Tuesday, December 13, 2016

9th YALI Connect Camp a Success in Dakar

YALI Connect Camp 9 participants pose for a photo after
receiving their certificates at Friday's closing ceremony.

By Kate Hiller 

In early December 2016, sixteen participants from six countries met in Dakar, Senegal to participate in the 9th Connect Camp of the Young African Leaders' Initiative (YALI). Participants were from Chad, The Gambia, Guinea, Liberia, Senegal and Uganda. The YALI Connect Camps are administered four times a year in four regions of sub-Saharan Africa, funded by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) in the U.S. Department of State and administered by the Institute for International Journalism at Ohio University. These participants learned about leadership, mentorship, the Art of Hosting, Human Centered Design, and more. They interacted with resource experts such as Kofi Essien of OLE Ghana, Mamadou Sarr of CorpsAfrica, and Dr. Mame Yauto Faye of the Institute of Management in Dakar.

Participants began the week with ice breakers, and some goal-development exercises. They wrote down their goals of the week, ranging from improving English language skills to creating mentoring tools and engaging with different subgroups within their communities. The sticky notes were utilized to put into broader categories and posted on the wall for shared learning. As different goals were accomplished, participants moved the sticky notes from the "We Want To" wall to "We Did It" wall.


Over the course of the week, participants divided into groups to develop projects with a goal to improve different aspects of their communities, such as equality for disabled people, empowerment for women, sustainable farming practices, and a higher quality of education for youth. While every participant has his or her own ideas that fit under the aforementioned broad categories, the use of human centered design and other new concepts in the project development allowed them to develop their own ideas while also contributing to others' projects and providing immediate feedback. At the beginning of this process, participants were allowed to move around to other groups to share their expertise and experience with others. However, later in the week they had to select a group and stick to it. Participants presented their projects and ideas for implementation at the end of the week.

This was not the only presentation that participants gave. Each mentor-mentee pair was asked to give a 10-minute presentation about their country and what they thought made it special. These presentations were fun, with videos, laughter and even some dancing thrown in!

YALI CC 9 Participants Babacar Birane, Fatoumata Bangaly
Barry, and Menggeh Lowe dance with Dr. Judy Millesen of
Ohio University on Thursday, December 8.
Speaking of dance, this week was not just about all work and no play. Participants had the opportunity to also attend group dinners and get to know each other in social events. One such event was on Thursday night, when a local group of musicians came to play Senegalese music. Participants and staff alike danced the night away as the end of last week's Connect Camp drew near.

On the final day of YALI CC 9, participants completed the final touches on their final projects, gave brief presentations, and were then given a tour of Blackboard, one of several Ohio University resources that they will have as alumni of this YALI program. All of the work they did this week, from inspiration to ideation to implementation, was drawn out in an easy-to-follow graphic by Dr. Judy Millesen of the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs at Ohio University. This tool corresponds to a multitude of resources now available to the participants, and serves as a road map from taking an idea through from its birth to implementation and success.

Dr. Judy Millesen of the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs
at Ohio University presents the "road map" of YALI CC9.
With this, the participants headed off to lunch, for a focus group-style evaluation, and to get ready for the evening, where they met once more for a final celebratory dinner, where they received certificates from Bob Post of the U.S. Embassy in Dakar.

To see more photos from this week, please click here
To follow the Institute for International Journalism on Twitter, click here.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Mr. Coffee

Luzius Whipf at his roaster.
Produced and edited by: Austin Greene

The aroma of fresh coffee lures in tourists, students and business people in just about any corner of the world. That much is certain. But what makes Café Connexion in Butare, Rwanda so special?

Luzius Wipf has it down to a science.

"If you go to a cafe in Europe or even Kigali, coffee can be quite expensive," he said. "Here we offer it at 50 cents per cup."

The coffee's taste likely has a lot to do with it too. The beans come from local farms in the Southern Province, seven of which won the prestigious "Cup of Excellence" award from the Alliance for Coffee Excellence in 2015. Perhaps that's why the cafe is attracts so many Europeans and Americans visiting Rwanda.

Wipf is a globetrotting coffee connoisseur who has been in the business for over 20 years. A native of Switzerland, his last venture before coming to Rwanda was the Asia Coffee Company in southern Vietnam. The cheap, local coffee found similar success there.

"We had several people carrying around trays delivering coffee around the offices in the buildings," he said. "At our peak we were selling thousands of cups per day at 50 cents."

After traveling to Africa, Wipf saw the potential on the coffee business in Rwanda. It was here that he met his current business partner, Jean-Marie Irakabaho, who co-owns the cafe.

"My partner knew the local farms and the Rwandan coffee business better than anyone," Wipf said. "I had the experience of running businesses and it was a great combination."

Wipf explains the different tastes that can be achieved with
various roasting methods using the "Flavor Wheel"
Wipf packed up the massive roaster that now dominates the room at Café Connexion and set up shop in Butare. The country was already producing a large amount of coffee beans, however, there was still a big challenge.

"Coffee is not very popular in Rwanda," Wipf said. "But as time has gone by, we've been seeing more and more Rwandans come in for coffee. That's a good thing too, because one of our goals was to create an environment where people can come in and meet and connect."

Hence the name, Café Connexion. Another "connection" that he created was a network for local farmers. Wipf and Irakabaho use their expertise to help the farmers sustain their crops by teaching better agricultural management processes. And in order to sustain his own businesses, Wipf has one final secret.

"You have to work with good people, people that you can trust," he said. "I have that here. And without the people I work with, this would all be impossible."