This year's delegation of 25 Mandela Washington Fellows from the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) paid a recent visit to the Kuder headquarters in Adel, Iowa.
The fellows are young leaders who have established records of accomplishment in promoting innovation and positive change in their organizations, institutions, communities, and countries. They occupy the fields of engineering, health services, journalism, computer science, manufacturing, financial services, and humanitarian relief.
Drake University is hosting a six-week program for the fellows, with the aim of introducing them to the greater Des Moines business, community and culture through academic study, cultural activities, professional networking opportunities, and visits to local corporate and community partners.
Kuder has been a Drake University YALI program community partner for the past two years, so we were eager for the opportunity to be involved for a third time this summer.
I really enjoyed getting to know this year’s delegation, and on behalf of Kuder, I’m thankful to Drake University for their continued commitment to this initiative and for allowing us to play a small part in it.
Committed to making a difference.
It’s an honor to meet so many individuals who are committed to making a difference in their home countries as well as around the world. And even though the YALI fellows are brought to Kuder to learn about our business, what we do and how we do it, we truly are the better for the experience, due to the inspiration and energy the group shares with us.
My colleague Maggie Miller was similarly impressed by the fellows, remarking that their business plans range from providing clean, deep water wells in Sub-Saharan Africa to inventing a device to stop jaundice in infants (saving hundreds of lives): “I was so moved by each individual,” she said.
Miller also said that she was struck by how young the delegates are, “dripping with joy, wisdom, and a level of care for our planet that people most never comprehend. It’s safe to say that I am forever inspired by the YALI leaders and forever grateful for my new friends.”
I’ve been challenged to be more involved in community by the fact that it seemed each fellow not only has full-time employment and also some type of charity organization, or is working toward something along those lines. Not once did any of the fellows mention what show they're binge-watching on Netflix!
Q&A with a YALI Delegate Joud Issouf Zoudi
Joud Issouf Zoudi, a young businesswoman from Niger, is the founder and general manager of Global J. Services, a firm working in the fields of consulting and interpreting/translation. Joud works with NGOs, international organizations, private and public sector companies, and individuals. She speaks five languages and has an MBA. Joud is also involved in volunteering, working for a better educational system in Niger, the education of young girls, and the promotion of women. During the Fellowship, Joud hopes to learn how to better identify gaps that slow the development of a country and how to fill in those gaps to implement strategic projects in her home country.
Why is career guidance important?
Many people today have jobs that they don't like. A job shouldn't be only a source of income [for survival], but a passion that allows you make a living at the same time. Career guidance [can help you] not only to discover your skills, but also discover what you enjoy doing. The endpoint is to find the job that allows you to give the best of you while loving what you do.
If I [had received career guidance] at 17 or 18, I'm sure [my choice of career] would have been different. The earlier – and better – young people are guided, the easier they find their paths. Nowadays, people [often] go back to school to study a completely different subject than the one they [initially] studied, just because they end up not liking or hating what they do. Career guidance helps avoid that waste of time, money, and energy.
Why is it important to foster a sense of hope for the future among young people in Niger?
It is not only important to foster a sense of hope for the future among the youth in Niger, but urgent and crucial for one main reason: nearly 60% of Niger's population is between 10 and 44 years old and 50% is less than 15 years old. It is obvious! If [we do] not foster the education of youth, who should we count on to develop the country? We have one of the youngest countries in the world in terms of age, and that is clearly a big wealth to exploit. Young people in Africa tend to be very creative, innovative, and culture change minded. Old systems have to change to improve and develop Africa in general and Niger in particular, and only young leading people can perform that with high chances of success.
Tell us about your visit to Kuder.
Coming out of our visit to Kuder, I immediately asked one of the fellows, "Have you noticed that all of the employees looked happy and very energetic? They might have a very relaxing work system and environment, and a very good boss."