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Obama Tells Young African Leaders to Build Their Nations

  • Tatenda Gumbo

President Barack Obama addressing Mandela Washington fellows in Washington DC.

President Barack Obama addressing Mandela Washington fellows in Washington DC.

United States president Barack Obama gave his last address as a sitting president at the Mandela Washington Fellowship Presidential Summit townhall Wednesday urging the fellows to expand their potential and work to build their respective nations.

The nearly 1,000 fellows were elated when Mr. Obama entered the ballroom at the Omni Shoreham Hotel and broke into a birthday song for the president who turns 55 on Thursday.

His address covered varying topics from his tenure in the White House to several issues. Mr. Obama called for responsible political leadership on the African continent.

He blasted leaders, without mentioning any names, who hang onto power and urged the fellows to rebuild the narrative of their nations.

"We know the history of Africa but now the question is, what's the new history we're going to write?," asked Mr. Obama.

As this is his last year in office, Mr. Obama, who created the program in 2010 under the banner 'Young African Leaders Initiative,' said he hopes the fellowship would continue after the end of his presidential term.

"Even after I'm president, this will be a program I'll continue to participate in and something I'm very proud of," said President Obama.

The program started with less than 25 fellows and after the change of its name to Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, in honor of Nelson Mandela, some 2,000 young Africans have come to the US under program, which seeks the empowerment of young people.