2018 Bezos Scholars Jonathan Banza, Jelissa Kamguem, Rutendo Njawaya, Salome Maina, Samkelo Ntetha, and educator Tsion Tesfaye hosted the 7th annual South African Ideas Festival: Empowering African Youth through Entrepreneurship at the African Leadership Academy in South Africa.
Their 3 day event equipped young African leaders with entrepreneurial skills to create innovative solutions that address problems in healthcare systems and increase infrastructure development, while increasing employment opportunities.
The South African Ideas Festival (SAIF 2019) began with participants arriving from the Mandela School of Science and Technology, Clicks Foundation, Imagine Scholars, and participants from Durban, South Africa at the African Leadership Acacdemy (ALA) campus and were welcomed by their respective mentors most of whom were volunteers from the ALA community and SAIF interns.
After welcoming the group, participants went to the BUILD Lab where they were welcomed to SAIF 2019 by the CEO, Samkelo Ntetha. Samkelo delivered a welcome speach followed by an interactive icebreaker activity. Then, participants were divided into four classrooms to delve into the first part of the leadership and entrepreneurship training session called Introduction to BUILD: Believe. Believe is the first stage of the BUILD design-thinking and problem-solving model developed by ALA. BUILD is an acronym which stands for Believe, Understand, Invent, Listen, and Deliver.
The first day concluded with dinner and a festive Opening Ceremony. The entire ALA community attended the event and it included many performances and other engaging activities. Afterwards, participants headed to the BUILD Lad for a Student Enterprise fair whereby ALA students presented the different ventures they have implemented. For example, an enterprise called Open Farm presented their startup which aims to connect farmers directly with potential customers to eliminate the middle person and to maximize farmers’ income. This interaction with Student Enterprises helped SAIF participants see peer role models and envision the impact they could have on the continent.
The second day of SAIF was packed with problem-solving curriculum. After breakfast, participants went to different classes for the next leadership session called Understand. This lesson began with a puzzle game called Map Blitz. This refreshing game energized participants while assessing their knowledge of the continent. The participants anxiously debriefed the game and move on with the lesson which challenged them to understand the root causes of needs in their communities.
The second day continued with the Invent part of the curriculum where participants learned about designing prototype solutions for the problems they identified in the Understand lesson. This was followed by the Listen part of the curriculum which emphasized the importance of listening for feedback. This session began with a game in which some participants were blindfolded and while others were not. This game emphasized the importance of listening since participants could have numerous literal or metaphorical blindfolds when working in teams.
Between sessions, we had other interactive games out of class such as The Lily Pad Challenge which helped participants get energized, enhanced bonding, and provided essential leadership lessons such as teamwork and communication. The second day ended with participants having a good mastery of the curriculum and getting ready to present their individual projects on the third day.
On day 3 participants presented their project. Participants arrived smartly dressed and anxious to pitch their ideas to an audience and a group of judges in the preliminary round. We had ten different pitching rooms; each pitching room had two judges with 8 participants. The top presentation from each room was picked to present during the closing ceremony in front of the ALA community and external guests.
During the closing ceremony the top eight participants presented their pitches while the guest speakers and some of the scholars judged the presentations. The top three presentations were awarded books and cash prizes. After the participant presentations, the guest speakers, Seth Mulli and Mfundo Shozi, shared their stories. Mr. Mulli, a previous SAIF, participant shared the impact SAIF had in his leadership journey. On the other hand, Mr. Shozi shared his inspiring story of overcoming a leg injury which prevented him from pursuing his dream career in soccer. Mr. Shozi emphasized the importance of overcoming unexpected challenges to pursue one’s passion. This wonderful closing ceremony celebration ended with fun group chants and pictures.