Low Hanging Fruits

August 23, 2019

For the past 14 years, I have worked with different programs that help students from underprivileged backgrounds to become Chartered Accountants  (CAs). One of those is the Thuthuka Bursary Fund, a program that takes students from some of the poorest areas of the country and grooms them to be CEOs of listed companies - true story! To date, the program has groomed over 1020 Chartered Accountants in South Africa alone. I am one of those success stories and I actively play my part to help create a balance the social and economic inequalities in our country. It is in this spirit of Thuthuka ( Isuzulu word meaning "to develop") that has challenged me to think beyond the accountancy profession, beyond the borders of our country and go conquer the world. One of the biggest challenges we face is that students graduate, get practical experience, qualify as CAs but then what's next? How do we help them achieve the C-suite dreams we sold them? How do we get them to run billion-dollar enterprises? How do we help them to go back to their communities to transform them into megacities?


Much like the Thuthuka program, the Mandela Washington Fellowship (MWF) was created as a leadership development program for Young African Leaders in business, public management and/or civic engagement to meet similar goals.  Through MWF a young leader's dreams literally go from wanting to lead the Johannesburg Stock Exchange to create global enterprises that will compete with Facebook, Google, and Amazon. MWF alumni, known as YALI Fellows leave the USA at the end of the program charged up to go home and change the world - literally. Three weeks ago a lot of my brothers and sisters from the YALI program returned home to champion this transformative change, however, have already encountered major stumbling blocks. Their motivation starts fading away slowly, creating a sense of hopelessness. Why?



The MWF program provides fellows with access to leaders of government, civic organization and private business who invest in the fellows and their businesses/organizations.  The networks that MWF fellows form in the USA are aimed at strengthening collaboration between American and African business community. However, some fellows still experience challenges accessing their own countries' government and the business community to implement the awesome business models and ideas they have developed.  This is a wasted opportunity that could actually be a gamechanger for many developing countries.


To ensure Thuthuka's vision to have black CEOs in boardrooms, leadership mentorship programs were established by other organizations through collaboration of government and business community. Thuthuka is recognized for its role in helping students obtain the professional qualification and is left to maximize on that strength. The next organization will take the baton, run a couple of miles with it, and pass on to the next stakeholder. The ecosystem is successful as each organization focuses on a specific objective based of their strengths - as recommended by Gallup. This ideal model will produce incredible leaders to lead some of the largest organizations beyond our ancestors' wildest dreams. The government, business and civic organizations recognize the potential of Thuthuka alumni and continue to invest in them as catalysts for development. The model can be replicated into different professions and different countries through collaborative efforts of business, civic organization and community.


"There is no passion to be found playing small - in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living."

Nelson Mandela


Having a YALI fellow is a country's power card that can be used to unlock opportunities for sustainable development and reaching UN Sustainable Development Goals.  The groundwork is already done - the fellows already established a good track record, YALI elevated their vision, all that is left is our countries to tap into the talent that is already here and take it to the next level. The business of development is a question of scale - how do we help this non-profit from serving 60 homeless children to serve 6 000? How do we partner with this tech organization from serving 5 000 underprivileged school children to serve 5 000 000? 


There is an opportunity for African countries to recognize the YALI fellows as crucial stakeholders in the development of Africa - like as a developmental power card, or a developmental infinity stone. By investing in the organizations established by YALI fellows, countries are able to tap to an international network that is crucial to the successful implementation of the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement and developmental needs.


Over the next couple of weeks, the African Union, embassies, governments, civic organizations, business, and communities will be engaged by YALI alumni to tap into this opportunity. This is one of the resolutions we have committed ourselves to as fellows and we call on all relevant stakeholders to see this as an opportunity to grow the continental economy and social systems.  YALI alumni networks play a pivotal role in leading these strategic engagements. Many of us have already held successful meetings with our South African embassy and the Washington DC business community to collaborate.


