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OFM’s Olebogeng jets off to sought-after fellowship in Washington

───   06:00 Thu, 20 Jun 2024

OFM’s Olebogeng jets off to sought-after fellowship in Washington | News Article
Olebogeng Motse has departed to the U.S. to attend six weeks of intensive leadership training.

“I believe in storytelling’s ability to change the world.”

The OFM journalist with the golden voice, Olebogeng Victoria Motse, or Lebo or Ole for short, has embarked on a life-changing experience. She is among almost 700 young African leaders chosen from about 50,000 applicants who are on their way to participate in the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders.

The United States Government’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) flagship programme is celebrating its tenth anniversary in 2024. It has brought young leaders from every country in Sub-Saharan Africa to the United States for academic and leadership training.

The fellows, as they’re called, are between the ages of 25 and 35, and are accomplished innovators and leaders in their communities and countries. They are regarded as the emerging generation of entrepreneurs, activists, and public officials. 

During this American summer of 2024, the programme brings up to 700 young leaders to the United States for a comprehensive executive-style programme, designed to build skills and empower fellows to lead in their respective sectors and communities.

“I am at the Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. It is a premier research university founded in 1868, serving motivated students in the vibrant Midtown, the cultural centre of Detroit. I'll be following the Public Management track of the programme, which will be a new environment and journey for me. It’s been quite inspiring so far. When I return, I have a focus project which I’ll be implementing in my community.”

Motse describes herself as an oddball and nerd. She believes her favourite quote from her favourite author, Toni Morrison, could inform some of her strange views: “Make up a story … For our sake and yours forget your name in the street; tell us what the world has been to you in the dark places and in the light.

“Don’t tell us what to believe, what to fear. Show us belief’s wide skirt and the stitch that unravels fear’s caul.”

She believes that this can be applied beyond the scope of just storytelling.

“All of our dreams are valid and we all can bring something to the table, so we shouldn’t be scared to go after that bold dream or bring that business idea you’ve always had to fruition. It’s a wonderful quote, by an even more amazing woman.”

Motse was born in the North West capital of Mafikeng and raised in a small rural town called Whittlesea in the Eastern Cape. She eventually matriculated at St Joseph’s Christian Brother’s College in Bloemfontein, participating in the renowned Bloemfontein Children’s Choir.

She returned to the Eastern Cape to further her studies, specifically in Grahamstown (now Makhanda) and later Port Elizabeth (Gqeberha), where she dabbled in different forms of storytelling before settling on audio as an OFM News journalist, a place she has called home since 2017.

This flagship programme embodies the commitment to invest in the future of Africa. Photo: Facebook

With family being of utmost importance, Motse lives with her elderly aunt. She loves podcasts, naming some of her favourites as Serial, Code Switch, Trump Inc., the New Yorker Radio Hour, and Black Girl in Om. She also enjoys cooking, playing the piano, and watching movies.

She loves the immediacy of radio and its ability to reach people of different backgrounds and cultures. One of her passions includes the African continent and the betterment thereof as well as what she calls a “naive belief in storytelling’s ability to change the world”.

In June 2014, former President Barack Obama announced the renaming of the Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders in honour of Nelson Mandela. The Mandela Washington Fellowship is the flagship programme of the President’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) and embodied Obama’s commitment to invest in the future of Africa.

The Mandela Washington Fellowship selection process is a merit-based open competition. After the deadline, independent readers reviewed all eligible applications. Following this review, semi-finalists were interviewed by the US embassies or consulates in their home countries. Selected finalists were required to attend the mandatory Pre-Fellowship Orientation in their home country in Africa.

‘The accolade showcases the calibre of journalism she applies to her career’

Fellows convene for a summit before returning home, where they forge connections with one another and US leaders from the private, public, and non-profit sectors, setting the stage for long-term engagement between the United States and Africa.

In 2023, Motse was also honoured with the coveted national Vodacom Journalist of the Year Award. Her feature “The construction mafia: Is it transformation or criminality?” won in the Financial and Economics category.

“The accolade showcases the calibre of journalism that Olebogeng applies to her career. Her passion for commerce, trade and industry is prevalent in the programme that she presents,” OFM Programme Manager, Tim Thabethe, said at the time.

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