The Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) will continue to exist even after President Obama leaves the White House in January 2017, the U.S. leader assured excited Mandela Washington Fellows. The 500 fellows were meeting in Washington August 3 for the second annual Presidential Summit.
“When I leave office I will continue to create these platforms for young leaders,” he said, noting that he has started similar leadership programs for young Asian and Latin American leaders. He encouraged the fellows and the 140,000 other members of the YALI Network to expand their own networks worldwide. “You can learn from every place,” he said.
Speaking to YALI Network members who tuned into his speech via livestream and Twitter, he said, “I’m proud of you all. And I’m proud of the progress we’ve made.”
Obama also confirmed that in 2016 the Mandela Washington Fellowship will double in size to include 1,000 young African leaders.
The president, who the fellows greeted by singing “Happy Birthday,” said that YALI will expand next year to include an opportunity for 80 young American leaders to travel to and learn from Africa. The expansion reflects a wish that Mandela Washington Fellow and YALI Network member Fatou Ba Ndiour of Senegal posed to him in a letter: that the program also send young Americans to Africa “Not to help poor communities as they usually do. But to learn from other societies,” she explained.
The president also talked about the more than 30 YALI Network Online Courses on topics such as public speaking and how to write a business plan. He added that YALI Network members now have access to three new online Mandela Washington Fellowship Institute Courses “so that all members of the YALI Network can access some of the great ideas [the Fellows] have been sharing.”
In addition to these online resources, Obama also announced the opening of the YALI Regional Leadership Center in Accra. That center and one in Nairobi will be joined later this year by centers in Dakar and Pretoria. Already, the U.S. Department of State has committed to opening eight YALI American Spaces.