SPEECH AT THE INAUGURATION OF THE REFURBISHED YALI REGIONAL LEADERSHIP CENTRE AT GIMPA CAMPUS

Dr. Shola Safo-Duodo, Director of the YALI Regional Leadership Centre, Accra

Your Excellency, Robert P. Jackson, Ambassador of the United States to Ghana

Friends from the Media

Distinguished Invited Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

It is a great delight to be present here and to address you on this important occasion.

I have been enthused by the idea behind the United States Government’s Young African Leaders Initiative, YALI. This initiative, launched by the immediate past president of the United States, the inspirational Barack Obama, is particularly significant because of what President Obama represents. Not only is he the United States’ first black president, but his very life, background and rise to the US presidency epitomize the concepts of hope, of integrity, of commitment, of tenacity, and of a focused vision, which are critical elements of leadership in any given situation.

Ladies and gentlemen, the dynamics of today’s world are remarkably different from what pertained a few generations ago. Today, the world has become much closer and much smaller principally due to technology and no country or society can claim to be insular. This interconnectivity presents its own challenges and calls for a unique leadership style that meets the needs and aspirations of our people.

Of course, Africa is part of this global dynamic, and like every continent, it has its particular challenges that require unique solutions and therefore innovative leadership. On the political front, many states and communities are embroiled in conflict and have been struggling to negotiate peaceful transitions to political and economic stability. Fundamentally, Africa remains locked in an old economic order, being producers of raw materials to feed other nations, and subsequently being the dumping ground for consumer products from these same nations. Access to global markets remains a challenge, whilst food security poses a grave danger to peace and stability on the continent. Conflicts, unfavourable climate conditions, political instability and unstable commodity prices all contribute to these challenges and are made worse on the continent.

Of course, this is not to say that Africa is a lost cause. It is not. Despite its negative projection particularly in western media, it remains a fact that all other continents have their own peculiar challenges. I believe strongly that despite its challenges, Africa can and will rise to the occasion.

And that is one reason why I am inspired by YALI and its efforts to set up Regional Leadership Centres across the continent.  With these centres set up in strategic locations and serving the continent, I believe that YALI is poised to make a huge difference to our leadership structures. I am delighted that Ghana is host to one of YALI’s four Regional Leadership Centres in Africa, serving as many as nine countries in the West African sub region. I believe this is a testament to the confidence that YALI has in Ghana’s strides to provide leadership to her people.

Ladies and gentlemen, our unique challenges call for a paradigm shift in the way we bring up the next generation of leaders on this continent. It requires leadership skills that emerge from creative thinking in all spheres, from business and entrepreneurship and civic leadership to public management, to spur economic growth for the African continent.

To our young beneficiaries of the YALI programme, I congratulate you. You have a unique responsibility in the context of our continent’s challenges. The clamour from our people for leadership and direction to confront these challenges is immense. In a media age such as ours, these challenges are easily projected to the rest of the world. . I for one refuse to accept the narrative of Africa as a basket case and object of international charity. Economically speaking, Africa may not be in the best of shapes, but I believe that we can develop as rapidly as any part of the world if we get our act together.  It is a huge task, but I have confidence in the emerging crop of leaders on the continent. I urge you to take advantage of the unique opportunities being provided by YALI through its online leadership training platform.

At all levels of leadership wherever you find yourselves, you must first have the hope in our continent to turn itself around. It must be a hope that is firm and unwavering, even if it is audacious, because it is only when you are unrepentantly hopeful that your leadership will be meaningful and you can pull people along on the journey. That hope must in itself be anchored in faith-the faith that we have the capacity as a people to make our lives better.

This continent has been blessed in the past with many leaders who passionately believed in our right to self-determination, who had aspirations to make our lives better, and in whom our people placed their hopes. Let them be your guide and inspiration as you also yearn to make our lives better. Our challenges in the twenty-first century may be different from times past, but the basic principles of leadership remain timeless.

President Barack Obama is a son of the continent, a man whose father emigrated from Kenya for further studies in the United States in order to better the lives of his people back home. His remarkable story, captured in his writings and ultimately in his presidency, brought a new wave of hope particularly to many black people across the world. His catchphrase, ‘Yes We Can’ carved as he sought political office, was inspirational, and tells us that even in the face of adversity we can rise to the occasion and provide meaningful leadership to our people. I strongly believe that history will be kind to him as one of America’s greatest presidents. Be guided by his life story.

I commend YALI for its hard work leading to today’s ceremony. It is my hope that this newly refurbished centre will continue to send out a strong message of hope and collaboration not only to the general public but also the teeming young people in the countries that it oversees. I assure you that the doors of the Ministry of Education are always open to discussions and collaborations on how to ensure that the youth of our time are equipped with the necessary leadership skills.

I thank you for your time.

May God continue to bless us all.

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