The Yale Association for African Peace and Development (YAAPD), an undergraduate student organization of Yale University founded in 2012, is aimed at complementing the university’s liberal arts curriculum with education about development, peace, and conflict resolution aligned with the following core values: education, awareness, and service. The annual Sankofa 54 Youth Empowerment Conference, hosted by the organization, brings together delegates from all over Africa and students interested in African issues to discuss and debate plans of action for the future of development in Africa.

This year’s conference, Ubuntu, was held on April 14th – 15th. It was attended by students from all over USA, and several alumni of Yale University. The opening keynote address was given by Ibunkun Awosika, the Chairperson of the Board of Directors of First Bank Nigeria Limited, founder and CEO of The Chair Center Group, after which she chaired a small breakout session before the night ended with a vibrant and colorful African Night Market.

The second day’s events began with a keynote from Mr. Donald Kaberuka, the 77th president and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the African Development Bank Group. The day was underway with five vibrant and well-attended panel sessions in education, contemporary culture, entrepreneurship, social justice, and government. Panelists included writers, film makers, and government officials. Obinna Ukwuani, a social entrepreneur and founder of Exposure Robotics Academy, which gives marginalized students from around Nigeria and some parts of Ghana access to solve problems through coding and robotics, Robert Katude, a Ugandan chess teacher whose life is depicted in the Disney motion picture, Queen of Katwe, and Sidee Dlamini, the head of recruiting at African Leadership University, Mauritius engaged in an insightful discussion about the future of African education.

In the Afropolitan and Popular Culture Panel, EC Osundu, a Nigerian writer, Minna Salami the founder of the award-winning blog MsAfropolitan and a member of ELLE Magazine’s list of twelve women changing the world, and Arthur Musa, a Ghanaian film maker, were panelists of a very charged discussion which included the role of the arts in educating and exposing the truth, and the dangers of a single narrative.

Entrepreneurship & Innovation and Social Justice panels were led by Yasmin Belo-Osagie, Joshin Raghubar, Zelalem Kibret, Marcel Kitissou, and Dr. Zethu Matebeni. However, the most attended panel was the Women in Government panel where Samira Bawumia, the wife of the Ghanaian Vice President, and Prof. Mathilde Mukantabana, the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Rwanda to the United States of America, and non-resident ambassador to Mexico, Brazil, and Argentina. During this electrifying discussion, ideas on how women can get involved in African politics, a male dominated field, and ways to bring issues that have been traditionally dubbed women’s issues, like maternal mortality and sexual violence, to the forefront of policy makers’ priority lists as human right issues were discussed.

The day’s events came to a fun-filled conclusion with a dinner, and after party following a career fair where the college students got a chance to interact with top hirers like One Acre Bank and Boston Consulting Group.