4 Young Global Leaders from Africa: how representation on the world stage can build trust

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“We believe it is imperative that Africa, Africans and African issues are represented at the highest levels of global conversations and decision-making,” said Zakari Momodu.

“We believe it is imperative that Africa, Africans and African issues are represented at the highest levels of global conversations and decision-making,” said Zakari Momodu. Image: Unsplash.

Christa Odinga-Svanteson
Impact Communications Manager, World Economic Forum
This article is part of: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting
  • It's crucial for people in developing countries to know they are represented and valued on the world stage.
  • Hearing from a diverse range of voices establishes trust and promotes inclusion.
  • We asked four Young Global Leaders (YGLs ), who are Aliko Dangote
    Fellows from the Aliko Dangote Foundation about their perspectives
    on trust and representation.

Global platforms that convene some of the world's most brilliant minds and influential figures offer a space for discussions on global challenges and solutions. Within this landscape dominated by seasoned leaders and experts, the involvement of voices from developing economies carries substantial significance.

Their participation in these international arenas transcends mere symbolism, as it profoundly contributes to the establishment of trust on various fronts – trust in the inclusion of diverse ideas, trust in the development and adherence to global standards, and trust among populations on all sides that their voices are not only being heard and understood but also recognized and valued on the global stage.

In a world where global challenges are increasingly intricate and interrelated, the indispensability of diverse ideas cannot be overstated. In a global community that places growing emphasis on inclusivity and diversity, the active engagement of young leaders from diverse economies and societies nurtures trust in the belief that distinct voices are not only embraced but actively sought after. This wealth of diverse thought holds the promise of yielding more comprehensive and effective solutions to the multifaceted global problems we confront.

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It is especially essential for young people in developing countries to have their voices heard, recognized and valued on the global stage. When individuals from these regions engage in international discussions and are empowered to share their authentic perspectives, it sends a powerful message that their concerns matter. This, in turn, fosters trust among their communities and partners, and bolsters confidence between the international community and developing economies.

'Championing African representation and trust on the global stage'

Zakari Momodu.
Zakari Momodu.

Zakari Momodu, Projects Director, Aliko Dangote Foundation

For over a decade, the Aliko Dangote Foundation has been a driving force behind the participation of Africans in the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders programme.

The Foundation's longstanding commitment to supporting the participation of Africans in global platforms, such as the YGLs programme, reflects a profound understanding of the transformative power of diverse voices and perspectives from developing countries.

“We believe it is imperative that Africa, Africans and African issues are properly represented at the highest levels of global conversations and decision-making.”

“The programme avails a truly diverse group of young Africans the opportunity to better understand and contextualize the issues of the continent and the world in a way they might not have otherwise. The YGL programme also enables them to share their authentic perspectives with each other and the rest of the world, unhindered by political or diplomatic sensitivities and constraints.”

We asked four Young Global Leaders (YGLs), who are Aliko Dangote Fellows from the Aliko Dangote Foundation about their perspectives on trust and representation.

'Dual significance of representation'

Aïssata Lam, Director General, Investment Promotion Agency of Mauritania

Aïssata Lam.
Aïssata Lam.

“We often say when it comes to representation that it’s not about counting the numbers but making the numbers count – in this case I think it’s a matter of both.” Aïssata Lam emphasizes the crucial importance of ensuring a greater presence from developing countries on global platforms. In this case, both aspects hold immense importance. The presence of countries considered frontier markets today at global events is doubly significant. Firstly, it serves as a powerful amplifier for the voices of these nations. It provides a stage not only to exhibit their potential but also to share untold stories and successes that often remain hidden from mainstream media and global platforms.

Lam’s ambition is clear: to raise the flag even higher by highlighting specific opportunities pursued by her country, which would require international expertise and be of mutual interest to investors and Mauritania alike. She also seeks to challenge the prevailing perception of risk that inhibits investment in her country. Through her participation in global platforms, Lam aims to convey the message that developing nations are open for business and ready to collaborate with the global community.

“Our countries are on an upward trajectory of innovation, consistently presenting robust proposals and showcasing great success in different sectors. Our role as YGLs is also to remind that we are poised to stand shoulder to shoulder with our counterparts. A narrative we are determined to substantiate and validate, while cultivating a shared commitment to principles that transcend geographical boundaries, putting in place a framework for cooperation and collaboration and building confidence in collective efforts to address global and community issues.”

