• Alieu Jallow was born in Ker Ardo, in the North Bank of the Gambia in 1990. His childhood memories are of being a herdsman and of hardship, especially in years when the rains failed. Through his mother’s perseverance to obtain sufficient funds, Alieu was fortunate to be able to graduate fromMasroor Senior Secondary School in 2009. He obtained a scholarship to attend the University of The Gambia, where he graduated with a degree in Economics in 2013. While at university, Mr. Jallow served as a moderator and host of the Climate Talk Show (2011-12) on which students and other guests discussed environmental sustainability.

    In 2012, Mr. Jallow founded the Young Entrepreneurs Association to improve young Gambians’ entrepreneurial capacities and move them from being job seekers to job providers. From October 2012 to September 2013 he interned at the American Corner Banjul, a United States Department of State-sponsored initiative that supports a library in Gambia’s capital city with books, internet access, educational films and programming. Mr. Jallow has also volunteered at Global Unification the Gambia, a youth-led research and development program that addresses issues of poverty, access to healthcare, climate change, and peace.

    In 2015, Mr. Jallow was selected as one of 500 outstanding young Africans to be hosted for six weeks in the USA as a Mandela Washington Fellow. Mr. Jallow, along with 24 impressive other young African leaders, was based at Northwestern University in the US Midwest for the duration of his stay. The elite program, which has less than a two percent acceptance rate, included five others from the Gambia and they were hosted by the following US institutions: Momodou Inkeh Bah (Virginia Commonwealth University), Manyima Bojang (University of California—Berkeley), Alieu Jaiteh and Harriet Kamara(Arizona State University), and Lang Loum (University of Texas—Austin).

    The Fellows program is part of US President Obama’s Young African Leadership Initiative (YALI). Mr. Jallow found the experience to be life changing. Meeting leaders in the Chicago area reminded him of the importance of diligence, self-discipline, a strong work ethic, humility, listening, and service to others when it comes to effective leadership. Also of importance: being true to oneself and one’s values, not letting material wealth get to one’s head, and how by giving back we benefit by having a purpose, a mission, and a dream.

    Mr. Jallow is currently Project Manager at Startup Incubator Gambia which seeks to support the next generation of entrepreneurs in the Gambia and serves as Project Manager at the American Chamber of Commerce, Gambia. His end goal is to help build the next generation of entrepreneurs in the Gambia. Mr. Jallow’s current volunteer activities include serving as the Coordinator for Generation Change Gambia as well as putting in hours at the American Corner and the Partnership in Employment.

    Based on the literature on international development and personal success, why has Alieu Jallow been so successful in his undertakings?

    Some key characteristics come to mind:

    When confronted with obstacles and challenges Mr. Jallow demonstrated PERSISTENCE and DETERMINATION. Through the Mandela Washington Fellows program Mr. Jallow came to understand the importance of LEARNING FROM OUR MISFORTUNES and OUR MISTAKES—after all, the people of Chicago didn’t give up after the fire of 1871 destroyed their city, instead they rallied to rebuild it and make it an important place on the world stage.

    The lesson of learning from our mistakes is a great one for someone who is working with young entrepreneurs and helping them to gain access to finances and business support services. Startups are likely to experience failures and it will be important for their founders not to give up. For Mr. Jallow, if something does not work the first time, he tries again; “impossible is not an option.”


    Heidi G. Frontani is a Professor of Geography  at Elon University in North Carolina in the USA and former Fulbright Scholar in Kenya. This story originally appeared on her blog on August 15, 2015. To read more of her stories, follow her blog: https://africandevelopmentsuccesses.wordpress.com/