When I joined Resilient Africa Network (RAN) as an innovator in 2018 with SafeBangle innovation, I thought it would be like any other incubation experience I have been hearing from my colleagues in other incubation centers, but the story has been a lot more different. RAN focuses both on business and personal development of the Innovator and that’s how they connected me to professional development with Young African Leadership Initiative for Young African Leaders (YALI). Young African Leadership Initiative (YALI) was launched by former President of the United States Barack Obama as signature effort to invest in the next generation of African Leaders. It has Mandela Washington Fellowship as its flagship program funded by US Department of State and hosted by several Top Universities in the US. The journey of me being part of Mandela Washington Fellowship begun during my presentation to UN Women leadership on the progress of SafeBangle. This is where I met Aidah Bukubuza, a 2018 Mandela Washington fellow who shared with me this great opportunity. On discussing this opportunity with Deborah Naatujuna, the engagement manager at RAN, she encouraged me to apply and guided me through the application as well as writing me a recommendation letter. Because of her guidance, my application was so strong and get shortlisted. I was then interviewed at the US Embassy after which I was competitively selected to be among the 700 young leaders from 49 countries. Being among the 700 young leaders selected out of 38,000 applications across the Sub-Saharan Africa was a dream come true.
My experience during Mandela Washington fellowship
After being selected, with help from the US Embassy, I got ready for the flight to Chicago where I was to be received by a team of Professors from University of Notre Dame-Indiana. University of Notre Dame is in South Bend-Indiana State and it is among the Top 20 Universities in US. We arrived on June 19th and had very interesting orientation events. The stand out event was the “Scavenger Hunt” where we were randomly grouped and tasked to discover major physical features on campus. This was so interesting as team dynamics came into play.
I spent 6 amazing weeks at University of Notre Dame with world class Professors like Mellisa Paulsen, Jennifer Krauser, Edward Jurkovic, Dustin Mix, Maria Gibbs and the popular John Michel. Being selected under leadership in business and entrepreneurship meant that I was to have majority of my classes and experience under business and entrepreneurship principle. In addition to lectures like; social entrepreneurship, foresight and innovation, Human centered Design, CAPSIM, and many others, we had an opportunity to visit Chicago, South Bend, Indianapolis, Detroit and Washington DC as well as having community outreach in neighboring communities. In these visits, we were meeting leaderships in private sector, civil society and Public offices. This integration of classroom learning with experiential learning from engaging with different stakeholder opened up my mind on how important partnership is in propelling and efficient and effective development of a community.
Among classroom setting, CAPSIM was my highlight. CAPSIM is a computer simulation program that gives an individual an opportunity to experiment running a multibillion business in a very competitive industry using a software called CAPSIM. We were divided into team and each team was a company, where I belonged to CHESTER. We were operating in a sensor manufacturing industry. We run this program for 6 weeks and after, I obtained valuable skills in market analysis, product innovation and predictive production analysis. This program was orchestrated by Professor John Michel. During these 6 weeks, we also had an opportunity to be hosted by a typical American family, where I was able to network with a number of American Citizen.
On July 19, I had an opportunity to watch Liverpool Vs Borussia Dortmund live. Being a football fan and a big fun of English football, I had been watching premier league teams play football on television but watching them play live was a dream come true. University of Notre Dame hosted this international friendly at the University stadium and our leaders from the University had already procured us tickets to watch it live. It was so amazing, taking selfies with prominent players like Jordan Sancho.
After the 6 weeks at University of Notre Dame, I had a flight to Washington DC, where we had a 4 day summit. All the 700 young African leaders had an opportunity to network. However, during this summit, USAID shouted out my name and the work I am doing with SafeBangle. This summit marked the end of the fellowship on 3rd August 2019.
Being an alumni of YALI exposes me and SafeBangle to a number of opportunities not limited to professional development, funding and other partnerships that can people my business to success. However, without being an Innovator at RAN, it would have been hard for to achieve such a milestone in my life. Most incubation centers only focus on innovations and pay less attention to developing the innovators as persons.