Young African Leaders Initiative Summit ends in Washington
A three-day gathering of the Mandela-Washington fellows of the Youth African Leaders Initiative or YALI, an initiative launched five years ago by President Obama, ended Wednesday in Washington after bringing together 500 young leaders from Sub-Saharan Africa. YALI aims at supporting emerging African leaders as they “drive economic growth, enhance democratic governance, and strengthen the civil society structures that will help the continent grow and prosper,” in the words of the White House.
Only a few days after returning from his week-long trip to Africa during which he visited Kenya and Ethiopia, President Obama addressed the gathering in person, touching on the familiar theme of Africa’s need to build on the progress achieved over the past several years. “The continent has archived historic gains in health from fighting HIV/AIDS to making childbirth safer for women and babies. Millions have been lifted from extreme poverty. So this is extraordinary progress,” the president stated, adding: “Young people like you are driving so much of this progress, because Africa is the youngest continent.”
This year, the initiative connected the young leaders to 20 U.S. universities where they spent six weeks expanding their skills in an array of fields.
As a testament to the “two-way street” nature of the initiative, the president announced that 80 Americans will travel to Africa next year to work with Mandela-Washington Fellow alumni and other young Africans. Also, the number of African participants who will travel to the United States is expected to double in 2016.
Casting a look in the future, President Obama told the young audience:
“Our hope is that 10, 15, 20 years from now, when you have all gone on to be ministers in government or leaders in business or pioneers of social change, that you will still be connecting with each other, that you will still be learning from each other and that, together, you will be reaching back and helping the next generation.”