The American Embassy in Kenya recently contacted Agnes Yahuma – Engen’s head of supply in the country – to confirm her attendance of the prestigious Mandela Washington Fellowship Programme.
The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders is a programme backed by the United States Government. It is administered by IREX, a U.S. non-governmental organisation that implements the fellowship in partnership with the U.S. State Department. It is also the flagship programme of President Barak Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI).
Each year the Mandela Washington Fellowship attracts over 80 000 applicants from the people of sub-Saharan Africa. From this staggering pile of applications it selects a mere 1 000 persons and invests in their leadership development via programmes hosted at various American universities. Ongoing mentorship is provided to the participants thereafter.
Agnes was naturally thrilled with her achievement. “It is a humbling opportunity, as I am one of only a few applicants chosen from across Africa. I am really looking forward to the intensive programme, which covers academic coursework, leadership training and networking. It will also be great for Engen’s business.”
Agnes will join fellow young leaders on the Business and Entrepreneurship track, which begins with six weeks of academic study and input at the University of Texas. “The benefits of this programme to Engen will be numerous,” Agnes continues. “I will get the opportunity to hone my skills at the University of Texas and then receive further professional development support after I return home. I have no doubt that the experience will provide a perfect opportunity to sharpen my leadership skills for the roles I handle and to network with many outstanding young African leaders.”
General Manager of Engen’s International Business Division, Drikus Kotze says Engen invests heavily in its staff and is extremely proud that one of its employees has been chosen to attend the programme as it will bolster the management capabilities required to grow the company in east Africa. “Kenya is presently investing heavily in improving its fuel supply capabilities via road and pipeline infrastructure, improved efficiencies and partnerships. The development of human capital is a key component of this, as is the development of a fully networked industry.”
Agnes believes that Engen will play a key role in Kenya’s development given the business’ focus on building its brand, growing its retail footprint and developing its receiving, storage and transport facilities. “Along with our strategic partnerships, moving away from the reseller model to ‘self-supply’ will provide the Engen business with the necessary control of supply to neighboring countries such as Uganda, Burundi and Rwanda,” says Agnes.
Engen is a leading distributor and marketer of fuels, lubricants and oil-based products in Kenya. “As a company, we are also a key voice both within the Petroleum Institute of Eastern Africa and Supply COR Kenya (Ltd), and highly active in lobbying within the Ministry of Energy and Petroleum,” adds Kotze.
Agnes will be away from her desk and the business for eight weeks. Following the academic component of the Fellowship, the various groups are set to visit Washington, D.C to meet President Obama. Over three-days they will take part in networking and panel discussions with U.S. leaders from the public, private, and non-profit sectors. “I am extremely grateful to Engen for supporting my attendance of the programme and for continuing to invest in my development,” she says.
Upon returning to Kenya, Agnes will continue to build the skills she has developed during her time in the United States through support from the U.S. embassy in the country, four Regional Leadership Centres, the YALI Network, and customised programming from USAID and affiliated partners.
“Through these experiences, the Mandela Washington Fellows and I will have access to ongoing professional development opportunities, mentoring, networking and training, and seed funding to support our ideas, businesses, and organisations,” says Agnes
Engen’s vision in Kenya ties in to the country’s ambitious agenda. Agnes Yahuma is a modern example of the old adage: it is only by growing your own timber will you create a mighty forest.