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Dialogue For Hope -The Young African Leaders Conference

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At the end of September 2009, Shikaya hosted the “Dialogue for Hope – The Young African Leaders Conference” in partnership with the Mo Ibrahim Foundation. This three-day conference provided the opportunity for dynamic young leaders from a diverse group of schools to explore what it means to be a democratic leader, and to assess the governance of South Africa, as well as a number of other African countries, from the perspective of the youth.

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The conference aimed to broaden the learners’ understanding of democracy as a dynamic project, which was achieved with reference to the Ibrahim Index of African Governance, a comprehensive ranking of sub-Saharan African nations according to governance quality. This index is the main product of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, an initiative which aims to stimulate debate on good governance across sub-Saharan Africa and the rest of the world by providing objective criteria to which the citizens may hold their governments to account. 42 learners were chosen from Facing the Past classrooms to attend the conference, on the basis of leadership experience and their application essay on democracy. To read some of the essays click here.

YALC1 The young leaders were addressed by a number of illustrious speakers, including Ahmed Kathrada, Denis Goldberg, Premier Zille, Mail and Guardian editor, Nic Dawes, Acting Deputy Vice Chancellor of UCT, Professor Crain Soudien and ex-IFP MP, Gavin Woods. Throughout the three days, the young delegates used History as a tool to understand more about South Africa’s democracy and the choices and responsibilities we have as citizens.

A Gala Dinner was held at Old Mutual House for the young leaders, their teachers and principals. Premier Zille was due to speak at the event but due to family commitments she asked DA MP Ryan Coetzee to speak on her behalf. She did, however, come to the dinner to personally apologise to the delegates and introduce MP Coetzee.

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After the conference, the young leaders had the opportunity to meet with the Mo Ibrahim Foundation’s Board during their visit to Cape Town. The members of the Board who attended were Nicholas Ulanov, Nathalie DelaPalme, Lord Cairns, Mo Ibrahim, Mamphela Ramphele, Salim Ahmed Salim, Lalla Ben Barka and Sir Ketumile Masire. Former Botswana President Festus Gontebanye Mogae also took part in the discussion which was held at Rondebosch Boys High School. For two hours the leaders, both young and old, discussed the state of South Africa’s democracy in light of the Ibrahim Index of Good Governance.

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The conference was a great success. Besides the overwhelming support we received from the guests who spoke at the conference, we received great encouragement from various other leading South Africans including the Deputy President (who tried to change his diary to attend), Graca Machel, Adam Habib, Vincent Mphai and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

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