President Obama enjoyed an enthusiastic greeting from 1,000 young African leaders as he highlighted the growing partnership between African nations and the United States that is exemplified by the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) program.
“Today’s Africa is a place of unprecedented prosperity and opportunity,” he said August 3 in Washington. “Over the past seven and a half years, I’ve worked to transform America’s relationship with Africa so that we are equal partners.”
More than 40,000 people aged 25–35 applied for YALI’s 2016 Mandela Washington Fellowship, named for the late South African leader Nelson Mandela. The 1,000 people selected spent six weeks studying at U.S. universities before convening in Washington for a three-day summit of seminars and networking events that culminated in a town hall meeting with the president.
“What we wanted to do through YALI is to connect you with each other and to resources and to networks that can help you become the leaders in business and government and civil society of tomorrow,” Obama told them. “The talent that all of you represent is going to be the future of your countries.”
Started in 2014, the fellowship is YALI’s flagship program. YALI also includes the YALI Network and the YALI Regional Leadership Centers. Through the 250,000-member YALI Network, Obama said, young Africans have “a network of peers and mentors across Africa and across the globe” and access to free online courses in topics ranging from climate change to entrepreneurship to human rights.
“You’re part of a huge and growing network of the next generation of leaders around the world. And while I’m going to leave it up to historians to decide my overall legacy, one of the things that I’m really proud of is my partnership with young people like you, because all of you inspire me,” the president said.