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Obama to Increase YALI Fellows to 1,000

  • Tatenda Gumbo

United States President, Barack Obama, on Monday met with 500 fellows from the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders at a summit in Washington DC at the end of their six-week experience in the country.

Mr. Obama said next year he will increase the number of fellows from 500 to 1,000.

The young leaders from 17 African countries broke into a Happy Birthday song as President Obama, who celebrates his birthday Tuesday, arrived for the Summit.

Mandela Washington Fellow Grace Jerry from Nigeria was given the honors to introduce the president. Jerry, who lives with disabilities following an accident some 13 years ago, praised Mr. Obama for the YALI program saying it empowered and inspired young African leaders.

President Obama said the Mandela Washington Fellowship is making an impact as it received over 30,000 applications. He said next year the program would be expanded to over 1,000 fellows to ensure more young Africans gain leadership training in America.

Mr. Obama also said the YALI program would also be extended next year to include 80 young Americans who will be sent to Africa to learn about the continent as their African colleagues will be coming to the United States for a similar experience.

In an effort to promote young entrepreneurs in Africa, Mr. Obama said the U.S. has secured one billion dollars to support entrepreneurial projects and efforts throughout Africa with a YALI office being opened Monday in Kenya. Other offices will be opened in South Africa and Senegal.

Mr. Obama took questions from the young leaders and addressed various issues, including climate change, the quest by Africa for a seat on the United Nations Security Council, the protection of albinos in Africa, entrepreneurship, the growing terrorist concern of Boko Haram on the continent and related issues.

One of the fellows from Zimbabwe, Promise Muleya, says he has learnt a lot in the past six weeks and will go back home a different person.

The Mandela Washington Fellowship is the flagship program of YALI, President Obama’s signature initiative launched in 2010 to deepen the United States' engagement with the youth of Africa.

YALI supports young African leaders as they work to spur growth and prosperity, strengthen democratic governance, and enhance peace and security across the continent.