YALI had about 700 fellows in the 2019 cohort and the program has been around since 2014. There is more... there are many other leadership development programs that Africa can tap into - Acumen, Fulbright, Atlas Corps, WEF, Obama Foundation etc, all this talent, all the experience that we can tap into and make Africa a self-sufficient, globally competitive economy. Imagine the number of global leaders we can produce.


Imagine the possibilities!



About the author:

Thabo Godfrey Mongatane is a South African entrepreneur, Business Coach and Professional Speaker currently working at LDI Africa in Washington DC.  He completed a Leadership Development Programme in Civic Engagement at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln as part of the 2019 Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders. He is a founder of Kumbaya Africa, a non-profit providing strategic development opportunities to emerging social enterprises in Africa. 

Gamble with Care

August 16, 2019

As an entrepreneur and coach, I work with successful professionals and organizations across Africa to identify and capitalize on their personal/brand strengths to achieve business goals. We use different tools to help the client remain mindful, focused and committed to the achievement of their goals.

We often miss out on opportunities in life because we do not understand the power we have over situations, people and things. Life is a series of opportunities available for us to capitalize on and every door to an opportunity needs a special card to open it. We help clients to be able to identify the cards in their hands and how to use these to unlock the best winning opportunities for their businesses. Let's take it to Las Vegas... our clients learn skills to shuffle and arrange these cards in a way that guarantees that they will win every game or get thrown out of the casino - whichever comes first. This is what makes them successful, owning and mastering this skill. But what happens when you are handed all the winning cards that open literally all the doors to the biggest wins of your life? What happens when you don't even notice that you have these cards?

I came to the USA to study Leadership in Civic Engagement so I can use the skills and experience to build on the work I do back in South Africa. In the nine weeks, I have been here I have been exposed to so much knowledge that my head literally hurts. I studied business models that I plan to implement back home in collaboration with other Young African Leaders across Africa. 

Paulo Coelho said that when you want something, all of the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it. It is important to not want everything but focus on what you need. It sounds like #NiceLifeProblems but it is our reality especially in an era of Instagram and reality tv - both of which by the way are not real. Books like  Essentialism, Borderless Voice and The One Thing highlight that although you cannot fix all of life's problems, you will be more effective when you focus on the things that you are most passionate about and yield the best returns - then go all in. This needs you to be present in every moment and learn to politely say no to everything else - or refer those to someone who may have an interest. To be able to do this you need to talk to the man in the mirror and define your own unique identity.  Having a clear vision of yourself, your strengths allows you to identify which cards need to be played first and which need to put at the back of the deck for later. Through this arrangement of your power cards, you are able to plan for the short, medium and long term of the game - unless you are kicked out of the casino!

In her address at the AU PADYA 2nd General Meeting held in Washington DC, Her Excellency Ambassador Arikana Chihombori-Quao challenged us to focus our energies on growing Africa and the continental economy, or else others will. As usual, her speeches leave one inspired and challenged to identify themselves as a powerful force for transformation in Africa. We were challenged to be the ones who tell the story of Africa, to rewrite the next chapters of history. To commit all our efforts into building a prosperous Africa that we will be proud of. To arrange our cards such that Africa is in our main agenda. To take advantage of and actively drive the successful implementation of the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement. 

It is reported that the USA plans to withdraw foreign aid which will negatively impact Africa, but a blessing in disguise nonetheless. Africa will need all her children to unite as a family to find the best ways to take care of her family. Each of us needs to identify our roles within the family, our strengths, the cards we hold in our hands and arrange these in ways that will help our family overcome poverty and unemployment. To build social enterprises that benefit Africa as a family, to advocate for equal treatment of all members of this family. Africa is our family. 
You see, Africa has been that casino where the house never won. The players dealt themselves power cards that guaranteed their win and the family members are excluded from the table. 

It is time that we WANT to grow our Africa so the universe conspires to help us prosper her. It is a time for us to commit ourselves to the most essential, most critical capabilities, to play our power cards - and go all in before we get thrown out of the casino.

