About YALI

President Obama speaks at a podiumThe 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

A smiling man in a business suitEntrepreneurship Helps Create a Better World

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.

View his video here.

Head shot of woman, from a video.Empowering Women to “Lay Hold of the Economy”

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.

View her video here.

YALI Through the Years

President’s Forum with Young African Leaders

President Obama speaks to a large group(August 2010) On the 50th anniversary of independence for many African nations, President Obama invited more than 115 young leaders from more than 40 African countries to the White House. Over three days these leaders shared their visions for good governance, economic opportunity and partnership between Africa and the United States.


The First Lady’s Young African Women Leaders Forum

First Lady Michelle Obama poses with a group of young women(June 2011) First Lady Michelle Obama hosted this two-day event in Johannesburg and Soweto, South Africa for over 75 young women leaders. The forum focused on inspiring leadership and women’s empowerment and community service, with the understanding that women are key to unlocking Africa’s development.


The Young African Leaders Innovation Summit and Mentoring Partnership

Hillary Clinton poses with a group of people(June 2012) The U.S. government brought more than 60 participants from over 35 African countries for an Innovation Summit in Washington, D.C. followed by two weeks of hands-on experience in business internships in cities across the United States, which connected U.S. business and civic leaders with these promising African entrepreneurs.