KeyNote: Sophia Bekele rallied YALS New York saying “P.U.S.H to Change Africa”

Sophia BekeleSummary: The 2014 Young African Leadership Symposium (YALS) was held at the he City University of New York John Jay College located at 899 10th Ave, New York, NY 10019 , themed “Standing on The Shoulders of Giants: Our History. Our Legacy. Our Destiny.”​ 

The symposium saw a number panels addressing topics ranging from lessons to be learned from figures such as Patrice Lumumba to the role of women and youth in Africa’s development and how entrepreneurs are reshaping local economies and the global engagement with Africa.

While giving her key note address at the symposium, Ms. Sophia Bekele the CEO, CBS International USA, Executive Director DCA Trust, and Founder, Yes2dotAfrica Campaign, said that “The operative word for what would move Africa is CHANGE.  So we all need to PUSH the envelop – (Persist, Until Something Happens)”

Generational advantage, Standing on The Shoulders of Giants! : Bekele recalled Africa’s great Pan-African Leaders like Mandela, Mwalimu Nyerere, Haile Selassie, Jomo Kenyatta  who saw a future in creating opportunities though self governance, economic development  through education to drive a change said that “Our generation has the power to promote freedom of ideas, innovate and be accountable, ethical and transparent, to forge leadership that is keen on every small detail. It is really in building lasting foundations that we can prepare for a better future. It is your chance to chart a new path, without reinventing the wheel so that future generations can appreciate your input”.

 Bekele remembered the steps and challenges of Africa’s towering giants, saying

Africa’s Giants went through the toughest times; There were many impediments that included little resources, lack of awareness, a formal education, rule of law that supported their views, and the fact that Africa was still really disconnected from the world…..From the African Giants we celebrate can learn resilience, patience, persistence. Despite the meager resources they were able to rally support and with their charismatic confidence they were able to move mountains. I call this the “staying power”.

She encouraged the students to be consistent, that “ will never know you will win if you don’t stay the course”

Internet and Innovation: Africa is the most advantaged continent on untapped resources, Citing examples in Kenya  such as Mpesa

Over Ksh2 billion is transacted on M-PESA daily. Nigeria is another country which recently rated as the biggest economy in Africa, the first also to introduce smart identification cards in Africa. Ethiopia is also on the rise now and has been one of the fastest growing economies, and I am a proud Ethiopian.

Change is Controversial Bekele added that those who prepare to be in a position to lead change, should also have Courage to pursue it and that We must change to progress,

One must change the rules for change to happen. So be fearless with your causes. What does not kill you makes you stronger. Also – it does not mean you are lonely when you are alone.”

She used the Biblical citation “Parable of the Talent” to give examples on hard work, success, wealth creation.  She quoted diverse Giants: Aristotle on, “Courage is the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees the others”.  Jomo Kenyatta, first president of Kenya on renewed leadership, “Our children may learn about the heroes of the past. Our task is to make ourselves the architects of the future.”, and Bob Marley, singer and freedom fighter on Good Governance, “You can fool some people sometimes but you ant fool all people all the time”.

In her concluding remarks Bekele stressed consistent with your mission and vision at The Council of Young African Leaders, which is to “inspire the next generation of African leaders to cultivate awareness and action, and call to lead the continent of Africa to its greatest era yet”, I call upon you to do just that.  Fight for your identity as an African – Let no one define you but you.  You are the next generation Leaders, Game Changers, and Change Agents – go and do something for Africa.

Bekele is a reknown tech-evangelist who has previously spoken at various key Universities including, Yale University in New York, Stanford University in Palo Alto California, Golden Gate University in San Francisco, University of California Berkeley and University of Davis, Sacramento, among others.

The full KeyNote Address is here: