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Young Africa Works mentorship: The beginning of a great journey of self discovery

On February 2017, forty seven African youth attended the MasterCard Foundation’s Young Africa Works Summit (YAW2017) in Kigali, Rwanda. Fourteen of those youth delegates were selected to receive 12 months of mentoring from senior delegates attending the Summit.

Over the last three months, these youth mentees have started forming relationships with their mentors who will support and challenge them during this year to take their next steps in their lives and careers. We’ve asked the mentees to reflect on what they have learned since the Young Africa Work’s Summit. 

When Odysseus left his wife Penelope and child Telemachus in the care of his trusted friend, Mentor, to fight the trojans, he knew he was leaving his family in good hands. He was confident that his friend Mentor will be in the best position to act as a wise and kindly elder, a surrogate parent, a trusted adviser, an educator and guide. This is portrayed in his in-depth relationship with Telemachus based on deep and mutual respect and affection, guided by a common vision- to groom Telemachus into a great successor and a fine gentleman. Based on this myth, we have the word “mentor” which symbolizes “a wise leader, guide, teacher and friend”.

This philosophy could sum up the relationship that  my mentor , Annna Mdee, and I are developing. The starting point us was during the YAW 2017, was when they were matched for the YPARD mentorship program. As a young aspiring diplomat and academician, it was such a joy that I was matched with a senior delegate who shares similar interest and passionate about youth development on the continent AND I remember quoting in my journal,” this is the beginning of a great journey and self-discovery”. To my mentor Anna, it was such a great privilege to be paired with such an enthusiastic young lady who is also aspiring to be on the same career path. The two of us were both panelists on the gender breakout session and that served as an avenue to understand each other’s path and mutual interest and passions. 

Post-summit for us has been remarkable. We are both focused on working to ensure that I commence my PhD studies as soon as possible and preparing my career pathway in International development and diplomacy. Interestingly,I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, I just knew I wanted to make such a huge difference in my world. Anna’s patience and constant questions about my purpose and reasons gradually revealed what and who I wanted to do- a career in International Development.  

My progress is solely not based on Anna’s effort. To be able to mentor and guide anyone, the person first should be willing to learn and unlearn and that has been one of the key strength of this mentorship relationship. We both knew this is a learning process where information should be shared, differences appreciated and mutual respect highly encouraged. This is a key principle of our mentorship agreement. As we are both interested in international development, we are currently working to embark on a major project in Ghana and developing strong research ties across the continent and beyond. Anna strongly believes that to be able to assist me to be the leader and diplomat I aspires to be, forging strong relationships and networks across Africa and beyond is very crucial. We are also working on getting me to work with key development institutions such as CGIAR, UN, and some prominent INGOs to gain additional experience on the field. As we both seek funding to support my PhD studies in mining and water issues in Ghana, we hope to be able to send out my compelling proposal to prospective sponsors like the MasterCard Foundation. 

We are very thankful to YPARD, and MasterCard Foundation‘YAW 2017 for the opportunity to connect and the support provided so far. 

Blogpost by Alesia Ofori and Anna Mdee. The two are part of the YPARD MasterCard mentor/mentees pairs.

Photo credit: Illume for The MasterCard Foundation