Africa's next generation of leaders learns from UTSA entrepreneurship curriculum

initiative participants

UTSA senior lecturer Anita Leffel (center) with participants in the Young African Leaders Initiative

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(July 15, 2014) -- This summer, Texas has been host to 25 young African leaders for an entrepreneurship training course at UT Austin and taught by UTSA entrepreneurship senior lecturer Anita Leffel.

These students are part of the Obama Administration's Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), a signature effort to invest in the next generation of African leaders. President Obama launched YALI in 2010 to support young African leaders as they spur growth and prosperity, strengthen democratic governance, and enhance peace and security across Africa.

Since 2010, the State Department has held 15 exchanges specifically for young African leaders and sponsored 1,283 sub-Saharan scholars through its educational and cultural affairs programs. This year, out of 50,000 applicants, the fellowship selected 500 fellows to participate at one of the 20 fellowship campuses in the country.

The training that these 25 African youth are receiving this summer is based on the Entrepreneur's Academy, a 17-module training manual developed by UTSA Department of Entrepreneurship and Technology Management faculty members Anita Leffel and Cory Hallam.

The user-friendly modules provide the background information, exercises and resources on the various components to starting a company. By completing the modules over six weeks, the YALI scholars will have completed a first draft of a business plan and pitch for an enterprise.

"It has been one of the highlights of my teaching career to work with these young professionals," said Leffel. "Their level of intelligence, commitment and business acumen is on par with our very best students at UTSA. They also understand that they are in a unique position to make a positive impact in their communities and countries."

Some of the fellows already have their own businesses and are learning how to improve or expand their current operations.

These young leaders and the businesses they are developing include:

  • Sarah Ferdjani from Niger is making an impact on her community through TALOUA, a cosmetics brand made with raw materials sourced in Africa.
  • Adepeju Jaiyeoba's business sells delivery kits to rural areas in Nigeria in an effort to combat maternal and child mortality.
  • Tawanda Kembo is a Bitcoin evangelist, and his business makes it easy for tourists in Zimbabwe to book accommodations online.
  • Dizando Mvemba is dedicated to helping train and support young computer scientists in his country, Angola.
  • Absa Ndeye GninguĂ© from Senegal is founder and CEO of a social venture, which provides high-quality, African clothes made by prisoners whom she gives a chance to reintegrate into society.

Leffel will bring the YALI students to San Antonio July 17-18 to pitch their business plans and meet with San Antonio business leaders.

Leffel is assistant director of the UTSA Center for Innovation and Technology Entrepreneurship and senior lecturer in the Department of Entrepreneurship and Technology Management. She received her Ph.D. in educational human resource development at Texas A&M University and a master's in education from the University of Houston.

She is the faculty adviser for the Collegiate Entrepreneurs Organization and Toastmasters at UTSA. Leffel received the Acton Foundation for Entrepreneurial Excellence Award for Entrepreneurship Education in 2007.

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Learn more about the university's strong emphasis on entrepreneurship at the UTSA Department of Entrepreneurship and Technology Management website.

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