Working in The USA

August 12, 2019

Coming to America is a wild dream for many young Africans, dare I say for anyone across the world. When I got the news that I've been selected to work in the USA after the six week study period, I was over the moon. Finally, I actually got to work 9 to 5! I could finally sing along to all the songs about working 9 to 5 and actually mean it. Working nine to five, what a way to make a living🎤 Anyways...

Corporate South Africa is very advanced and widely professionalized. We strive to be globally competitive in everything we do. However, in this post, I'll focus on some of the culture shocks I experienced in my first week working in America.

During orientation, IREX and the US Embassy gave a number of tips on how to thrive in the US workplace, etiquette and all. Look... It's one thing being told what to expect, but experiencing it first hand is a WHOLE different ball game.

So there I was on Monday ready to conquer the concrete jungle of Washington, DC.

Suit, check!

Tie, check!

Shiny brown shoes, check!

Attitude, check!

Big smile, check!

Called Uber cause it's my first day and I'm not trying to get lost in America, nah nah! Being the overachiever I am, I get to the office around 8 am. Everyone arrives to work, and they wearing jeans, sneakers, pretty casual. I'm like hold on... What day is it today? Is it a public holiday or something? (I quietly Google, it's Monday 5 August 2019, no its not a holiday.). Okay but aren't we in Washington DC? The capital of the USA? This isn't the America they sold to me, give me back my change.

So here we are at LDI Africa, a social enterprise offering an international pro-bono consulting program for emerging business leaders in Africa. CEO tells me I'm the Chief of Staff, I'm responsible for a lot of things. It's. My. First. Day!

Also what is "Chief of Staff?"  Quick, Google! It's bad enough I have to convert every dollar price to South African Rands (which by the way, you should never do. Unless you wanna die young), but now I had to convert job titles? Nelson, what have you done?

I lead a successful consulting firm back in South Africa and my team knows we wear fresh suits and a tie. We keep it neat and professional,

  • We speak professional English,
  • Come on time,
  • Finish on time,
  • Go spend time with our families.

America!!! The office is pretty casual, in fact, I hear people over at Google go to work in their PJs & flip flops! It's about the deliverables, deliver good quality work on time.

After writing my first email, the CEO comes to me and politely says "Okay let's go over the language." I'm there thinking "But I know how to speak and write English just fine." You see,

  1. There's a difference between British and American English. a "Bursary Scheme" is acceptable in South Africa, they will call the cops on you the minute they see "scheme."
  2. American work email culture is too informal. Hi, Hey, Hello. Simple. In America, you don't have to consult the dictionary when writing emails.
  3. Be direct in your communication. No stories! Get to the point, they will hang up on you. Trust me! 😂 (I am okay now, thank you).

What stood out for me is just how the Mandela Washington Fellowship managed to place me in an organization that fits 101% perfectly with my work back in South Africa. Working with LDI Africa has opened so many doors and I think I literally stepped into a time machine to a future self. 

Getting a global perspective of professional development initiatives is important in reaching the goals I've set. This includes networking with young professionals in international development, local entrepreneurs and the Greater Washington Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Forums. Meeting like-minded professionals and entrepreneurs have added value to the business models I  build and add value to clients and stakeholders back home.

Overall I appreciate that South Africa is on the right track to achieving sustainable economic growth, reducing unemployment and poverty. Cooperation between the private sector, government, and civic organizations are key to unlocking the maximum value of the opportunities for growth. Deliberate, effective actions need to be taken to address challenges of small and medium enterprises which will, in turn, reduce our unacceptably high unemployment rates. 

Oh, by the end of the week I have settled in -  jeans, t-shirt and nobody dropping the phone on me. 

I am ready for the next three weeks.

We are proud to welcome Thabo Mongatane to the LDI Africa staff team as Mandela Washington Fellow.

Thabo Mongatane is a visionary South African Chartered Accountant, Business Coach and Professional Speaker who is dedicated to addressing high unemployment and poverty in Africa.

