Obama Leaders Program- A YELPee’s Experience

As the CEO of the Media Challenge Initiative and a Young and Emerging Leaders Project (YELP) fellow, Abaas Mpindi attended the Obama Leaders’ Program Africa 2018. This is a peak into what the experience meant for him as a young and emerging African leader.

The Media Challenge Initiative is committed to building the next generation of journalists, storytellers and leaders equipped to create positive change in their communities through experiential peer-to-peer learning, transformational training, and mentorship. At MCI we believe that journalism can make the world a better place through the content and means through which stories are told. We believe journalists can transform the world through covering stories issues, systems, and principles that are working and facilitate the process of replication.

Our biggest project right now is the Next-Gen-Journalist Program- which aims to provide practical journalism skills training to enhance youth employment and train young journalists to drive social change, and enhance democratic accountability. It is a four phased annual program that includes the Interuniversity Media Challenge, the Media Challenge Expo, the Media Challenge Fellowship Program and the Alumni Program.

We also run the Media Challenge Academy, a media space created with an aim of providing media students with a platform to get hands on practice through training, mentorship and experiential peer to peer learning.  The Academy provides a practical wholesome experience targeting the mind, body and soul to produce an all-round journalist. Our tailored practical workshops include radio presentation/production, TV presentation/production, photography, social media and confidence building workshops including goal setting and storytelling.

Why I applied for the Obama Foundation Leaders Program

I applied for the Leaders Program because my organization MCI upholds the same values as the Obama Foundation. I knew that I was going into a space where I was going to meet a community of like minded leaders. I was also excited to know that the program is consistent with the work that President Barack and Michelle Obama have engaged in through the Obama Foundation. The foundation’s mission is to inspire, empower and connect the next generation of civic leaders so that they can change their communities, nations and the world. Our work at MCI aligns with the mission of the Obama Foundation because we building the next generation of journalists who are passionate about using their journalism to foster transformation.

Experience at the Leaders Program

It was an overwhelming emotional experience to be selected for the Obama Leaders Program. The program brought together 200 out of over 10,000 of Africa’s brilliant and brave entrepreneurs and emerging leaders. Being selected among the 200 was an honor- but meeting the other 199 was a revelation that Africa is on the move and there is a lot of undocumented transformation happening that we do not get see. After the convening, our network will stay connected at an individual level and through the foundation for 1 year; accessing training and resources. The fact that I am now connected to 199 emerging leaders from 44 African countries is phenomenal. We were also exposed to leadership development training by world experts and engaged in deep conversation on ethical leadership facilitated by some of the world’s remarkable leaders like; Kofi Annan, Mo Ibrahim, Graca Machel, Thulisile Madonsela, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Lakhdar Brahimi. We also interacted with some of Africa’s young emerging leaders and entrepreneurs like Fred Swaniker, Sangu Delle, Maryana Iskander, Bogolo Kenewendo, Jason Njoku, Bina Maseno and Patrick Awuah.

On a personal level it was an honor to get my name and our work highlighted in President Barack Obama’s lecture speech on the centenary celebration of Nelson Mandela. I have watched the video of the lecture 100 times just to make sure that it is not a dream and that I am about to wake up from. I am beginning to process it now and it comes with pressure about our work, what we have to do next and the opportunities that come with it. I left the program humbled, and reignited.

New Connections and New Opportunities

We have just completed our inaugural fellowship program graduating 26 journalism fellows from 15 universities. We will be investing more resources in our Alumni program to ensure that our young journalists continue to be empowered. From the connections made during the Obama Leaders Program we have kick-started conversations to expand our project to other African countries.

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