Ibrahima Kalil Gueye

2020 Leadership Impact Award Winner

Taking the Next Step: My Leadership Journey

My name is Ibrahima Kalil Gueye, a proud 2018 Mandela Washington Fellowship Alumnus from Guinea, 2016 YALI Regional Leadership Center (RLC) Alumnus, and active YALI Network member, and I am honored to be selected as the 2020 Leadership Impact Award Winner.

My Journey as a Civic Leader

As the chair and co-founder of the NGO Organization for Positive Change, I believe that there is no equality where there is corruption.  As the lack of access to public information is one of the main contributors, our NGO started the fight against corruption in 2016 by promoting transparency.  Through our online platform, we focused on providing government procedural and budgetary information to citizens to fight embezzlement and corruption.

Despite the challenges we faced and continue to face, we decided to take the first step because good governance is simply fundamental.  We have also been involved in efforts to resolve conflicts between community groups, such as taxi drivers, police, and local residents.

Ibrahima stands at a podium, holding a microphone, wearing traditional dress.
Ibrahima speaks at the Africa Ideas Summit at The Presidential Precinct.

Additionally, from 2016 to 2018, I was the first coordinator of the U.S. Embassy in Conakry’s locally-funded program inspired from the Fellowship, called YALI Guinea, which has trained about 50 graduate students, realized 41 community activities, and found 21 internships or jobs for participants.

Taking the first step did not end with me founding the Organization for Positive Change, nor did it end with YALI Guinea.  Inspired by my time in the Fellowship, I organized the National Governance Forum, a platform that brings together a vast array of people to discuss key governance subject areas such as corruption, public procedures, mining, education, and employability in Guinea.

Following the National Governance Forum, in 2019, we collaborated with other Fellowship and RLC Alumni and traveled for 43 consecutive days, covering about 5,500 kilometers of rural Guinea to disseminate information on citizens’ rights and legal options at the grassroots level.  We are proud of that month and a half of resilient activism and are grateful to the U.S. Department of State’s Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund which made it possible!

Ibrahima covers his face and wears a t-shirt that says "stop Coronavirus." Accompanying text reads "Des gouttelettes qui brisent nos reves et nous font perdre nos proches." Protegeons-nous!
“Droplets shatter our dreams and make us lose our loved ones.” Protect each other!

Moving Forward as a Community

Mandela Washington Fellowship community – what will be our collective first step?

I believe that we have been entrusted with building a peaceful and prosperous Africa.  To do this requires more engagement and patriotism.  These troubling times have shown us the importance of actively engaging governments to develop approaches that adapt and evolve with our shifting paradigms.  Now is the time to reaffirm our commitment to service and leadership.

Taking the first step comes with risks and hard work.  As the 2020 Leadership Impact Award winner, my advice to selected Finalist and Alternate candidates, Fellowship Alumni, and all other Africans is to act on your own goals by taking that first step.  Act quickly; do not waste time perfecting your plans or waiting for others to make your goals happen, because the first step is the most important step.

We must ensure that the greatest principles of good governance are applied all over the continent in the fight against COVID-19.  With fewer resources, we need more efficiency, effectiveness, and transparency in managing the health crisis to:

  • Stop the potential famine by reprioritizing sustainable agriculture in rural areas;
  • Limit the spread of fake news because disinformation can cost lives; and
  • Leverage the digital revolution taking place thanks to the internet and teleworking.
Man leans over and speaks to children sitting at desks in a classroom.
Ibrahima visits a school in rural Guinea.

To the selected candidates for the 2021 Fellowship: take advantage of the unique opportunity that the pandemic has created for you to get inspired, innovate, and collaborate with the Fellowship community before the Fellowship begins.  From their experience, you will see that it doesn’t take much to realize meaningful projects.  Being a leader is being able to make oneself available to serve one’s community. Your activism may be organizing food and supply donations or sensitizing others on health and hygiene. These are all important first steps.

I would like to encourage selected candidates and Fellowship Alumni to continue their good activities, but to not forget about serving our communities after the pandemic.  Together, let us seize the opportunity offered by this crisis to adopt good practices through civic engagement, responsibility, and creativity.  In this way, we will contribute to Africa’s success.

The Leadership Impact Award gives me one more reason to continue what I am doing with my team, and I pledge my availability and commitment to engage with selected candidates, Alumni, and stakeholders in the Mandela Washington Fellowship Network.  Thanks to the U.S. Department of State, IREX, my Leadership Institute at The Presidential Precinct, all other Fellowship partners, my beloved communities throughout Guinea, and my family.

Take the first step whenever you have new ideas, even if they seem out of reach.  Your motivation and the ground beneath you will carry you to success.


Written by Ibrahima Kalil Gueye, 2018 Fellowship Alumnus from Guinea.

The Mandela Washington Fellowship is a program of the U.S. Department of State with funding provided by the U.S. Government and administered by IREX.  The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the U.S. Government.

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