He completed a Leadership Development Programme in Civic Engagement at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln as part of the 2019 Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders. He is a founder of Kumbaya Africa, a nonprofit organization providing strategic development opportunities to emerging/startup social enterprises. During his tenure at LDI Africa Thabo will be conducting research on how to create a global talent pipeline for Africa’s development.

Media Contact:  John-Ubong Silas, VP of Partnerships, 202.740.6873, john-ubong@ldiafrica.org

LDI Africa - MEST Africa Partners Towards New Opportunities for 
Leadership Development in Africa

WASHINGTON, DC, October 29, 2018 - LDI Africa, a social enterprise providing technical assistance and pro bono consulting to African based businesses, proudly announces its partnership with MEST Africa. This newly established partnership creates an unparalleled opportunity for LDI Africa to advance the work of creating the platform to bridge the gap of human and financial capital necessary to bolster the growth of Africa’s private and public institutions.


 “Recognizing the innovative and long-term vision that guides the work of MEST Africa on the continent, LDI Africa pursued this unique partnership to expand our expertise in attracting the best human capital to support a dynamic organization. This is the beginning of the next iteration of LDI Africa as we seek to collaborate with existing Africa focused fellowship programs,” 

--John-Ubong Silas Vice President of Partnership


“We are excited to partner with LDI Africa, who will support recruitment efforts for fellows at MEST. A key part of our commitment to our entrepreneurs is providing them with world-class global fellows who are experienced leaders in their respective fields, entrepreneurial-minded and excited to be part of our pan-African vision. We look forward to working with LDI Africa and their exceptional network of talented professionals across the continent.” 

--Aaron Fu, Managing Director, MEST Africa

The LDI Africa – MEST Africa partnership will have a profound impact on the LDI Africa’s Emerging Institutions Fellowship Program. The 2019 Fellows and future cohorts of the program will receive a world-class leadership development experience as well as access to investment capital, international markets and technological support. This leadership opportunity is available to any rising business, nonprofit, government and development leader from any part of the world. Applications for the 2019/2020 Emerging Institutions Fellowship Program closes Nov 15, 2018. For more information please visit www.ldiafrica.org


LDI Africa was created with the idea to help talented individuals gain global industry leadership through a service opportunity in an emerging market – Africa. Headquartered in Washington D.C and working all across Africa. LDI Africa Fellows serve in organizations like Convergence Partners in South Africa, Emerging Cooking Solutions in Zambia, Jumia in Nigeria and One Acre Fund Africa-wide


The Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST) and MEST Incubator provide training, seed investment and mentorship for the next generation of globally successful African software entrepreneurs. MEST Africa, offers aspiring entrepreneurs a fully sponsored, intensive 12 month training program. Entrepreneurs-in-Training (EITs) are sourced from top graduates in Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa and Cote d'Ivoire.


LDI Africa is an award-winning social enterprise that connects African organizations and leaders to the global marketplace using the expertise of skilled volunteers. We do this by providing paid fellowships for emerging leaders around the world at Africa's best profit and nonprofit organizations.  

Through an exclusive partnership with One Acre Fund applicants for LDI Africa Fellowship program can also simultaneously apply for selected positions. Candidates will be able to take advantage of an accelerated review process. We are seeking your support in identifying rising business and social enterprise leaders to apply for the LDI Africa Fellowship positions at One Acre Fund. You can assist either through word of mouth, social media, or email communication. 

Fellowship positions are listed below for interested candidates to directly apply. Please note that candidates must also submit an LDI Africa Fellow application.

For tips on how to make your application compelling and successful, please watch the LDI Africa Informational Webinar with One Acre Fund


For application and partnership inquiries please contact john-ubong@ldiafrica.org 

For more information about the LDI Africa Fellowship, please visit – www.ldiafrica.org

Deadline to apply -November 15, 2018.  

Earlier submissions will be given priority.  


