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Country of the Week: Guinea
January 26, 2018

A West African nation bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the west, Guinea was once part of the expansive Mali Empire. In the 15th century, European merchants brought extensive commerce to the coastal region, including trade in gold, ivory, and slaves. By the mid-19th century, Guinea and adjacent areas were brought under French colonial rule. Guinea was led to independence in 1958 when Sékou Touré, who became the country’s first president, voted against membership in the French Community.

Guinea is a predominantly Islamic country, with Muslims representing 85 percent of the population, and its people hail from from twenty-four distinct ethnic groups. Besides its cultural diversity, Guinea is also abundant in natural biodiversity and resources: in addition to hydroelectric potential, Guinea has large bauxite reserves—a main source of the world’s aluminium—as well as diamonds, gold, and other metals. The country’s soil and climate are ideal for agriculture, and approximately 80% of the population is engaged in subsistence agriculture.

The fledgling democracy has made significant strides towards achieving political stability and a growing economy. The country held its first free, competitive democratic presidential elections in 2010 and 2013; in 2015, Alpha Condé was sworn into his second term as president. Thanks to you and other dedicated Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) Network members, Guinea is the YALI Network #CountryoftheWeek!

Read on to discover how members of the YALI Network in Guinea are teaching youth populations, inspiring civic engagement, and encouraging climate change activism.

Teaching youth populations

Fatoumata Keita from #CountryoftheWeek Guinea holds a youth coaching session at the University of Sonfonia in Conakry.

Fatoumata from Conakry is a Regional Leadership Center (RLC) Dakar participant who works with other YALI Network alumni to coach and help the young people of Guinea. Since returning to her home country, she has held numerous sessions on leadership, civic engagement, and how to apply to the Regional Leadership Center Dakar program, as well as five #YALILearns events. She says her work with her local community is as important to her “as the air she needs breathe.”

Inspiring civic engagement

“The YALI Network is a great asset for African youth,” says YALI Network member Mohamed Kallo. Based in Conakry, Mohamed is the founder of International English Club (IEC), a non-profit organization that promotes the English language in Guinea and encourages youth to be civically engaged. Several local students participate in the IEC program, which hosts an English competition every year.

Mohamed Kallo from #CountryoftheWeek Guinea pictured with members from his IEC club.

A confident leader, Mohamed says that his goal is to be “an agent of change” in his community. He believes that the next generation will contribute to—and lead—powerful transformation in Africa, and that education is the key for their future. Communities, parents and businesses, he says, must play a more active role in providing avenues for youth education.

“I want to build solidarity among youth, and to empower them so that they have stronger voices to advocate for better policies that will benefit them and future generations,” says Mohamed. “All youth need guidance, support, and good leadership.”

In addition to his work with the YALI Network and IEC, Mohamed also works as a volunteer at Mercy Ships, an organization that provides free specialized surgeries to patients. “Hard work always pays off,” he adds.

Encouraging climate change activism

(From left to right) Abdoulaye Barry, Abdoul Salam Diallo, Mory Conde, and Thierno Diallo plant a tree in Kamsar as part of the Guinea Goes Green campaign in #CountryoftheWeek Guinea.

After completing the the YALI Network Online Course Understanding Climate Change, YALI Network member Abdoul Salam Diallo realized the importance of a stable climate and healthy environment. Inspired by the #YALIGoesGreen campaign, he started a movement called “Guinea Goes Green,” for which volunteers planted trees in his community in Guinea. Abdoul has also hosted an amazing nine #YALILearns Events—the majority of which have been tree-plantings.

“In July 2017, I organized a tree-planting event to celebrate Mandela Day,” explains Abdoul. “Throughout the day, 21 volunteers planted 15 trees all around the community of Kamsar.”

To benefit his community, Abdoul also organized a leadership workshop in Conakry, and invited a lecturer from Kansas State University to present. Twenty-five young professionals participated in the five-day “Conakry Strengths-Based Leadership Workshop”. Abdoul hopes that his work through the YALI Network will inspire others and create a brighter future for Guinea.