Fast-Tracking Leaders: A Critical Ethnographic Study of Youth Leadership Development in Africa
Krystal Strong

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship

Award Year



Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

Primary Discipline

Over the past decade, hundreds of educational initiatives have been established globally with the explicit mission of grooming a new generation of African leaders through leadership-focused schools, degree programs, scholarships, training institutes, and online learning communities. Yet, no significant research has examined this multibillion-dollar educational industry beyond the analysis of individual programs or national initiatives. This ethnographic study examines African youth leadership development transnationally, with a focus on organizational structures, pedagogical approaches, and participant experiences. Using interviews, surveys, ethnographic observation and fieldwork, and digital mapping, I investigate: (1) the global landscape of African youth leadership development; (2) how programs define their purpose and pedagogy; (3) youth experiences; and (4) how the broader group of participants negotiate leadership development in practice. Critically, this study asks whether ?fast-tracking? a select group of youth into leadership may further marginalize less-resourced youth or create a new class of elites, as has occurred with other forms of educational tracking and prior eras of educational development in Africa. The findings will offer insight into the social impact of the pivot in international educational policy toward ?positive youth development? as a catalyst for change in Africa and other parts of the world.
About Krystal Strong
Krystal Strong is Assistant Professor of Black Studies in Education at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. Dr. Strong holds a PhD in Anthropology from University of California, Berkeley and her research uses ethnographic, participatory, and multimodal methods to investigate youth and community activism, global Black social movements, and the role of education as a site of struggle in the African Diaspora. Her first book, Apprentices to Power: Students and the Anti-Radicalism of Leadership in Nigeria After Democracy is an ethnography of post-military university student politics and the trappings of leadership after Nigeria?s transition to democracy. Her more recent research projects investigate school protest and youth leadership development in Africa, and collaboratively document community-led organizing work around educational justice and Black communities in Philadelphia, her hometown. Dr. Strong has shared here research on African youth as expert testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs. She is a recipient of the Concha Delgado GaĆ­tan Early Career Presidential Fellowship of the American Anthropological Association Council on Anthropology and Education and the Ernest D. Morrell Emerging Scholars Award of the Comparative and International Education Society African Diaspora SIG, in addition to fellowships from the Fulbright Program, Ford Foundation, and the Mellon Foundation. Dr. Strong is an active community organizer and her work as a core organizer with Black Lives Matter Philadelphia centers abolition, educational justice, and Pan-African social movement-building. She brings this commitment to social justice and the lessons of grassroots activism to bear on her scholarship and pedagogy.

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