YALI10 Competition, Semi-Finalist: Folahanmi Aina
In celebration of the tenth anniversary of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), the U.S. Department of State, in partnership with the Wilson Center, opened a competition under the theme“YALI at 10: My Life, My Community, and My World.” Selected submissions were showcased at the YALI tenth anniversary virtual summit in May 2021, where a decade of YALI change-makers and their achievements were celebrated. Submissions included a variety of media, including videos, short essays, poems, songs, spoken word, and sketches.
We’re proud that several Fellowship Alumni were among the finalists and semi-finalists in the contest, including 2016 Fellowship Alumnus Folahanmi Aina from Nigeria who studied Leadership in Public Management at Syracuse University. Learn more about his work in his competition entry below.
Please note that competition entries reflect the thoughts and opinions of Fellowship Alumni and may not reflect views of the U.S. Government.
Essay: About Folahanmi Aina
A year after obtaining transformational leadership skills, knowledge on public management, training and exposure from YALI, I was inspired and emboldened to found Triola Aina Foundation (TAF) a youth-led, nonprofit, focused on youth advocacy by promoting access to quality education and leadership development in 2017. Through TAF, I have successfully mentored over 8,000 young Nigerians in leadership development, in addition to directly impacting the lives of over 1,000 school children by promoting access to quality education in my local community.
Through TAF, I have also successfully renovated 3 primary schools in my local community in Nigeria which has helped to promote access to quality education for over 800 school children. Furthermore, I have funded sustainable entrepreneurial ventures that have empowered over 100 young people across Nigeria. These would have been impossible without my leadership transformation journey which has its roots from my YALI experience.
As a transformative platform that helps to bridge divides through leadership development, YALI enabled me foster bold partnerships with other alumni around creative solutions. These have birthed positive and sustainable change, thereby transforming the lives of other youth in my local community and in other parts of Nigeria through shared responsibility, thereby making it possible for me to scale up the impact of my work.
Professionally my career as an international development policy expert attained greater heights due to YALI’s impact on me. In 2019, I was invited as a speaker and a Next Generation Delegate at the Global Food Security Symposium organised by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, USA.
For so long, the African youth have been told that they are leaders of tomorrow. YALI changed this for me. I have since come to realise that the African youth are not just leaders of tomorrow rather, they are today’s leaders and partners in nation building and national development. This truth has come alive and remained clearly evident in how YALI has impacted my personal and professional development, which has resulted in a multiplier effect across my local community and country Nigeria as a whole.