Jacobus du Toit McLachlan worked as a high school tutor while completing his Bachelor of Arts degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics at the University of Pretoria (UP). In 2020, while completing his Honour’s in International Relations at UP, Du Toit enrolled in the Auwal Socio-economic Research Institute’s (ASRI) Future Leaders Programme. As part of the programme, he joined the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) in February 2021 as an extern. Following a successful externship, he was offered a consultancy position in the African Futures and Innovation Programme at the ISS, a position he still holds.

The ASRI Future Leaders Programme was a challenging yet fulfilling experience, which opened my eyes and mind in numerous ways. Although I had completed an undergraduate degree by the time I joined the programme, I quickly realised how little I truly knew. The programme exposed me to prominent South African intellectuals who shared their experiences and knowledge on a wide range of topics, ranging from economic theory and contemporary economic policy to South African history and political philosophy. Furthermore, the discussions and debates we as fellows had surrounding these topics, provided me with alternative perspectives I had, up until then, never considered. Participating in these discussions, together with team-work exercises and public speaking opportunities, facilitated my personal growth as I learnt how to confidently voice my opinion and present in front of people more effectively, albeit online.

Although I cannot say I have become close friends with any of the fellows, the constant interaction engendered by the programme created a strong feeling of belonging and team spirit among the entire group. This bond enables me to call upon a network of individuals who are extremely talented and hardworking, and share an optimistic vision for the future of South Africa. Thus, should I need support, advice or specific expertise in the future, I know who to turn to. In addition to this valuable network of people I can easily call my friends, the programme has opened up doors for me professionally that I would not have imagined possible. Most importantly however, the learning and growth I experienced over the course of the programme compels me to continuously work towards a more equal and just future, regardless of the role or occupation I find myself in.