Young African Leaders Association Harvard Conference
Present Conditions at CMU
While Carnegie Mellon University lists diversity and global societal impact and engagement as part of its core mission, currently there is a lack of engagement and development in the CMU community on the discussion of Africa. In terms of course offerings and majors, there is very little that concerns Africa specifically. At CMU, there is no major or minor that deals with African studies. In addition, while other notable schools offer African languages, CMU does not currently provide any African language classes. In fact, there are almost no courses that pertain in any way to Africa. A search of the undergraduate course catalog shows only about six courses in total, in the 2016-2017 school year, that are focused on Africa. Outside of course offerings, CMU does not presently sponsor any speakers or dialogs related to Africa. This again is in stark contrast to other universities.
These conditions are particularly problematic because it means important segments of the CMU community, those who identify as African or are interested in Africa, are being underserved. In addition, there are almost no opportunities for the CMU community to engage in discussions pertaining to Africa. Meaning, students are likely leaving CMU with whatever preconceived notions and stereotypes about the continent that they might have had. And, they are missing out on opportunities to potentially expand their knowledge, discover new interests, and develop an even greater understanding of, and connection to, the global community. Currently there is one undergraduate student run organization that stands in the gap: Young African Leaders Association.
About Young African Leaders Association
YALA is an undergraduate multicultural organization. The mission of YALA is to celebrate the intricacy of Africa. And, work to stimulate conversations on socio-economic, political, and innovative opportunities on the African continent. YALA aims to appeal to students from across all CMU’s undergraduate schools. Currently YALA has over 40 active members. And, although the majority of its members are a part of the African diaspora, one of YALA’s main goals is to pull the broader CMU community into the discussion on Africa. To that end, YALA hosts a number of events, activities, and programs every semester. Past events have ranged from a discussion of contemporary art in Ghana and Kenya to cooking classes. For our capstone event, each year YALA sponsors a trip for members to attend the Harvard African Business Conference.
What is the Harvard African Business Conference?
The Harvard African Business Conference is the largest student run conference, with a focus on African Development, in America. The conference offers tremendous opportunities for engagement and development for those who attend. Since 1998, each year it has attracted over 1,000 students and professionals from across the globe to discuss topics that relate to development in Africa. During the event, attendees have the opportunities to watch and partake in panel sessions, networking events, startup showcases, a fashion show, a banquet, a career fair, and more. The conference attracts a number of distinguished and influential speakers, experts, and panelists. For instance, last year Paul Kagame, the president of Rwanda, spoke at the closing banquet.
Below are some of the events and opportunities the African Business Conference provides. This list is by no means exhaustive, but rather focused on the initiatives most relevant to the experience of those CMU students that attended the conference last year.
New Venture Competition: an event showcasing numerous startups across Africa that are competing for funding.
Key Note Addresses: speeches provided by experts on business in Africa that address the theme of the conference. Last year, Keynote speakers included Clayton Christensen and Makhtar Diop.
Startup Lab: an event aimed at helping attendees become knowledgeable about how to successfully develop a startup.
Panel Sessions: provides dozens of panel lead discussions on industries ranging from Media to Healthcare. Numerous opportunities to engage in meaningful discussion on almost any topic and industry that pertained to Africa’s economic development or the development of those that seek to work in Africa.
Career Fair: a fair that provided attendees the opportunity to network with numerous companies.
Numerous Networking Events: throughout the conference, there were a number of events that allowed attendees to build their network and develop their knowledge through discussions with other attendees. These events included brunches, lunches, a general reception, and a banquet.
Part of CMU’s mission is to promote diversity and impact society in a transformative way and on a global scale. While that mission is commendable, and in many ways recognizable in CMU’s initiatives, there is an evident gap in that mission when it comes to the CMU community’s engagement with the subject of Africa. Thus, funding YALA’s annual trip to the Harvard Business conference will provide an opportunity to begin to close that gap. Because, not only will members of the CMU community have the opportunity to learn and engage in meaningful discussions pertaining to Africa, they will also be equipped with the necessary insight and inspiration to return to CMU and begin to actively create change.
In addition, we are seeking funding from the CMU community because our members come from numerous colleges across CMU. And, or goal is to inspire interest in Africa and meaningful conversations throughout the CMU community, not in a specific subset. Thus, we want this opportunity to be available to any CMU student from any school, program, or major.
What Will The Money Go Towards?
We are seeking money to cover the cost of attending the conference for numerous students. This will include the cost of roundtrip flights from Pittsburgh to Boston, hotel accommodations for the weekend of the conference, and the conference tickets.