Interview: LEAP Africa has equipped over 30,000 youth – and is still on the matter

Founded in 2012 by Ndidi Nwuneli, Leadership, Effective, Accountability and Professionalism (LEAP) Africa is a Non-Governmental Organization that has trained thousands of young Nigerians and entrepreneurs on being effective leaders and development of skills.

In this interview with YNaija’s #Impact365 series, Kehinde Ayeni, Communications Officer of LEAP Africa speaks on the work the organization is doing.

LEAP Africa has been around for a while – what’s it focused on now?

First of all, LEAP is an acronym for Leadership, Effectiveness, Accountability and Professionalism. LEAP Africa is a (non-profit) leadership development organization focusing on areas such as youth development, social change, business leadership and sustainability, corporate governance and ethical leadership. LEAP‘s unique approach to resolving these issues is described as a bottom-up methodology where we work with youth, teachers, professionals, social entreprepreneurs and SMEs along three operational pillars – YOUTH LEAP, BIZ LEAP and eLEAP. As a research and training organization, LEAP has diverse leadership programmes designed to change ‘mindset’, equip with leadership, life skills and create support platforms for business sustainability.

What, exactly, do you mean by ‘changing the mindset of youth’? And how do you hope to achieve this?

At LEAP Africa, we work towards changing the endemic perception that young people lack capacity to take charge of situations and influence the society positively. With the right support, resources and training, young citizens have inclination to rise above life’s challenges. Our arm of Youth LEAP inspires leadership excellence and encourage community service in young people. One of our programmes, iLEAD is an example of how we are changing mindset of young people. iLEAD evolved from our Youth Development Training Programme offered in public secondary schools across six states including the FCT.

In most public secondary schools in Nigeria, students are taken through conventional subjects such as Mathematics, English and Science with little focus on life skills. The YDTP on the other hand enriches the public school experience. Through exposure to the programme, the students gain better perspective on what it takes to lead and are challenged to take action towards creating a better society.

And the basic focus of these engagements are? 

LEAP’s mission is to inspire, empower and equip a new cadre of African leaders by providing the skills and tools for personal, organizational and community transformation. Our aim is to see our continent thrive and for Africans to reach their highest potential.

Do you believe young people are ready for leadership roles?

Young people are already leading. You can view leadership from many standpoints including being responsive or championing a common goal. One of the focal learning point at our leadership training programmes is for young people to assume leadership roles, starting from their immediate environment.

For instance, young Nigerians like Afere Lawrence, an organic farmer and founder Springboard Nigeria are taking leadership, on problems that affect their society. Lawrence is working with farmers and cultivating a younger generation of farmers in Ondo State, Nigeria to ensure organic food production such as plantain, banana, vegetables, pineapple and pawpaw. He is equally creating gainful employment for rural and semi urban youth. Lawrence is a Fellow of LEAP’s Social Innovators Programme (SIP) where change makers are identified, developed, mentored and supported to expand their ideas and collaborate with other innovators across the world through its partnership with YouthActionNet of the International Youth Foundation.

At what age do you begin your leadership training for young people? Do you have programmes for secondary and primary school children?

LEAP offers iLEAD and Lead the Way for children from ages 10- 13 and 14- 18 respectively.

And on leadership – how have you focused on that? 

The iLEAD and Lead the Way are two programmes where we introduce young people to leadership and awaken social-consciousness within them. Lead the Way is a holiday programme for both groups of teenagers (ages 10- 13 and 14- 18) while iLEAD is a curriculum offered in secondary schools for SS1 students usually between the 14 -18 age bracket. In both programme we empower them with soft skills to take charge of their live, make the best decisions and ultimately become change agents.

So far, how many young people have you worked with and impacted?

About 30,000 young people have been engaged and equipped through our youth leadership programmes. Beyond the direct beneficiaries our programmes have reached inner communities through social change projects initiated and implemented by our young participants in urban and rural communities benefiting hundreds of thousands. Beyond the numbers, our achievements are measured in qualitative terms as well. Today, the pioneer cohorts of our programmes have become established in their careers, more young people are socially aware and taking steps in creatively making the society better; enterprises have been set and are thriving; more entrepreneurs/managers are instituting systems to make their businesses and companies run effectively and efficiently.

You also work with and train entrepreneurs and business owners. What kind of support do you give to entrepreneurs?

LEAP supports entrepreneurs and business owners through BIZ LEAP where we offer trainings and publish resources to foster institutional thinking in Nigerian entrepreneurs.Primarily, LEAP provides a platform for knowledge sharing for SMEs to engage with business leaders and experts at an annual Forum – The CEOs Forum. At each edition, LEAP examines specific themes that is relevant to creating sustainable businesses. The 11th CEOs Forum held in June 2016 was not different. It focused on strategies and opportunities for businesses to attract financing in Nigeria.

Our work with entrepreneurs is to ensure institutional best practices in the form of effective systems and structures are in place for businesses to experience growth and longevity. LEAP draws attention to factors such as organizational culture, corporate governance, grooming a successor or successors to manage their business. In addition, our resources targeted at entrepreneurs are set in Nigerian context. LEAP has nine practical business books offering concise guidance on addressing challenges entrepreneurs are faced with irrespective of size, industry and region.

And with technology as a primary driver these days – how have you guys leveraged that?

LEAP is leveraging technology to achieve sustainability. It recently launched e-Integrity an ethics course for students and professionals under its eLEAP arm of the organization. Through a Learning Management System (LMS), e-Integrity (the course) is structured to establish a baseline of awareness for the participant, then goes over four interactive and engaging modules – Values, Moral Ethics, Corruption and Moral Courage. The LMS is also able to track the effectiveness of the course by matching baseline data with post-course evaluation. To ensure accessibility in remote parts where internet access would be a challenge, the course would also be available on CDs. eLEAP being our online resource centre is one of LEAP’s plan for the future. In the next few years, LEAP is set to launch mobile apps and optimize multimedia.

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