UONGOZI Institute’s 2017 Youth Leadership Competition is ongoing and the contest has been getting really heated day by day, most especially with the deadline approaching on the 14 July. A lot of hopeful contenders wanted to hear about the experience of previous winners and how they managed to get there.
UONGOZI Institute therefore caught up with Liz Guantai, the 2016 Winner from Kenya, to share with the rest of young people across Africa about her experience on the competition. Here’s the conversation between us.
1. UONGOZI Institute: Could you tell us a bit about yourself?
Liz: My name is Liz Guantai, a 25 year old Kenyan residing in Nairobi, Kenya. I graduated with a Bachelor of Law degree from the University of Nairobi in December 2015. Thereafter I joined the Kenya School of Law from January to December 2016, in order to be admitted as an Advocate of the High Court at the Kenya bar. I have also pursued the required professional courses in practicing Accounting and Company Secretarial practice in my country.
As a Law student, I was involved in several programs in the line of protection of human rights, social justice and community empowerment, which I am very passionate about. In 2015 I was selected as one of UN Women’s 72 global champions for women economic empowerment, a program I still participate to date.
Currently, I am an employee of Deloitte & Touche Kenya, since January 2017. I am an Associate in the Financial Advisory department, particularly provision of Company Secretarial Services.
I hope to continue using my skills, knowledge and experience to make an impact in my community and beyond. I love writing and I shall continue using it as an empowerment tool.
2. UONGOZI Institute: What inspired you to participate in the Youth Leadership Competition?
Liz: One evening in May 2016, I was going through the recent updates of a popular website for African opportunities, searching for a scholarship grant that could facilitate me to pursue a Masters degree in a reputable university abroad. That is when I came across the UONGOZI Youth Leadership Competition.
As soon as I read that the Essay finalists would get a free ticket to the Prestigious African Leadership Forum, I was immediately interested. I could already picture myself engaging in brilliant dialogues with renowned African leaders and top business delegates. And of course I was very enthusiastic on seeing the prize money of 2000 USD. Lets be real, we would all cross a crocodile filled river to collect some cool dollars on the other side!
The topic was intriguing, what to do as a leader to improve African Businesses. As a young person, this was a subject that crossed my mind often. Business and Leadership. The connection, the disconnection, the lacunars and the solutions. The issue was real and required an answer providing a sustainable long-term solution. Being the African optimist that I am, I had very many ideas to contribute to this topic. I was glad that Uongozi Institute, through this Essay, was finally giving me a platform to express and suggest my unwritten thoughts and offer solutions to such an important issue. I decided I would bring the topic closer home, focus on my personal observations of the business industry and the strategies I would adopt to improve it as a leader.
3. UONGOZI Institute: How was your experience in Dar es Salaam at the African Leadership Forum? What interested you the most? Any thoughts on the Youth Dialogue?
Liz: Everything about it was superb. UONGOZI Institute staff received us well and gave us the best hospitality that one can ever get in a foreign country. The Beach, great food; you name it.
The issues discussed by the Panelists were real and in dire need of resolutions. They included business inclusivity, eradication of poverty and sustainability of the African economy among others. I recall H.E Mkapa’s emphasis on Africanising the SDG’s and Mr Nkosi’s views on using African businesses not just to generate income but to transform lives, as well as other sentiments put forward by all the great speakers. Throughout the day I learnt so much from the discussions, as well as the contributions from participants.
My highlight of the day was meeting so many inspiring people at the ALF. I talked to a lot of participants, most of whom are established leaders and business owners who were very generous to share their knowledge and experience with aspiring leaders like myself. I loved meeting and sharing with the Essay finalists, as well as other young energetic and dynamic young people equally passionate about improving the welfare of our continent. An example of an Inspiring youth I met is Ms Chidimna Akaniro, an essay finalist from Nigeria who runs a successful Youth Organization and fashion business. As young people, we were able to brainstorm on many topical issues and even formed a social media platform to continue the discussions in our countries.
The youth Dialogue was one of a kind. Real business stories by young people told to young people. I loved the honesty in the entrepreneurs’ start up stories, as they explained how they overcame challenges and setbacks to make their business ventures a success. I had many lessons to take home for myself. I was especially inspired by Ms Susan Mashibe, the first African female Pilot/Engineer and her quest to a successful Aviation business created out of an idea. She was a big inspiration to women and the youth.
4. UONGOZI Institute: What tips can you share with young people who would like to participate this year? How can they improve on their writing?
Liz: Dear Youth of Africa,
You should give this competition an attempt. The award is motivation enough. 2000 Dollars can change your life in one night. The ALF is an event you should not miss out on. The experience is unmatched and exceptional. Most importantly, do not write just because there is an award, but because Africa needs our voices as young people to improve the Continent. We as the youth are the upcoming generation of leaders. We are the generation to foster the SDGs. Your ideas as a young person are vital in determining the state of Africa. Do not keep your thoughts to yourself. They could be the solution to our challenges. Speak out. Suggest. Propose. Write. It is your right.
Here are a few tips:
Write in your own voice
This essay is not an examination that requires hours of preparation in the school library. It is basically a problem statement seeking for a solution. You have that solution. Write it. You need not be an expert in Peace and Security studies to contribute your thoughts on the topic. It is an issue that is with us, affecting us everyday in our countries, cities and community set ups. Think about the issues you face as a person, as a community and as a country and beyond, and the proposals you would personally recommend to improve the situation. Note that what UONGOZI Institute requires is your original personal recommendations, not the AU, UN or any other body’s. Be candid with your ideas and express them as genuinely as possible.
As you write, ensure that your ideas are reasonable and realistic. This is not a writing competition based on works of fiction, but a quest for sustainable, implementable solutions. Use practical examples that everyone can relate to, remembering that your ideas should have an impact on Africa as a whole and not a section or class of it.
Do not forget the general rules of writing; and be as accurate as possible. State your opinion yes, but base it on facts. Reference, quote or hyperlink any statement that is not yours. Plagiarism is a grave intellectual crime. Avoid it. Write a draft and do a self-review before you submit it to ensure that it looks as good as an essay that will impress a panel of judges.