“Together for a New Africa” Cofounder Hopes Youth-led Initiative Will Yield a University

A section of participants at the ongoing training of tutors of 'Together for a New Africa' initiative of African youth. Credit: ACI Africa

One of the founders of Together for a New Africa (T4NA), a network of former students of Italy-based Sophia University Institute and other young leaders committed to shaping “a new Africa”, is optimistic that the initiative will give birth to an institution of higher learning that will serve African students, allowing them to gain skills that are taught at the institution that is supported by the Focolare Movement.

In a September 29 interview with ACI Africa, Melchior Nsavyimana, who, with another student, birthed the idea to established “a Sophia in Africa”, said that every young person who cares about youth challenges that emanate from poor leadership in African countries needs to have a feel of Sophia University’s culture.

“We hope that in time, we will have a big university on the continent that will be teaching the kind of leadership we experienced at Sophia University. This is our hope, that in the near future, or even in many years to come, we’ll have a university where young people will come from all African countries to learn what is being imparted at T4NA now,” Melchior said.

The Burundian native who pursued his Masters and Doctorate degrees at the Italy-based university spoke to ACI Africa on the sidelines of the ongoing training of T4NA tutors who are embarking on the second phase of the initiative that is impacting thousands of youth on the continent.

In a period of just four years that ended in January last year, T4NA reached over 20,000 young people in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Rwanda, Burundi, and South Sudan, who have been impacted through various local  activities.


In the just started second phase that ends in July 2025, the initiative aims to reach over 21,000 youth, this time in 14 African countries. These are Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, DRC, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Madagascar, Mozambique, Nigeria, Tanzania, Togo and Uganda.

Melchior recalled being one of the 15 students of Sophia University that started mulling over the idea to share the experiences of the university with other young people in Africa. That was in 2014.

“Many students completed their studies and left but I decided to proceed with my doctorate at the university. There was another student, Martin, and the two of us kept discussing the idea to take the experience of Sophia back to our African continent,” Melchior told ACI Africa.

He added, “We asked ourselves what we were going to do with all the knowledge and skills we had acquired at Sophia University, including leadership, how to live together in harmony and we thought it better to come back and support other young people on the continent.”

It was not until 2017 that Melchior put together the list of the people he thought he would need to make the idea a reality, and established clear contacts with partners, the professors and young people including alumni of Sophia University.

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“In January 2018, we had the first training for tutors,” he said, and added, “It wasn’t a very well-structured training though, because our idea was just to present the project to agree on what can be charged and to firm it up. But we hit the ground running anyway, and we had tutors, professors and some of the students that were trained in the initial phase of the program.”

Professors that were brought on board were those who had demonstrated a commitment to leadership, those who were promoting grassroots initiatives, and those who had the interests of the youth at heart. Additionally, one had to demonstrate a willingness to support the initiative on a volunteer basis.

Highlighting the successes of the initiative, Melchior said that some of the 100 trainees that were involved in the pioneer project are now tutors.

Others, he said during the September 29 interview, have gone ahead and formed non-governmental organizations in their various countries. These include initiatives such as T4NA Burundi that has become a vibrant community-based entity.

“The most fulfilling thing for me is getting here with 14 countries from what was just a simple idea. The dream became a reality. It is fulfilling to see how everyone on the program is motivated and committed to do great things on a volunteer basis,” Melchior said.


Some of the “great things” considered at personal level, he said, include co-leadership, co-governance, unity in diversity, how a leader can be convinced from the heart that corruption is evil and avoids it, and how a leader can be the face of his subjects, not just in politics but across the variety of possible fields.

Some of the challenges that Melchior mentioned relate to scarcity of human resources and handling all the 14 countries now engaged in the second phase of the initiative. 

He said, “Tomorrow, we may even be talking about all the 54 countries. We are also concerned about the financial sustainability of the initiative and facilitate the minimum, including travel tickets for our trainees.”

The other challenge is working around minimizing the number of people who are giving up along the way, he said, and explained, “Countries such as Rwanda and South Sudan didn’t have committed tutors and have been told to take a break.”

Sophia University is supported by the Focolare Movement, an entity that promotes the ideals of unity and universal fraternity. And for African youth who have studied at the university, no institution fosters the spirit of Ubuntu in a better manner.

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During the September 29 interview with ACI Africa, Melchior recalled having had a special experience at that university. The university, he said, offered an entirely new approach to education.

“At Sophia University, life and studies go hand in hand. Students from over 30 countries live together in an apartment, and you don’t choose who to stay and eat with,” Melchior said.

He further said, “I studied Political Science yet I was also required to learn some Economics, some Theology, and so on. There is a very good relationship across the various disciplines where you have an idea of everything.”

Professors at Sophia University “don’t stick to any manuals or syllabuses,” he added.

Melchior said that African youth have a lot to learn from the values that the Italy-based university promotes, including instilling a sense of togetherness.

“From my experience at the university, I couldn’t help but wonder why we fight in our African countries when sometimes we are just two tribes. At Sophia, we lived in total harmony yet we came from over 30 countries,” he said.

His sentiments were echoed by Dr. Razava Natacha, a lecturer at the Catholic University of Madagascar who obtained her PhD at Sophia University Institute.

“I always say that Sophia University is a small university with a big vision; the vision of unity in the whole world,” the 31-years-old Malagasy tutor told ACI Africa September 29.

“The culture of unity starts with the culture of interdisciplinary approach to the teaching at Sophia University. Everyone, regardless of their specialization, learns a little bit of something. All disciplines are humble and accept their limits. We also stayed together and contributed our resources, made meals as a community and ate together as a community,” she said.

Dr. Natacha pushed for Madagascar to be included in the T4NA initiative after the country was omitted in the first cycle. She is on the list of youth being trained in Nairobi to later embark on a recruitment process for the next cycle of the program that will be spread out in a period of 36 months ending July 2025.

She said that working with 10 young people she is to recruit for the initiative in Malindi in Kenya, her focus will be to enlighten the youth in Madagascar on what their citizenship in the country entails.

“We’ll be telling young people to believe in their worth as Malagasy people. At the moment, the youth in our country shun politics because of the bad example that has been set by older politicians. It is important that they also make their voices heard in politics,” Dr. Natacha said.

She confirmed media reports that Madagascar is one of the poorest African countries where the youth suffer the most, saying, “This, however, doesn’t mean that we lack people with the skills and the competence required to turn the situation around. The youth have this capacity.”

Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.