'Bridging worlds and narratives'

Kamissa Camara.
Kamissa Camara.

Kamissa Camara, Professor of Practice in International Diplomacy, University of Michigan)

Kamissa Camara, a member of the African diaspora has served in the highest echelons of government in Mali. Her presence represents a bridge between her homeland and the global stage with unique vantage points, influenced by experiences in different cultural contexts, enrich the conversation.

“My first experience at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting was as a young Foreign Minister, fresh with ideas and aspirations. Now, I return as an Aliko Dangote Fellow, equipped with a wealth of experience in governance, politics, and crisis management. My journey from a member of the African diaspora to a leader in Mali and now a participant at Davos mirrors the multifaceted narratives of African diaspora leaders who return to their roots, contributing significantly to their home countries.”

“My role at Davos is not to represent Mali but to voice the collective experiences and aspirations of the African diaspora. It is an opportunity to showcase how those of us who have lived and worked abroad bring back diverse perspectives and innovative solutions that can drive change in our home countries.”

'Recognizing pioneering contributions in AI'

Professor Vukosi Marivate.
Professor Vukosi Marivate.

Professor Vukosi Marivate, Associate Professor of Computer Science, University of Pretoria

Professor Vukosi Marivate believes true trust emerges from action, not mere words. Discussions on African and global issues without active participation from African stakeholders severely erode trust.

He underscores the importance of recognizing and valuing the contributions from African stakeholders. He specializes in developing machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) methods, particularly in the field of natural language processing (NLP), with a dedication to improving methods, tools, and data availability for local or low-resource languages.

“Africa has long been excluded from global conversations, yet pioneering work on the continent demands recognition. Grassroots African initiatives lead in democratising AI development, shaping research worldwide. Africa plays an indispensable role in technology revolutions, though its contributions remain overlooked.”

Marivate highlights that trust in global conversations can be achieved by embracing the pioneering and collaborative approaches to research emerging from Africa. One remarkable example is the award-winning Masakhane Research Foundation, a grassroots NLP R&D community comprising thousands of passionate individuals that he co-founded. This community has created new tools, resources, and AI models specifically tailored for African languages, addressing a crucial gap in technology development.

Another notable initiative is the Deep Learning Indaba (which he co-founded), with its annual meeting being the largest of its kind on the continent. This platform attracts AI R&D practitioners and has become a hub for pioneering work on AI ethics and the development of AI for Good research initiatives in Africa. The Makerere AI lab in Uganda is another example, leading AI for Good research for over 14 years. These pioneering efforts underscore the immense potential within Africa to contribute groundbreaking ideas and solutions across various sectors.

Marivate emphasizes that forums like the Forum’s Annual Meeting should play a pivotal role in recognizing groundbreaking African work across sectors and bringing African leaders and ideas to the main stage. To build and maintain trust in global platforms, it is imperative that they recognize and actively involve these African leaders and their innovative ideas.

'Bridging local solutions with global objectives'

Shani Senbetta.
Shani Senbetta.

Shani Senbetta, Founder and CEO, Kidame Mart

One individual who understands the profound impact of such gatherings is Shani Senbetta, founder and CEO of Kidame Mart, Ethiopia's largest last-mile distribution network, and director of Zeleman Communications, Advertising, and Production. She is committed to addressing social problems with innovative private-sector solutions. Her work resonates with global objectives, particularly Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) such as No Poverty, Gender Equality, and Decent Work and Economic Growth.

Senbetta is a staunch advocate for an inclusive dialogue that respects and integrates the ideas and needs of different communities.

I view my participation with great responsibility and it’s a privilege to not only contribute towards building trust, but also to be part of the global solutions that shape our interconnected future.”

Senbetta’s work in supporting rural women in Ethiopia serves as a prime example of how local solutions can align with global objectives. Her collaborations with stakeholders, including government, international multinational corporations, and international funding partners, underscore how solutions to local problems can be supported by the global community and vice versa. This interconnectedness exemplifies the potential for individuals and entities from developing countries to contribute significantly to global solutions.

Related topics:
LeadershipForum InstitutionalGeographies in Depth
'Championing African representation and trust on the global stage''Dual significance of representation''Bridging worlds and narratives''Recognizing pioneering contributions in AI''Bridging local solutions with global objectives'

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