The LDI Africa Fellow is a rising business, non-profit, government, technical, and development leader actively seeking opportunities for global leadership development, with a focus on African emerging markets. The LDI Africa fellowship program is, therefore, designed to provide this leader with crucial on-the-ground professional experience, expanded networks for collaboration and impact, and opportunities for leadership growth and development. The substantive work experience attained not only develops and expands concrete and technical skills but is also a platform to achieving transformative social and economic change on the continent.


LDI Africa partners with the George Washington University Elliot School of International Affairs for the annual Talent Africa Series

WASHINGTON, DC, September 17, 2018 – Africa, the next frontier of global service is now open for business. This is the response of many African governments and private sector leaders to the lingering, Aid versus Trade, Local versus Global debate as the way forward for Africa’s development. LDI Africa is proud to join this conversation as we hear perspectives from dynamic alums of influential Africa-focused fellowships programs on this topic on September 18, 2018, 6pm EST, at George Washington University. Our panel will discuss the economic contributions being made by social enterprises and innovation hubs across the continent and the continued need for human capital. The panelists will represent programs such as Africa Business Fellowship, Mandela YALI Fellowship and One Acre Fund.

“As Africa changes its own narrative, and collaborations both within and outside the continent’s borders ushers a new wave of social-economic prosperity, there is a need to expand the leadership pathways for talented young professionals and changemakers to become key actors and catalyst for this new narrative change.” says LDI Africa founder Gbenga Ogunjimi.

This free event will be held at the George Washington University Elliott School of International Affairs, 1957 E St. NW, Room 602, starting at 6 pm EST. The program includes a panel discussion on international leadership and service, specifically in Africa, networking opportunities to meet global experts and fellow professionals, and a chance to learn about current employment and service opportunities with African nonprofit and for-profit organizations. LDI Africa will also present its Emerging Institutions Fellowship Program and current openings to place global professionals in industries across the continent. Visit the following link for program information and registration:
Space is limited, so please RSVP.

LDI Africa is a nonprofit social enterprise that builds the capacity of African corporations, small businesses, and nonprofit organizations to compete in the global marketplace through the service of skilled international volunteers.  The LDI Africa Emerging Institutions Fellowship Program provides hands-on service opportunities for emerging young business and development leaders from around the world in leading investment companies and social enterprises in Africa.

GW Elliott School of International Affairs is a globally recognized academic institution that prepares nearly 3,000 students each year for meaningful work in international affairs with one its mission to produce scholarship and contribute to the public debate on global issues to advance understanding and to help foster solutions.

The LDI Africa Fellow is a rising business, non-profit, government, technical, and development leader actively seeking opportunities for global leadership development, with a focus on African emerging markets. The LDI Africa fellowship program is, therefore, designed to provide this leader with crucial on-the-ground professional experience, expanded networks for collaboration and impact, and opportunities for leadership growth and development. The substantive work experience attained not only develops and expands concrete and technical skills, but is also a platform to achieving transformative social and economic change on the continent.

