The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, begun in 2014, is the flagship program of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) that empowers young people through academic coursework, leadership training, and networking.
In 2019, the Fellowship will provide 700 outstanding young leaders from Sub-Saharan Africa with the opportunity to hone their skills at a U.S. college or university with support for professional development after they return home.
Now, let’s look at 2019 Fellows from Lesotho:
‘Nete is the founder of N-FIT Aerobics Wellness Center, an organization that strives to help Basotho achieve their health goals through the creation of an all-inclusive fitness lifestyle. As a qualified group fitness instructor with the skills and drive to inspire people to lead healthier lives, ‘Nete left her full time job as a Human Resource manager to pursue her passion for wellness. She now conducts aerobics classes at Lehakoe Recreational Club for clients ranging from beginner to advanced.
Among other initiatives, she develops wellness programs for schools, for the elderly, and for corporate partners like Metropolitan Health.
Lipuo is an outspoken businesswoman who has carved a niche for herself in the agro-production and food processing industry. She took the leap of faith when she left a job with the United Nations Development Program as a Foresight and Scenarios Officer to found Limomonane Products; a company that preserves semi-organic canned fruits, marmalade and jam using locally sourced ingredients. In just six months of having started the business, she won a regional grant from the FemBio Biz Acceleration Program and was also selected as a finalist in the Regional Startup Awards.
Her products, which are a combination of healthiness and taste have won several awards, both nationally and in the SADC region, including the Bacha Entrepreneurship Project sponsored by the Basotho Enterprise Development Corporation – BEDCO, Lesotho Revenue Authority, and Standard Lesotho Bank. She also dabbles in wheat farming and philanthropy work and currently works with Democracy Works Foundation, a not-for-profit organization that strives to strengthen the capacity of political parties in Southern Africa.
Tokiso is the Managing Director of TKO Consultancy, a company that combines financial literacy initiatives, public speaking concepts and coaching aimed at promoting financial wellness for Basotho. Through this platform, he runs a weekly radio segment titled ‘Money Talk’ on Bokamoso Fm where he tackles financial challenges that face young people and seeks to brainstorm remedies together with them.
He has facilitated countless personal finance master-classes, seminars, radio features, and pre-retirement preparation workshops targeted at adolescents, young professionals and pre-retirees to help them better manage their money, save, and plan for their futures.
Lineo is the founder and Director of The Barali foundation. Lineo’s organization is dedicated to educating women and young girls on sexual and reproductive health in the rural areas of Leribe and Butha-Buthe Districts. She achieves this by working with the Child and Gender Protection Unit, members of the Lesotho Mounted Police Services, village chiefs, local clinics and community members to disseminate information and host workshops, all in an attempt to share stories that will help to curb the high rate of abortions in the country and to encourage victims of violence and rape to speak out.
Through a campaign titled ‘Hear my Story’, Lineo has created a platform for women to open up about their experiences and to bring to surface, reasons that have compelled them to have illegal abortions. She also uses social media to encourage victims of domestic and gender based violence to share their stories. Lineo is also the Executive Director and a lecturer at Leribe Agricultural Skills Training Center, where she teaches agricultural extension and rural development, cooperative management, communication, and life skills.
Teboho is an Economist with comprehensive experience in national strategic planning, specifically in the fields of public policy, national budget planning, monitoring and evaluation, education management information system, and project cycle management. A key contributor in the education sector, she is one of the only five national economic planners in the Ministry of Education and Training’s Planning and Policy Unit.
At the Ministry, she provides implementation support from central to district management level as a means of maximizing the return on investment of national resources and to strengthen the delivery of inclusive access to quality education to all learners in Lesotho. She also coordinates the design, development, review, and evaluation of the sector’s research, policies, plans, budget, and projects.
Neo is a Biotechnologist graduate with extensive experience in Animal Genetics and Molecular Biology Research, Food Processing as well as Food Quality and Safety with a distinct interest in regenerative medicine research. Although distillation started off as a hobby for her as she used to make Vodka to gift to her friends for Christmas, she eventually turned her hobby into a business following a stage of unemployment after graduating from the Tshwane University of Technology in Pretoria, South Africa. In 2017, she launched Linford Vodka and now supplies high end hotels and liquor stores in Lesotho.
