Connecting the new generation of African leaders with CloudSmiths and the African Leadership Academy

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African Leadership Academy (ALA) is an educational institution that seeks to create peace and prosperity on the African continent by identifying, developing, and connecting a new generation of young leaders. The Academy was founded on the belief that a new generation of ethical, committed leaders working together is the key to Africa’s transformation. ALA’s campus is in Johannesburg, South Africa, and welcomes approximately 130 students per year from across the continent.

The two-year academic programme focuses on entrepreneurial leadership, and students admitted to the Academy also complete their Cambridge A-level certifications. In their final year at the Academy, students are assisted with placement into universities worldwide and by the age of twenty-five they are required to return to Africa for ten years to contribute to the continent’s social and economic transformation. The Network of ALA alumni is organised into six social impact networks which focus on Africa’s greatest challenges and opportunities: health, education, infrastructure, governance, agribusiness and the arts. ALA Alumni from all over the continent work together in these six sectors with the intention of creating lasting peace and shared prosperity for all.

The Challenge

ALA was launched in 2008 and since then, says Ansi Harford (Special Projects Manager, Networks and Institutional Learning Team, ALA), it was clear that one of the most important aspects of the mission was to be able to connect ALA Alumni to jobs and internships on the African continent. The working hypothesis was that the more touchpoints ALA Alumni had with Africa while they were abroad at university, the more they would remain connected to the continent, increasing the likelihood of returning after their university studies were completed.

“Back in 2012, we founded what is now called Africa Careers Network (ACN). It’s a portal that connects African Leadership Academy alumni and MasterCard Foundation scholars to internships and jobs on the African continent. The first version of that was an excel spreadsheet and a number of emails,” says Harford.

Salesforce was first integrated with ALA’s Africa Careers Network website in 2015 and ALA had been using the second version of the integration before the most recent update. That version had become outdated, and as the organisation and its goals developed, so did their requirements for a new Salesforce solution. The job and internship application process is a complex one, with a high number of variables that require precision in every detail.  An improved portal for both external applicants and internal coordinators required every aspect of the system to be working efficiently, providing a flawless user experience and to allow for the organisation’s sector strategy to be built out over the coming years.

“The CloudSmiths team added tremendous value through their ability to understand what we were trying to achieve, and then come up with the most effective and optimal solution.”

Ansi Hardford, Special Projects Manager, Networks and Institutional Learning Team, African Leadership Academy

Collaboration with CloudSmiths

To successfully carry out the improvements on their existing Salesforce customisation, ALA was looking for a partner that could understand their needs and requirements, as well as the importance of an excellent user experience.

Harford explains, “We needed a partner who could appreciate the importance of maintaining our brand and credibility and understand that it was critical to get this right. We were looking for a partner that had the technical know-how to deliver a product that was fairly complex, whilst being one hundred percent reliable and providing an exceptional user experience.”

They found that CloudSmiths were extremely engaging from the outset and demonstrated a strong understanding of the business, which made them the ideal team for the project.

The Solution

CloudSmiths utilised Salesforce’s Experience Cloud solution, to develop ACN’s custom online portal with significantly improved user experience and superior back-end processing. An entirely new interface was created and integrated with Salesforce while all applications continued to run live.

The support from CloudSmiths proved critical during the migration process, as there could be no downtime, glitches or loss of data. Key success factors were put in place from the start of the project in November 2020 – clarity of deliverables, daily feedback and consistent testing – which led to fast and successful deployment of the solution in January 2021.

Exceeding Expectations

For ALA, it was vital that the new portal was a success. One of the measurement tools the organisation relies on is their NPS (net promoter score) among their students and alumni. Under the previous portal, the NPS score suffered significantly. The new ACN portal was launched with a compelling marketing campaign and subsequent surveys produced tangible results:

  • 66.3% of MasterCard Foundation Scholars and 59.6% of ALA Alumni reported that they could easily follow the progress of their applications
  • 83.2% of MasterCard Foundation Scholars and 79.4% of ALA Alumni feel that they can find opportunities that are relevant to them
  • 82.7% of MasterCard Foundation Scholars and 83.0% of ALA Alumni like the look and feel of the new portal
  • 87% of MasterCard Foundation Scholars and 85.1% of ALA Alumni agree that the new portal is intuitive and easy to navigate
  • 45.8% of respondents visit the new portal more often than the old portal
  • Portal logins between January 2021 and March 2021 had quadrupled from the same period in the previous year.

“This will allow young, talented Africans to be more competitive for the internship and job opportunities on our portal. It’s a very exciting component of the work that we did with CloudSmiths.”

Ansi Hardford

The Result

ALA boasts a wide range of internship partners and opportunities, adding value to those organisations through the connection with exceptional young people on a pan-African network. It’s a win-win situation that has been expedited by this exceptional upgrade to the application process.

In CloudSmiths – Salesforce’s largest partner in Africa – African Leadership Academy found a dedicated team that was willing to stay the course, efficiently delivering the solutions they needed.  Going one step further, the CloudSmiths team assisted in increasing the quality of application documents by developing a tool that helps applicants to build professional CVs and cover letters. Harford says, “This will allow young, talented Africans to be more competitive for the internship and job opportunities on our portal. It’s a very exciting component of the work that we did with CloudSmiths. I’m curious to see the improvement in the internship and job application success rates in the next six to twelve months. CloudSmiths carried out this project to an exceptionally high standard.”

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