Last year, I was blown away by the Ignite Innovation Lab (IGL) Digital Transformation virtual challenge. It wasn’t just the scale of this online hackathon- there were more teams of four of five young innovators than I can remember and, in total, we were over 300 youth from all over Africa-, or the incredible experience of connecting with young innovative peers and industry experts but, it was more about what inspired such a program and what it took to see it through.
In the time that I have known Cynthia (it’s nearly a year since the IGL 2020), I have continuously been amazed by her initiatives as well as her personal achievements. Those who know her will not be surprised, but just when you think she has reached her ceiling, she goes on to do something even better.
She has undoubtedly done more for African youth than most. What make her ventures even more noble is that unlike most similar opportunities for youth on the continent, it all stems from the personal determination of one person effectively diffusing off those around her and pushing everyone towards a common goal. There have been a lot of personal sacrifices that Cynthia has made just so she could deliver this essential service towards entrepreneurial education and employment opportunities for youths in Africa.
This is a fundamental consideration I think should be made when we try to measure the feats that Inspire Africa and the IGL have achieved over the years. I am particularly pleased that funding institutions like the United States African Development Fund (USADF) have recognised the importance of her work and supported it.
Cynthia’s leadership skills are unparalleled in my view. Inspire Africa and the IGL was (is) an enormous undertaking that required even greater planning and administration to match its success. She is central to everything yet she galvanises everyone to play their part. I would say her greatest leadership attributes are a clear vision, foresight and ability to plan strategically.
This does most of the difficult work as her team is not blindly stumbling through the darkness. Such capabilities in leaders drive confidence right through everyone working with them and gives any task their working on a greater chance of success.
The biggest challenge that Cynthia will pose to you as a leader is to do something that when you look back, you will appreciate your own effort.
It's not about being the best but giving your best, and that's a principle I have seen her apply in all her engagements.
I think she operates on the premise that you cannot control everything else, but you can control your own effort, that is guaranteed and that is something that will always be accountable to you. She leads by example with that principle.
You shouldn’t underestimate the workload at Inspire Africa. After all, the organisation’s successes are off the back of hard work, which makes me wonder how Cynthia still manages to juggle it all and lead a well rounded life.
She very much has a family life as well, so much so that sometimes you can hear her little boys walk into a virtual meeting uninvited, or bang pots around in the background. Not only that, her academic accomplishments (she is glittered with numerous prestigious fellowships including the Global Good Fund and the Mandela Washington fellowships) seem to take turns on her CV. Yet, she has still found time for volunteer roles with other initiatives that work towards empowering youth in Africa. (CXC) summits 2021, a virtual networking platform for youth across the globe.
Perhaps it is that she manages her time and resources well and in an innovative way as well. The LIFT capstone project is an example. After securing experiential learning partnerships for IGL alumni with big industry players like Shago payments Ltd, Chaka, Afrimash and Neat microcredit, she had the foresight to make this a project facilitated largely by interns and volunteers, killing two birds with one stone by freeing herself from these responsibilities to dedicate the time elsewhere, while creating varying opportunities within the organisation’s fields of entrepreneurial education and employment.
I'm in awe of Cynthia’s achievements, capabilities and her personal sacrifices to create life-changing opportunities for young Africans. Like many of you who have come across her, I am inspired by Cynthia to always do the best I can.
Join us in celebrating Cynthia's birthday by sending us your stories about her to firstname.lastname@example.org