Sub-Saharan Africa is on the move. It is one of the world’s fastest-growing regions, is home to a middle class projected to grow to over one billion, has the world’s most youthful population, and is more connected by technology and smartphones than ever before.
A key to continued growth and prosperity in the region is to support and empower a new generation of leaders. That’s why the United States launched the Young African Leaders Initiative, or YALI, six years ago. The goal is to connect future leaders with each other, with the United States, and to resources and to networks that can help them flourish as leaders in business, government, and civil society.
In a recent speech at a YALI town hall meeting for the Mandela Washington Fellows President Barack Obama announced a new executive order to support American companies interested in doing business in Africa. This fall, the U.S. will host the second U.S.-Africa Business Forum on trade and investment. In addition, the U.S. will continue advancing the Power Africa initiative to bring cleaner electricity to more than 60 million African homes and businesses.
Under YALI, the Mandela Washington Fellows Program has already brought 2,000 outstanding young Africans to the United States to participate in six week leadership institutes and a Presidential Summit. Across Africa more than 250,000 people have joined the YALI network, through which they gain access to online courses and a network of peers and mentors.
Thousands of young people have been trained in leadership, entrepreneurship, and networking at four Regional Leadership Centers located in Dakar, Accra, Nairobi, and Pretoria.
A current Mandela Washington Fellow is human rights activist and lawyer Geline Fuko of Tanzania. She developed Tanzania’s first database of constitutional resources, connecting her government to more Tanzanians so they could understand the law, their rights, and their responsibilities.
The United States believes in the potential of individuals like Ms. Fuko and thousands more like her not only in Africa but in Southeast Asia, the Americas, and Europe. As President Obama said, “You should know that you’ll always have a partner and friend in the United States of America.”