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Zimbabweans Set for President Obama's Youth Initiative Program

US Ambassador to Zimbabwe Bruce Wharton.
Thirty young Zimbabweans are set to visit the United States to participate in President Barack Obama’s 2014 Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) in June.

The U.S. Embassy in Harare announced the names of the 2014 fellows Thursday, setting the stage for an exciting six weeks for the outstanding young leaders.

The young Zimbabweans will be part of a group of 500 young African leaders who arrive in the U.S. next month for leadership and mentorship training.

The fellows were drawn from different professional backgrounds, including business, media, technology, law, education, civil society, health, arts and environment.

They will spend six weeks studying business, civic leadership and entrepreneurship at different institutions of higher learning in the United States.

Five of the participants will remain in the U.S. to participate in internship programs for eight more weeks.

The embassy says it received over 1,500 applicants, adding the 30 were exceptional young leaders who will be expected to do more for their country in the future.

United States Ambassador to Zimbabwe Bruce Wharton congratulated the Zimbabwean YALI representatives at a ceremony held in Harare Thursday.

"I share President Obama's vision for the Washington Fellowship and believe that your commitment, courage and 'Yes, We Can' attitude will lead sub-Saharan Africa into a new age of prosperity as it take its place on the world stage," said Wharton.

"Our only regret is that because of space constraints, we were not able to send all of the qualified worthy candidates who applied this year, but this is only the first year of this important initiative for our government in Africa."

James Msipa, one of the 2014 fellows, says he intends to use his time in the United States learning more about his trade and how to expand his micro lending business.

Msipa says he is already working with vulnerable groups in rural areas where he is helping new small scale farmers to grow cassava.

He says the youth should take advantage of their family structures to set up businesses they are passionate about instead of waiting for traditional funding sources like banks to assist them.

"Despite the difficult economic conditions, the youth should reach out to their family structures to pitch their projects and start small projects they are passionate about,” said Msipa. “And once these businesses are well run, it is then easier for traditional lenders to buy into them."

The 30 arrive in the United States on June 14. They are also expected to be part of a three-day summit that will be hosted by President Obama.

President Obama launched YALI in 2010 and a number of Zimbabweans have taken part in the initiative. But this year's group is the largest so far. The program supports Young African leaders in their quest to spur growth and promote democracy on the African continent.

"Through YALI, the United States is investing in the next generation of African leaders, and has committed significant resources to enhance leadership skills, bolster entrepreneurship and connect young African leaders with one another and with United States and the American people," read a statement from the Embassy Thursday.

Msipa says he will take up internships at some blue chip American companies before returning to Zimbabwe to put into practice what he would have learnt.
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