YALI celebrates 10 years, honors outstanding alumni

People showing their arms in group photo (Courtesy of Koumtebaye Elysée)
YALI alumni of Chad pose for a group photo after donating blood in N’Djamena, Chad. (Courtesy of Koumtebaye Elysée)

The Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) is going strong after 10 years and has the numbers to prove it.

The U.S. government’s initiative to prepare the next generation of sub-Saharan African leaders has grown exponentially, from 115 young leaders at its inception to more than 24,000 alumni of the Mandela Washington Fellowship exchange program and four Regional Leadership Centers in sub-Saharan Africa.

Meanwhile, the digital YALI Network has more than 700,000 members.

Launched under President Obama in 2010, YALI prepares young, potential African leaders through programs that boost democratic institutions and good governance, encourage economic growth and prosperity, and foster peace and security in Africa.

In honor of YALI’s anniversary, the State Department and the Wilson Center organized a competition to honor outstanding YALI alumni and their achievements. Called “YALI at 10: My Life, My Community, and My World,” more than 200 applicants submitted short essays, videos, poems, songs, spoken word presentations and sketches.

Get to know the 15 winners announced May 28 on the final day of the YALI 10 Summit.

Folahanmi Aina of Nigeria is the founder and president of the Triola Aina Foundation, which empowers youth, especially in rural communities. An Oxford University graduate and 2016 Mandela Washington Fellow, Aina was a 2019 speaker and Next Generation Delegate at the Global Food Security Symposium.

Manka’ah Che of Cameroon founded the Nutrition and Sustainable Development Association, which has trained more than 60 women in mushroom farming. The 2019 Mandela Washington Fellow also treats malnutrition and offers psychosocial support to people in crisis. Her nutrition education food demonstration series has reached more than 1,000 people.

Koumtebaye Elysée of Chad is a senior manager at the Department of Pharmacy, Medicines and Laboratories of Chad. A 2016 Mandela Washington Fellow, he’s an active member of the YALI Chad Network. In honor of Mandela Day and with the help of Chad’s YALI alumni, Elysée organized an annual blood donation campaign in N’Djamena to promote humanitarianism.

Isaac Fenyi of Ghana is a co-founder of Youth Steer Foundation, which empowers and educates youth through activities that raise entrepreneurs and exceptional change leaders. As a graduate of the YALI Regional Leadership Center West Africa, Accra, he’s also a sustainability director of Ghana’s YALI Alumni Chapter and project coordinator for YALILearns’ Train Ghana.

Woman smiling (Courtesy of Ineza Umuhoza Grace)
Ineza Umuhoza Grace. (Courtesy of Ineza Umuhoza Grace)

Ineza Umuhoza Grace of Rwanda founded The Green Fighter, a youth-led organization that boosts Rwanda’s sustainable development by safeguarding the environment. The 2019 Mandela Washington Fellow also serves as global coordinator for the Loss and Damage Youth Coalition, which rallies young people to fight the harmful effects of climate change.

Sunnie Antonio Marcar Jr. of Liberia credits a YALILearns event with helping him found Leading Youths to Foster Transformation in Africa. Through the organization, the 2018 Mandela Washington Fellow organizes capacity-building and awareness programs for young Liberians and helps them start school clubs. The organization’s 14 programs have reached 1,403 young people.

Dr. Chidzani Mbenge of Botswana is part of Botswana’s COVID-19 national contact- tracing team. The 2019 Mandela Washington Fellow volunteers as a student mentor and community development advocate.

Susan Mukaabya of Uganda has been an active YALI Network member since 2019. She facilitated YALILearns community dialogue sessions with women’s groups during the YALI GoesGreen for Agribusiness and Africa4Her digital campaigns.

Albert Mwangeka of Kenya says his time as a 2019 YALI Regional Leadership Center alumnus helped him learn how to provide solutions through Design Thinking, a course that teaches participants how to become creative problem solvers.

Hyasintha Ntuyeko of Tanzania is a social entrepreneur and engineer who founded Kasole Secrets. Her company offers affordable, biodegradable menstrual pads and other health services for women and girls. She is a 2015 Mandela Washington Fellow.

Linda Sibanyoni of Zimbabwe, a 2019 Mandela Washington Fellow, works with the Congolese Federation of E-sports and as a social media consultant. She published a book detailing her training experience at the YALI East Africa Regional Leadership Center in Kenya.

People holding bags and posing for photo (Courtesy of Uche Kenneth Udekwe)
Uche Kenneth Udekwe, center, poses for a group photo. (Courtesy of Uche Kenneth Udekwe)

Uche Kenneth Udekwe of Nigeria is the founder and chief executive officer of Natal Cares. Natal Cares uses mobile technology, low-cost innovation and machine learning to fight maternal and infant mortality in Nigeria.

Women posing for group photo (Courtesy of N'zani Zani)
Hijabi Mentorship Program participants pose for a photo. (Courtesy of N’zani Zani)

N’zani Zani of Kenya is the founder and president of The Hijabi Mentorship Program, a community organization that addresses gender inequality and promotes workforce development for underserved local youth. Zani was a 2019 Mandela Washington Fellow.

John Zimba of Zambia is the founder and chief executive officer of the Chiparamba Trust Organization, which promotes youth and women’s empowerment as well as access to quality education for community schools, mostly in Zambia’s rural areas. The organization provides learning materials to pupils and teachers, life-skills training and more. Zimba was a 2018 Mandela Washington Fellow.

Chifwanti Zulu of Zambia is passionate about creative writing. He uses his blog and Twitter account to showcase the importance of free expression. The 2018 YALI Regional Leadership Center alumnus encourages others to write and tell their own stories.