THE YALI PROJECT: An Advantage for Young Emerging Leaders(Stephen K. Jones)

Ghanaian Author & Youth Speaker Stephen K. Jones who was selected among 121 young leaders across west Africa  to be a part of the Obama/USAID Sponsored leadership Program for Emerging Leaders(YALI) in recognition of commitment to community growth, youth empowerment and social development, has a few words to share with the rest of the world.

The Young African Leadership Initiative (YALI) Program is a 17week youth initiative to groom Emerging Leaders that teaches young African leaders about modern leadership. The training program covers Civic Leadership, Entrepreneurship and Public Management.

Being a Product of the YALI Project,Jones has a few lessons he wants to share with young people and to encourage more and more young leaders to enroll for the program. Here is what he has to say.


Over the years Africa, a developing continent has benefited from substantial financial support from developed countries like the USA under various programs and initiatives but with unimpressive gain in terms of real growth and development.

Today however, I sufficiently conclude that the best aid or support a developing continent like Africa could ever receive from the west(capable of spurring the continent’s needed growth and development) is not in the supply or transfer of loans but in the supply, promotion and advancement of leadership development.

Being selected from 10,000+ West Africans to be part of a program as prestigious as Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), an Obama/USAID sponsored event was truly fulfilling. Not because it made me feel important but because it made me feel recognized.


Recognized because I have had a growing passion to initiate change in my community in the smallest way I could particularly in the area of education. But I also found that following your passion could be a dangerous move especially when the country’s unemployment rate and constricted employment sector demands that one looks for a white collar job (that pays a manageable salary) and forget anything about developing or nurturing a passion. The Society we have today applauds persons who have a well-paid job, a mansion and fleet of cars.

However, for those with the passion to reach out to others less fortunate than them, the best society can afford for them is to pray for them and wish them well.

I therefore find it truly humbling to at least discover that the little done is being appreciated by external entities and being further encouraged and rewarded.


Being part of the 5 week intensive YALI program brought me close to over one hundred amazing young people from 9 different West African countries who are making a difference in their own small corner. They were individuals with strong professional and academic background including legal practitioners, medical doctors, journalists, engineers, public speakers and even students.

But among the endless list of experiences each one of them had, one thing run through, and that was SERVICE.

I saw 121 leaders come together under one roof to connect, exchange ideas, share experiences and most of all add to what they know and be better at what they do with the sole aim of strengthening their community/grass-root effort for the good of others.
This single objective of service which I consistently picked up each and every moment we met during and after our class sessions both challenged and encouraged me.

The best place to be was Among 121 leaders and being a leader myself, the attribute of service has become a garment I vow never to pull down.

Through YALI I have made lifetime friends. Through this program I have built alliances that transcend the borders of my country. Through this program I have met great team players I can easily call upon and whose specialties I can employ to get jobs done

I have always believed and even more today that the pathway for the growth of Africa is quite easy and it doesn’t begin from the top. It begins with community development at the bottom in the various sectors of society.

It is time to understand that communities need to change before countries can grow and that, at the base of every country (which is community) we find the role of young amazing African leaders. As more and more leaders are being produced through this program, lets endeavor to focus more and more on our communities and begin the change there. There is indeed hope for Africa through thought out programs like YALI. Kudos Mr. Obama!

To the every young person out there, I would like to challenge you with these simple questions;

Do you have great ideas to change your community?

Does your business support your society?

Are you a role model to people around you? Then Enroll and be part of this program today!

visit to apply

Source: Stephen Jones /


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