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Lessons from the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI)

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The Planning Directorate in the Ministry of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare is pleased to announce that Mr. Ahmad Mmadi, an Economist, was among the 11 out of 2000 Malawian applicants who were selected to attend the training at YALI Southern Africa Regional Leadership Centre hosted by the University of South Africa in Pretoria, Republic of South Africa. 

The training was delivered in three tracks including Public Management and Governance, Civic Leadership and Business and entrepreneurship tracks. The Economist had intense 4 weeks of training at UNISA. Below are some of the highlights of Mr. Mmadi’s training.

What is YALI


YALI is a signature initiative by President Obama to invest in the next generation of Young African Leaders. It began in 2014 with establishment of the Mandela Washington Fellowship Program which followed by opening of 3 Regional Leadership Centres in the Southern, Eastern and Western Africa Regions.

Responsible Leadership

In the Public Service, only people in management positions are regarded as leaders. Officers below this level go to their offices waiting for instructions from their principals. Rarely do they prepare individual work plans let alone a task list.  This tendency has earned criticisms from the citizens. Sentiments like ‘lero tigwira ntchito mwachibomaboma’’ ‘today we are going to work as public servants’’ referring to slow progress, are commonly used when public servants decide to be lazy.  

Why are Public Servants considered to be lazy despite all the hard work? YALI training gave Ahmad an answer to this question. As Public Servants, we tend to shift blame either to our bosses or limited funds. We often forget our role which is to make the public service more efficient and effective. Mmadi reported that during the training it was emphasized that people should play their role in making public service better and help others play theirs rather than spending their precious time gossiping and complaining.  

Employment Solutions

At a time Malawi is facing economic hardships, attention to social issues affecting vulnerable groups such as people with disabilities is dwindling. Currently, the country’s leading economists and think tanks have been advocating for Government to prioritize activities that have multiplier effects on the economy. In this context, there is a need for the establishment of social enterprises that will not only empower the vulnerable but also contribute to the GDP of the country.  

As reported by Mmadi, YALI RLC SA showed participants a better and effective version of initiatives to improve lives of persons with disabilities. Participants visited Employment Solutions for People with Disabilities, a South African Non-Profit Organization that facilitates employment related opportunities for persons with a variety of disabilities in Gauteng. The NGO empower people with disabilities with skills such as steel building, conduit bundling, E-Glass packing, filing delivery notes and barcode scanning of documents. While most trainees return to their communities, some are employed by the NGO. The NGO supplies the products and services produced by the people with disabilities to some of the big companies in South African such as Automotive Leather Company (Pty) Ltd, Powertech Transformers (Pty) Ltd, Vodacom (Pty) Ltd, and Oosthuizen Brokers. Our congratulations are therefore in order to Mr. Mmadi for achieving this feat.