Emerging leaders in diplomacy chosen for unique program

Dr David Mickler announcing the ELAAD program at the AAUN Forum in Canberra, with Professors Sally Wheeler and John Hearn

Thirty-six postgraduate students and junior diplomats from 14 countries have been chosen as Emerging Leaders in Australia-Africa Diplomacy (ELAAD) Fellows and will participate in an online program that is the first of its kind for the regions.

The customised pilot program was announced at the Australia Africa Universities Network (AAUN) Forum on October 27 and will begin in November 2022.

It will offer 10 Fellows from, or based in, Australia and 26 Fellows from eligible countries in Africa critical opportunities to learn from each other, hone their diplomatic skills, and engage with leading scholars and experts, journalists, senior diplomats and other policy practitioners.

“We want to create a cohort of emerging leaders that know about one another across the Indian Ocean; 20- to 35-year-olds who will become the next generation of leaders,” said Dr David Mickler, Dean Global, Africa, at Curtin University. The university initiated the pilot on behalf of AAUN and will host its sessions.

“This is something that’s missing from the Australia-Africa landscape,” Dr Mickler said.

While emerging leadership programs existed for Australia’s relations with other regions, he said the ELAAD pilot was the first of its kind for Australia-Africa.

“ELAAD will fill a need in terms of visibility of what Australia is trying to do internationally and what African countries are doing, and also bring greater awareness of opportunities to collaborate on important global issues,” he said.

“It’s a great opportunity to build the networks, skills and knowledge of the next generation.”

Launched at an AAUN forum in Perth on August 29 as part of Australia-Africa week, the pilot had attracted 71 applicants, he said, and there was now a high level of enthusiasm among the Fellows chosen to participate.

“We hope these Fellows will go on to influential positions and they’ll do so having knowledge of each other and ongoing connections that will put us in good stead.”

Dr Mickler said ELAAD had emerged from several years of discussion in AAUN about creating a program to bring together emerging leaders from Africa and Australia.

“We think there’s a real need this program will fill.”

On the 10th anniversary of AAUN, Dr Mickler said it was important to be thinking about the next generation of leaders – helping them to develop their networks, understanding and professional skills.

To achieve that, the ELAAD program would be divided into three segments:

1. Providing knowledge to build Australia-Africa literacy and fostering relationships across the Indian Ocean and encompassing the diversity of the two continents.

2. Building skills in diplomacy, intercultural communication, public and digital diplomacy, and a range of writing skills.

3. Addressing shared global challenges faced by Africa and Australia and looking at ways to collaborate to try to address them.

“It will be a free program in the first instance,” Dr Mickler said, “with a number of two-hour, online sessions over an eight-month period.

“It won’t be a qualification program at first but, on the back of a successful pilot, we’re really excited to see what we can do with this. How we can expand it, consolidate it, perhaps have a hybrid component where we could meet with the Fellows at least once a year, and look at possibilities for qualifications coming out of it.”

Dr Mickler said that if the online pilot were successful, AAUN would seek funding from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) to conduct a hybrid program, which could include a face-to-face gathering at the annual AAUN Forum.

“In choosing the Fellows, we wanted to reflect the diversity of our societies, achieve a gender balance and ensure a balance of postgraduate students and those working in junior diplomatic positions,” he said.

“We have a mix of aspiring diplomats and junior diplomats aged between 20 and 35 and a balance of 18 male and 18 female participants from countries in which Australia has a diplomatic mission or where there is an AAUN member university.”

Dr Mickler said AAUN was keen to draw on the knowledge, expertise and ideas emanating from the Fellows to:

  • generate innovative policy ideas and meaningful socio-cultural exchanges to enhance the international relations between the African continent and Australia; and
  • develop collaborative solutions to shared global challenges.

The pilot includes postgraduate students and junior diplomats from Australia, Zambia, Egypt, Tanzania, Kenya, Botswana, Mauritius, Malawi, Ghana, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Morocco and will run until June 2023.