To the rousing applause of young African leaders meeting in Washington, President Obama announced July 28 that the Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders has been renamed to honor the late South African leader Nelson Mandela.
“This program reflects Madiba’s optimism, his idealism, his belief in what he called the endless heroism of youth,” Obama told the fellows on the first day of their three-day summit. He said the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders program has been so successful that it will double in size to 1,000 fellows in 2016.
Obama launched the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) in 2010 to support an emerging generation of African leaders as they work to drive economic growth, enhance democratic governance and strengthen civil society. During his 2013 trip to Africa, Obama announced the creation of this fellowship, which connects young African leaders to leadership training opportunities at some of America’s top universities.
Obama praised those attending the summit as well as YALI Network members taking part through social media. He said the United States aims to partner with tens of thousands of young people “across the continent, empowering them with the skills and training and technology they need to start new businesses, to spark change in their communities, to promote education and health care and good governance.”
“The security and prosperity and justice that we see in the world cannot be achieved without a strong and prosperous and self-reliant Africa,” he said. He called YALI “a long-term investment” in Africa and its youth “and a future we can build together.”
The Washington Fellows Summit serves as the lead-up event to next week’s inaugural U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, the largest gathering any U.S. president has held with African heads of state and government. Obama complimented the fellows for drafting recommendations for African leaders to consider during their summit, calling the recommendations “outstanding pieces of work.”
Obama said that through YALI, the United States is investing in the next generation of African leaders and has committed significant resources to enhance leadership skills, bolster entrepreneurship and connect young African leaders with one another, the United States and the American people. Signature aspects of this expansion include:
— four Regional Leadership Centers in Ghana, Kenya, Senegal and South Africa,
— new virtual resources and vibrant physical spaces for the YALI Network, and
— hundreds of new entrepreneurship grants and mobile incubators.
To the delight of his audience, Obama also said that the annual U.S.-supported Global Entrepreneurship Summit in 2015 will take place in sub-Saharan Africa for the first time.