Pan-African Youth Leadership Development

The Leadership Development and Mentorship program has an ambitious agenda for training tomorrow’s leaders across Africa.

Africa is by far the world’s youngest continent, with a median age of only 18. Such a large population of young people presents an enormous challenge for the governments of Africa’s 54 countries.

Resources must be found to ensure food, water, shelter, healthcare, education and livelihood training for fully half of the 1.2 billion people on the continent. While this is indeed an enormous challenge, for the Jesuits and their partners it has also become a real opportunity. Here is the future – full of energy, ambition, idealism, passion, and hope; eager to learn and open to new ideas. Here too are the future leaders of Africa and of the world, whether in government, business or civil society.

Jesuits have made a major contribution to education in Africa for many years.  More  recently,  however,  they  have  begun  focusing  on  the  leadership  potential  of African young people in very direct and deliberately Ignatian ways: forming young people holistically; teaching  methods  of  discernment  and  decision-making  for  the common good; providing skills for leadership that is spiritually  and  emotionally  intelligent,  compassionate,  ethical, authentic.

In  2017,  a  new  pilot  program  called  Purpose-Driven  Leadership  Development  was  launched  at  the  Jesuit  Centre  for  Leadership  Development  (JCLD)  at  Copperbelt   University  in  Zambia.  Fifty    university students, half of them women, participated in training work-shops to develop their      personal and professional skills as future business, government and civil society leaders.

The program was run jointly by JCLD and the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders. Eminent Zambian leaders from the public and private sectors were also invited to help with the training. Overall, the 10-month program, which was supported by Canadian Jesuits International  (CJI),  was  considered  quite  a  success  and  the final evaluation gave good direction for further pro-grams, especially in areas that provide students with an expanded  sense  of  their  role  in  society  and  with  new  perspectives on what is possible when leadership is ethical and “purpose-driven.”

Based  on  the  success  of  the  Purpose-Driven  Leader-ship Development program in Zambia, the Justice and Ecology Network of Africa (JENA) in the Jesuit Conference  of  Africa  and  Madagascar  has  launched  a  new  pan-African  Leadership  Development  and  Mentorship  program. 

The  idea  now  is  to  empower  university  students  in  other  African  countries  with  people-centred  leadership  skills.  The director of this new program is Charles Chilufya SJ, who is the current head of JENA and who also launched the leadership program in Zambia. With  headquarters  in  Nairobi,  Kenya,  the  Leadership  Development  and  Mentorship  program  has  an  ambitious agenda for training tomorrow’s leaders across Africa. True to Ignatian formation, this agenda is also patient and methodical. The first phase began in February 2019 and will last 10 months. It has three aims: to train 15 university chaplains to provide leadership skills and sup-port;  to  develop  the  leadership      capacity   of   40   university     students in a Training   of   Trainers   program;  and  to  hold  an  international    roundtable  conference   with 250 African youth. (S.L.)

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