YALI & Africa




The Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) is a signature effort to invest in the next generation of African leaders. Nearly 1 in 3 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.


The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders brings 500 dynamic young African leaders, ages 25-35, from across the continent to the United States for 6 weeks of leadership training and mentoring at twenty U.S. universities and colleges in three areas: business and entrepreneurship, civic engagement and public administration. In 2014, the Fellows were also hosted in Washington, D.C. for a three-day Presidential Summit featuring a Town Hall with President Obama. Following their in-depth academic coursework and leadership training, some Fellows remained in the United States to participate in eight-week professional internships with American NGOs, private companies, and governmental offices. Selected from nearly 50,000 applications, participants in the 2014 Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders represent the extraordinary promise of an emerging generation of entrepreneurs, activists, and public officials. Upon returning to their home countries, the Fellows have access to professional development opportunities, mentoring, networking and training, and seed funding to support their ideas, businesses, and organizations.

UT Fellows at Tower

UT Fellows at Tower


Through YALI, the United States has invested significant resources to enhance leadership skills, promote entrepreneurship and connect young African leaders with one another and with Americans. Since 2010, the U.S. Department of State has held 15 exchange programs specifically for young African leaders and sponsored more than 1,600 sub-Saharan students and scholars through its educational and cultural affairs programs. U.S. embassies have awarded 80 small grants totaling 1,250,000 to YALI alumni groups supporting youth development in Africa. Other U.S. Department of State–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 business and development needs.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (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 Leadership Centers to enhance leadership and training opportunities in Africa and better leverage over $200 million in ongoing youth programs and initiatives on the continent, such as university partnerships and vocational training. USAID is actively seeking private-sector partners and welcomes and encourages the participation of a wide range of other organizations in support of this effort. Learn More (PDF, 209KB).

Other departments and agencies have reoriented their programs and strategies to contribute to the goal of providing opportunities for youth in Africa. The U.S. 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 startups.

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.


The YALI Network provides you email updates and opportunities to collaborate with young leaders across Africa.

Learn more about the Mandela Washington Fellowship and YALI Network