On July 9, 2019, the Africa Growth Initiative (AGI) once again hosted a cohort of the Young Africa Leaders Initiative (YALI)’s Mandela Washington Fellows based at Rutgers University. The program, which aims to “empower young people through academic coursework, leadership training, and networking,” is the U.S. government’s signature effort to invest in the next generation of African leaders. The fellows hail from around the continent and come from a variety of backgrounds and professions, including lawyers, civil servants, doctors, and civil society leaders, among others.
The aims of the July 9 discussion with the Rutgers University-based cohort were not only to familiarize the fellows with the experience of working in and leading a think tank, but also to demonstrate the variety of research Brookings scholars undertake that might be pertinent to the fellows’ personal goals.
Brookings Executive Vice President Ted Gayer began the discussion by describing the various roles he plays within the institution, as well as challenges that arise in guiding an independent research institution. AGI David M. Rubenstein Fellow Landry Signé shared his personal story as a native of Cameroon and his career path as an academic, with professional interests in unlocking the potential of Africa and emerging economies, understanding why some countries succeed and others fail, and regional integration. He also expanded on the importance of transformational leadership, and the imperative of framing the narrative around Africa as one of opportunity and growth.
Center for Universal Education Fellow Christina Kwauk discussed her work on the continent identifying and eliminating obstacles to girls’ education, with an emphasis on how to change policy into practice. Global Economy and Development Communications Director Merrell Tuck-Primdahl spoke about her experiences working with media as well as strategies for making Brookings research impactful. Global’s Director of Administration Yvonne Thurman-Dogruer shared her experiences in leading organizations effectively. AGI Assistant Director Christina Golubski moderated the discussion.
The discussion with the fellows centered mainly around political economy and how to encourage decisionmakers to more effectively implement policies across the board. The fellows asked questions about how to effectively communicate their messages as well as maintain relationships with media. One fellow raised a question around how researchers can preserve their independence, respond to valid criticism, and uphold a high standard of ethics.