Fellows complete a year-long service engagement with leading African nonprofit and profit organizations, lending their expertise and human capital to develop and enhance the host organization’s standing in the international marketplace. They participate in shaping the global strategy of their host organization, encourage cultural diversity and exchange, and promote capacity building for long-term sustainability. There are three overarching qualities for an LDI Africa Fellow – leadership, cross-cultural competency, and service.
  • Leadership – Fellows possess both a natural and acquired competence for problem solving, thinking outside the box, and change making. Leadership experience is not simply connected to paid positions or professional titles; personal, volunteer and internship experience count as well.
  • Cross-cultural competency and collaboration are at the core of LDI Africa’s work. We believe the world is always a better place when ideas and talent are allowed to cross borders and engage. Therefore, we are seeking Fellows who are highly adaptable to new work or cultural environments and are committed to promoting diversity and respectful intellectual exchange in their assigned organization and country.
  • Service – As we continue to match global talent to local opportunities in African organizations, we are seeking Fellows with the passion to serve. Individuals who desire to contribute their talents in a unique pro bono international service that effects not just a company but a larger ecosystem. Ultimately, we want Fellows who are driven to make an impact using their unique skill sets on the frontline of innovation and impact in Africa.
In summary, the main qualities of an LDI Africa Fellow are as follows:
  1. The LDI Africa Fellow is a rising business and development leader seeking opportunities for global leadership development, particularly in African emerging markets.
  1. An emerging professional keenly interested in a long-term career promoting African development.
  1. An emerging professional who recognizes international work experience, particularly in emerging markets, as necessary towards developing his/her global leadership competency.
  1. A professional committed to service in Africa and lending their expertise and talent through pro bono consulting in order to achieve transformative change.
  2. An aspiring global leader with a deep understanding and appreciation of international service as the logical next step for their professional career trajectory and goals.
For more information and to apply visit: https://www.ldiafrica.org/


Sometimes connections can come in the most unlikely of places and lead to unexpected and surprising results. These are the stories that are the most encouraging and affirming of the work we do at LDI Africa. Recently, LDI Africa received news that one of the finalists of the EIFP program, Winston Reid, had left his job in New York and moved to Morocco to join an exciting new venture supporting African startups. This all had happened after meeting Kenza Lahlou during the EIFP application process and staying touch.

Although neither Kenza nor Winston went on to complete the fellowship, they continued to believe in the future prosperity of the continent and the need to work towards its realization. Kenza returned to Morocco to launch OUTLIERZ, which provides smart capital to African startups anywhere on the continent and invited Winston to join her. He now serves as OUTLIERZ’s Director of Portfolio Management, where they oversee investments from $50,000 to $200,000 to innovative entrepreneurs across Africa.

OUTLIERZ has the support of some of the world’s most prestigious angel investors and venture capitalists and is dedicated to providing financial support, technical assistance, and access to a world-class network of mentors and investors. “The target outcome will be a stronger pool of high potential startups that are ready for subsequent investment and, in the end, lead to success stories that are uniquely African,” explains founding partner and manager Kenza Lahlou to Disrupt Africa.

While providing emerging African businesses with top global professionals and industry experts is primary, the LDI Africa mission is also to foster connection and collaboration between those who have the interest of developing African business at heart, and encourage new and innovative avenues for development.

Either as global professionals lending their expertise and acumen to African business, entrepreneurs and investors working directly on the continent, or social entrepreneurs serving local communities with much needed resources and skills, LDI Africa welcomes and celebrates all those who contribute to our common goal of social and economic prosperity in Africa. We congratulate OUTLIERZ and look forward to working with Winston, Kenza, and OUTLIERZ as a partner, collaborator, and tribe member.

LDI Africa is currently accepting applications for our 2018 Emerging Institutions Fellowship Program (EIFP). The program supplements financial capital investments in Africa with top tier global human capital talent. Our fellowship program has engaged numerous business leaders in direct service at host organizations such as Emerging Cooking Solutions in Zambia, One Acre Fund in Malawi, and Rocket Internet in Nigeria. Fellows tend to be mid-to-senior level professionals with up to 10 years transferable experience in business management, finance, social enterprise, technology, and international development.

The application deadline is fast approaching! Apply now at https://www.ldiafrica.org/ by November 15, 2017.


LDI Africa was recently featured in an APSIA (Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs) webinar addressing the lack of diversity in international service professionals and how to best bring about a more inclusive community. Founder Gbenga Ogujimi spoke to universities in APSIA's network about the history of LDI Africa and its particular role in placing rising global leaders at profit and nonprofit organizations across the African continent. Listen to the webinar for more details on how LDI Africa is helping to change the landscape of international service development.

October 1, 2017 marked the official opening of applications for the Emerging Institutions Fellowship Program for 2018. For more information and the application use following link: https://www.f6s.com/emerginginstitutionfellowshipprogram/apply


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