a refugee on the Oprah Winfrey show, was recently appointed by President Barack Obama to be on the board of the U.S. Holocaust Museum, and is a current undergraduate at Yale University. William Kamkwamba was born on his family farm in Masitala Village, Malawi and although he was unable to attend school for five years, he taught himself how to build a windmill that powered a village, among other projects he has conducted since then. Lolan Sagoe Moses is a Pan-Africanist student leader at the University of Virginia (UVa) and President of the UVa Organization of African Students. He has worked to establish an African Studies major at UVa and worked as the Special Assistant to the Member of Parliament for Bekwai, Ghana, among others.

The conference featured four main panels: Education and the African Renaissance, Economic Development, Resources, Development, and Peace, Peace and Conflict Resolution.

Education and the African Renaissance featured panelists Chris Abani and Ann Bierkester, the Director of Undergraduate Studies in African Studies at Yale.

The panel focused on Economic Development had a discussion that included Okendo Lewis Gayle, Founder of Harambe Entrepreneurial Alliance; Sangu Delle, Chief Executive Officer of Golden Palm Investments (GPI) and Founder of the African Development Initiative; Ibrahim Diallo, Finance Analyst at JP Morgan, Founder of African Development Coalition (Trinity College).

The panelists for the Resources, Development, and Peace panel were Elizabeth Asiedu, a Professor of Economics at Kansas University and Director of the African Economic Research Council, as well as King Adamtey, Traditional Ruler, Business Leader, Educator, Humanitarian, Historian and Minister.

The Peace and Conflict Resolution panel featured Jennifer Christian, a Policy Analyst at the Enough Project focusing on Sudan; Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja, a Professor of African Studies at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill; David Simon, a Professor of African Studies at Yale University; Kambale Musavale, Student Coordinator/National Spokesperson of Friends of the Congo.

The conference included breakout sessions, which were small-group discussions based on topics ranging from business to art. These small workshops afforded participants the opportunity to both network and engage in discussions and other learning experiences. Focusing on Peace and Conflict, there was a film screening of Crisis in the Congo and discussion led by Kambale Musavele, a discussion led by Alexandra Hellmuth on the role of activism and how to produce results, and Bezawit Tesfaye spoke about traditional methods of conflict resolution and ethnic conflict. Highlighting Youth Development Initiatives and Campus Initiatives was covered by the Cornell Computer Re-use Association. The Education discussion included Winnie Imuchi, highlighting the case for an internationally acclaimed African Baccalaureate.

The conference also featured a Networking Fair with a range of international organizations and firms engaging in development, finance, and humanitarian projects. Participants were encouraged to bring a copy of his or her resume to be randomly selected for review. Presenters included Barclays Bank, Community Water Solutions, Peace Corps, and Shea Yeleen International.

Sankofa54 2012 was brought to a close with “The Danger of A Single Story”, a cultural show that was a salmagundi of African drama, poetry, dance & photography. The skit was culled in honor of African literary genius, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TEDTalk in July 2009, which carries the same title. The show hosted incredible performances from Yale, Harvard, Columbia, Swarthmore, Wesleyan, Mount Holyoke & Fitchburg State University.

Registration was $30 and late registration was $35. Student housing and meals were provided for the first 150 students who registered. Others could choose from several local hotels.