YALS2019: Behind the Scenes and Stories from the Engineroom + PHOTOS
The Former President’s handlers had called in to announce what we dreaded the most —that he’s been called to another commitment that would delay his appearance. And then there was identification tags for delegates which were in crisis. The protocol team was sandwiched somewhere in the middle of a thousand vehicles in the traffic jam. Breakfast for participants were miles away, without any word from caterers. Volunteers, having received travelers the previous day were already looking weary like rag dolls.
The chances of a success of this project are now on a knife edge. Already we seemed to have reached a dead end, like a detective who’s ran out of suspects.
By the time I had taken the front row middle seat of the Committee Hall of the Accra International Conference Centre to issue prompts for the start of the opening ceremony, my pulses were bounding; my head was spinning and unending tremors besieged my feet.
The program had paraded an army of a highly spirited cohort of young leaders. Their presence behind me, in a large number was an injection of energy into my weakened self. They looked ready. And as they opened informal conversations with enthusiasm, I could now find my footing, the way a quiet town begins to stir as dawn becomes morning.
So, grabbing the walkie-talkie and activating communication with the team outside the auditorium, I radioed, “Opening ceremony starting in 10 minutes. Let’s get ready!” — the call that brought to life the maiden edition of the Young African Leaders Summit. Presidential aspirant, Marricke Kofi Gane, sits by me and smiles from ear to ear.
At this moment, the entrance of the Conference Centre is recording unrecordable exchanges and interactions: a Gambian delegate is recounting her airport ordeals of the previous night, a Congolese is trying hard to find his way around the English language, a Nigerian man has just saved an Ethiopian lady’s contact.
Ghana’s National Dance Ensemble is filling the atmosphere with folk rhythms to the admiration of everyone. Strong, abled men are thumping drums that inspire many traditional dances. This is Ghana!
National flags fill midair, hang around necks, sit on tables and become wraps for many. This is Africa!
Phones levitate and their storages begin to replace megabytes with multiple photos. The place feels enchanted — participants are carrying the energy of a possessed sorcerer.
Technical crew test microphones one more time. Screen begins to display content. A bus dumps another batch of attendees. A banner at the entrance displays images of Verna Mineral Water. The National Ambulance Service sets up, on standby. The queue at the registration table elongates, and impatience begins to grow.
Abigail, Kenney, Emmanuel and other executives occupy themselves with various tasks. It is one instruction after another, one phone call follows the other. And then one problem after another gets solved!
A thousand jobs are being handled by over 30 volunteers and ushers, who multitask like octopuses. They don’t look like Silicon Valley hipsters, but they are geniuses. Thanks to them we had all facets of the conference under control even in the midst of crises. They had been prepared for eventualities and been ran through every itinerary. But it was one thing in theory, and another in practice. They battle difficulties here and there.
And now the plenary session was on, compered by Multimedia’s television host, Kleff Maxwell Justice, who now has the program in full gear.
An auditorium full of participants who have flown from African states and the diaspora now, like artillery shells burst into a frenzy of exuberance, chanting anthems and slogans in a way that refills my energy tank.
Earlier that morning, a tsunami of stress had swept through my body miserably. I was dog-tired, looking as stable as a three-legged chair. My good friend, Silas had arrived at dawn to escort me and a group of organizers from our hotel to the event venue.
But fatigue had taken over me like a hostage situation. It became apparent I had to debrief the volunteers to take up whatever roles I was going to perform that day.
I sprawled on the bare floor, knee-to-chest, moaning in weakness, but efficiently utilizing the residue of energy to direct Anselm, Confidence and Rudolf on what to do. They would now take over my role as Programs Director. However, the look on their faces, like soldiers whose lieutenant had been gunned, was not encouraging.
Head of Finance and colleague executive member, Kenney looked on helplessly. He had his own problems to deal with. Both of us had, in the past days roamed the streets of Accra, barely affording any sleep. So it was no rocket science that, it was only a matter of time for him to take my place on the floor. Sooner or later, and he would spiral to the ground like an assaulted helicopter rotor losing pressure!
So, 3 hours later, when Marricke Gane offered a smile, it was good rejuvenation for a tired spirit. When the auditorium overfilled with folks from over 30 countries, it was a strike of our energy chords. Later that day, we would both share less tense moments and pose for the cameras.
When the advance party notified us of the incoming of the Former President, H.E John Dramani Mahama, it was enough recuperation for a show time!
A statesman’s patronage of the maiden edition of this convergence was that gun in our holster! Let’s just go with the cliche, that he was was the icing on the cake.
It would be a memorable weekend. We had worked tirelessly to convene the first ever gathering of African emerging leaders in Ghana. Ministers, government and international agency representatives, and diplomats would make an appearance.
Foriegn missions were looking over our shoulders to ensure we made no mistakes. The media was already standing their tripods and hanging cameras. It was non bargainable that we served nothing but the best we could. So our backstage and engine rooms remained heated with unending activity — phone batteries were not even allowed to run down.
Like Game of Thrones’ Ned Stark rightly put, “the man who passes the sentence should swing the sword”. By all means, we had to pull this off. Painful pre-event planning, content development, preparations, deliveries, meetings, misunderstandings and various field work would be a discussion for another day.
On we went with keynotes, panel discussions, group work, presentations, creative arts exhibitions, awards and exchanges that will ultimately shape the fortunes of Africa.
In the end, we had all become a closely knit community, aware of itself, it’s numerous problems, and it’s prospects. In the end, we found one voice, one chorus — that we have a charge to keep as young African soldiers.
In the end, our youthful side dominated. South African delegates kissed their phones with the omnidirectional conference microphones and blasted away a record of global appeal: Sho Madjozi’s “John Cena”
“Chichichichi. Chi, chi, chi!”
In the ultimate end, each person would now, feel their bags and pockets for their passports and fly away back home!
The Young African Leaders Summit was organised under the theme “Securing the Future, the Role of the African Youth, Young Business Leaders and Entrepreneurs”, under the auspices of the Young Politicians and Leaders Network, a global youth organisation founded by Emmanuel Addo.
The two day residential conference was put together with support from the Multimedia Group, Twellium Ghana Limited, UN Youth Ghana, All Africa Students Union, Commonwealth Youth Council, Ann’s Protocol Agency, Write Academia, Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Regional Integration, Avance Media, Tarragon Edge and Youth Opportunities.