Speaking during the Chandler Foundation’s Positive Outliers Series, former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and 2020 Amujae Leader Yawa Hansen-Quao said that African countries must invest in training and mentorship programs for the young if they want to develop a new generation of capable public leaders.
Madam Sirleaf said young Africans in particular had high expectations of good governance and strong democracies, referring to her recent article on the subject in The Economist. Countries should therefore recruit, train, and promote young people in the practice and ideals of good government, she said, adding that strengthening local governance, and particularly healthcare structures, would contribute significantly to nations’ development.
Ms. Hansen-Quao, Executive Director of Emerging Public Leaders (EPL), commented that Africa was at a crossroads: democracy was taking root, and the next frontier was to develop stability in public institutions. As the continent with the youngest population, investment in Africa’s youth was critical, she said.
Madam Sirleaf also spoke about her work to support women and young people through both the President’s Young Professionals Program, which was launched under her leadership as President of Liberia, and the EJS Center’s Amujae Initiative.
Expressing optimism for the future of governance on the continent, Madam Sirleaf said:
“At the heart of this be two groups…women and young will take charge…and will create a better world.”
Ms. Hansen-Quao said that EPL was introducing a strong, merit-based pathway for young people to get into public service.
“We’re disrupting those barriers that often exclude women, and exclude young people, and the disabled, and other communities. That’s why this work is important and I’m passionate about it, and that’s why I believe more governments are inviting us to work with them.”
You can watch a recording of the full event here, including comments from author Matthew Bishop, who moderated the event, and Wu Wei Neng, Executive Director of the Chandler Institute of Governance. Madam Sirleaf speaks between 6:25 and 36:41, and Ms. Hansen-Quao speaks at 37:48, 45:18, and 52:26.