From Global Shaper To Young Global Leader

Today, the Forum of Young Global Leaders from the World Economic Forum announced the Class of 2023, which includes myself, in recognition of my exceptional leadership in the legal profession and commitment to promoting good governance and economic growth in Ghana and beyond. This year’s class consists of almost 100 young leaders from 45 countries, hailing from various backgrounds including business, government, academia, and civil society. You can find more information by clicking here.

The Young Global Leaders (YGL) is a community of individuals under the age of 40 recognized by the World Economic Forum for their outstanding leadership, professional accomplishments, and commitment to society, with potential to contribute to shaping the future of the world through inspiring leadership. The YGL program aims to develop and connect the next generation of leaders, empowering them to create a more sustainable, equitable, and inclusive world.

There is a remarkable story behind my selection as part of this year’s class, which I will save for another time. However, I will say that we must always allow God to be God and stop trying to do things for Him. Sometimes when opportunities pass us by, it is not because we are unqualified or unworthy, but rather because God might be preparing us for an even better opportunity. Therefore, we should always thank God and look out for His will in our lives.

I distinctly remember how I became involved with the World Economic Forum. About a decade ago, my friend Fred Deegbe Jnr, of Heel The World, invited me to dinner at African Regent Hotel. There, he introduced me to a beautiful young woman who was his friend. Little did I know that this would be an interview to see if I was a good fit for the newly created Accra Hub of the Global Shapers Community. We chatted for a while, and I shared my views strongly, on how everyone should make an impact in their society or wherever they find themselves. The young woman eventually left, and Fred and I chatted a bit before saying our goodbyes. The following day, Fred informed me that I had been selected as a Global Shaper and would be part of the Accra Hub. He told me more about the Global Shapers and congratulated me. Apparently, the meeting had gone well, and the young woman was essentially interviewing me.

When I eventually found out who the other young Shapers in my cohort were, I honestly felt inadequate. These were people who were shining in their various fields, with businesses, entrepreneurs, innovators, disruptors, and more. I gathered all the courage I could and tried to fit in. At one point, I even complained to Fred, saying that I did not think I fit in because everyone else was “serious” and going places, whereas I was just a lawyer. However, Fred disagreed with me and encouraged me, stating that my expertise was needed in the group. He advised me to relax and play my part, and that is what I did.

In 2015, 80 Global Shapers from different Hubs were selected to represent the Global Shapers Community at the Africa Meeting of the World Economic Forum in Cape Town, South Africa, and I was among them. That was when I began to understand Fred’s advice. I made great friends at the meeting, some of whom I still keep in touch with today. After we returned to our respective countries, we collaborated on co-authoring a book titled “The Africa 80: Transformation Through Collaboration,” which was foreworded by Ashish Thakkar. My chapter in the book can be found on pages 138 to 141. We also established an Africa 80 Foundation to provide young Africans with a platform for their voices to be heard. My good friend and fellow Global Shaper from the Soweto Hub in South Africa, Cindy Pearl Maphumulo still carries that torch and I serve on the Advisory Board of the Foundation.

I actively participated in the Accra Hub, and later, when Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo was elected President, he appointed me to serve as his Legal Counsel, a position I still hold to date. During this time, I maintained my engagement with the World Economic Forum and even accompanied the President to Davos in January 2020.

Therefore, being recognized as a Young Global Leader is a significant honor for me. Noting the exciting experience I had as a Global Shaper, I am really looking forward to collaborating with my fellow YGLs to create a more prosperous and equitable future for everyone.

Written by Kow Abaka Essuman, #YGL2023 #WEF

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