In 2018, Linford Vodka was nominated for The Best Start Up of the Year at the Global Startup Awards. In her spare time, Neo volunteers as a food quality and safety specialist in the agricultural department of Nalane Foundation, an NGO that empowers unemployed and disadvantaged youth as well as orphans through exposing them to aquaponics and other agricultural opportunities. Neo also serves on the 2019 Interim Committee of the Lesotho Association of Biotechnologists while simultaneously pursuing a master’s degree in Biotechnology.
Thapelo is a legal professional who has worked for the Ministry of Gender, Youth, Sports and Recreation for almost ten years as a Principal Gender Officer where he works on issues related to youth development and the advancement of gender equality and empowerment of women, driven by a human rights-based perspective.
Under his supervision, the ministry launched the Lesotho National Volunteer Week in September last year where he and his team solicited volunteers to build a house for three orphaned children in Tsime, in the Butha Buthe district. His commitment to improving the lives of vulnerable groups in society paired with a strong background in social and gender issues has led him to actively engage with the youth in his community through empowerment programs that are geared towards instilling a sense of self-direction, with the hope that they will make an impact in their respective environments.
Mpitseng is a charismatic educator and advocate for cooperative business practices. She founded the College of Cooperative Entrepreneurship and Business Studies which addresses Lesotho’s current economic need to produce job creators instead of job hunters. To achieve this dream in two short years, she partnered with a friend and registered the college as a technical and training school under the Ministry of Education and Training.
With nine permanent staff members and 65 students currently enrolled, the College equips its students with knowledge and skills to produce food, detergents, and cosmetics amongst other things. These products are then sold, with proceeds going to the students and back into the college’s production capacity to support subsequent cohorts. Upon graduation, students move into a business incubation program before they branch out as independent producers.
Thabiso is the Executive Director of the Lesotho National League of the Visually Impaired Persons, an organization established in 1986 to advocate and lobby government and relevant stakeholders for equal and inclusive opportunities of persons living with disabilities. In his capacity as Executive Director, Thabiso has designed and implemented a number of advocacy and empowerment programs with the purpose of ending discrimination in various communities against visually impaired people.
He also advises the Executive Board and implements its decisions, coordinates activities of all eleven branches of the organization spread across all ten districts and leads fundraising programs. Through this work, he and his team have successfully influenced four schools from across Lesotho to enroll blind students.
Rethabile is one of the youngest lecturers at the National University of Lesotho, where she uses her position as a Theatre Arts & Drama lecturer to positively influence and empower young women and adolescent girls. Her dream is to use education as a tool to empower, mentor, and create opportunities that will uplift young women that come from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Since joining the National University of Lesotho, she has implemented a leadership, entrepreneurship, and mentorship program known as SPEAK (Succeed, Participate, Engage, Accelerate, Know-how) for her female students, with the aim of connecting them with experts, professionals, and mentors in different disciplines in hopes of equipping them with relevant leadership and entrepreneurship skills, and to provide career guidance for them.
Mamotsiba is a member of the Network of Early Childhood Care & Development in Lesotho, an organization which advocates for policies and laws in favor of children under the age of five. As a result of her deep commitment for supporting vulnerable groups in society, especially women and children, she started a foundation called Tsebo ke Bophelo which endeavors to educate and impart life skills to vulnerable groups of girls through leadership training and dialogue.
She has served in the Lesotho Council of NGOs as Women and Children Commissioner where she advocated for integration of women and children issues into the development agenda. She currently works as a Project Officer in the Ministry of Education and Training, where she is responsible for providing technical and administrative support in projects implementation, and leading Curriculum and Assessment reforms.
Thato is a passionate technology guru, innovator and digital entrepreneur with a keen interest in creating apps that will make everyday life easier for consumers as well as business owners. He is the founder and CEO of Technify; a software development start-up company that’s positioning itself as a driver of digital innovation and e-commerce solutions for emerging markets. In 2018, Technify participated in and won a financial inclusion Hackathon that was administered by the UNDP and Finmark Trust, an independent South African non-profit which works to increase financial inclusion and regional financial integration.
As a result, Thato’s company received incubation training by MEST Africa on developing a smart payment application called Itmas. The app provides an easier payment procedure and acts as a supplementary layer of the Vodafone’s M-pesa mobile money system and is free for consumers. He is also involved with other online platforms such as Lunchbox, a food delivery platform, Eventspoynt, an e-ticketing platform, and Nkukele, a networking and logistics platform.
This is a developing post and will be updated.