The Obama Administration’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) is a signature effort to invest in the next generation of African leaders. Nearly one in three Africans are between the ages of 10 and 24, and approximately 60 percent of Africa’s total population is below the age of 35. President Obama launched YALI in 2010 to support young African leaders as they spur growth and prosperity, strengthen democratic governance, and enhance peace and security across Africa.
Committing Resources to Developing Young Talent
Through YALI, the United States has invested significant resources to enhance leadership skills, spur entrepreneurship, and connect young African leaders with one another and with Americans. Since 2010, the State Department has held fifteen exchanges specifically for young African leaders and sponsored 1,283 sub-Saharan scholars through its educational and cultural affairs programs. U.S. Embassies have awarded small grants totaling $750,000 to YALI alumni groups supporting youth development in Africa. Other State Department-led efforts, such as LIONS @FRICA and Apps4Africa, have focused on building an entrepreneurial ecosystem to encourage broad-based economic growth and opportunity for young entrepreneurs – partnering with the private sector to run startup competitions, grow incubators, and develop innovative new products to address local and business and development needs.
USAID has worked with local governments and institutions to strengthen access to education, workforce training, and skills development to help young Africans have the skills needed to enter the labor force. Since YALI’s inception, USAID has invested more than $100 million in over 76 partnerships with African universities to help train a new generation of African leaders in health, agriculture, education, environmental science, technology, and other sectors. Currently USAID’s Higher Education Solutions Network—a $25 million per year program—partners with African and U.S. higher education institutions, using science, technology and engineering to educate future leaders and research solutions for the greatest challenges in development. To further expand YALI, USAID will establish regional hubs to enhance leadership and training opportunities in Africa and better leverage over $200 million in ongoing youth programs and initiatives, such as university partnerships and vocational training, on the continent.
Other Departments and Agencies have reoriented their programs and strategies to contribute to the goal of empowering and providing opportunities for youth in Africa. The Department of Labor, for example, is investing in efforts to promote safe youth employment and business opportunities as alternatives to child labor, including a new $3 million program in Uganda to educate and train youth for quality jobs. The U.S. African Development Foundation is investing $5 million in training and placing thousands of Somali youth in paid internships and jobs, in addition to supporting small business start-ups.
YALI participants have leveraged this support and gone on to start youth-driven organizations and networks, advise their governments, and establish new and vibrant businesses – all showcasing the extraordinary talent and promise of the young leaders who are transforming the African continent and their communities.
Hear from YALI Alumni
Adon Hermann Madi, Co-founder and CEO of National Express Cleaning in the Republic of Congo, discusses how entrepreneurship helps to create a better world.
Precious Zimba is founder and programs director at the Girls Development Initiative. She is also the retail operations manager of the Spar grocery store chain in Zimbabwe’s western division.