US to set up leadership centres in Africa

29 July 2014

The United States is to set up centres to train Africa’s next generation of political and economic leaders – starting next year with centres in Senegal, Ghana, South Africa and Kenya – as it moves to expand US President Barack Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative.

Obama made this announcement in Washington on Monday during a meeting with a group of 500 young Africans who were chosen from nearly 50 000 applicants from across the continent to participate in the Washington Fellowship exchange programme, part of the Young African Leaders Initiative.

He also announced that the exchange programme – which gives Africans aged 25 to 35 the opportunity to study at the top 20 universities in the US – was being renamed the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, in honour of the former South African president.

According to news agency Bloomberg, the US Agency for International Development would be providing $38-million to set up the first four leadership centres. Obama said that US universities, African institutions and business partners like Microsoft and MasterCard Foundation would also be partnering on setting up and running the centres.

“Starting next year, young Africans can come to these centres to network, access the latest technology, and get training in management and entrepreneurship,” Obama said. “The first centers will be located in Senegal, Ghana, South Africa and Kenya – and will provide tens of thousands of young Africans the resources they need to put their ideas into action.”

According to the White House, the Young African Leaders Initiative was launched by Obama in 2010 “as part of a long-term investment in the next generation of African leaders. It aims to sharpen their skills, to improve their networks, and to strengthen partnerships between the United States and Africa for years to come”.

Obama told his audience on Monday that “even as we acknowledge the real hardships that so many Africans face every day, we have to make sure that we’re all seizing the extraordinary potential of today’s Africa, the youngest and fastest-growing continent.”

The Young African Leaders Initiative, he said, “is about capitalizing on the creativity and talent of Africa’s young leaders by empowering them with the skills, training, and technology necessary to make lasting change and meaningful progress back home.”

Next week, Obamba will be hosting the first US-Africa Leaders Summit, representing the largest gathering that any American president has hosted with African heads of state and government.

SAinfo reporter