Young African leaders pitch innovative solutions to businesses to shape the future of Africa

Youth gather to collaborate and tackle change in their communities across East Africa

NAIROBI, Kenya, May 23, 2017 /PRNewswire/ — More than 100 young African leaders met in Nairobi, Kenya from May 19 –20 to collaborate for promoting positive change in communities throughout Africa by harnessing youth innovation and leadership.

Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders logo

Young African leaders from 13 countries, including Burundi, the Central African Republic, the Republic of Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda attended the East Africa Regional Conference as part of the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders.

During the conference, Fellows showcased their projects and ideas to potential business partners like GE Africa, @ibizafrica, Rendeavour, Nairobi Garage, M-Kopa and Novel Technologies E.A. Ltd. Fellows also presented what they are doing to tackle community problems related to peace and security, agriculture and development, and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

“The conference and the Fellowship have provided me with a platform to share my work, networking and form potential partnerships. Winning the pitch competition in particular has provided me with courage to continue to expand my work with Apps and Girls, to ensure that a generation of girls in Tanzania pursue STEM,” said Carolyne Ekyarisiima, a Mandela Washington Fellow from Tanzania.

Funded by the United States government, the Mandela Washington Fellowship has brought 2,000 young African professionals from across the continent to U.S. universities for six weeks of leadership training since 2014. An additional 1,000 Fellows will be traveling to the United States in 2017. The Fellows are competitively selected and represent the continent’s emerging generation of entrepreneurs, community leaders, and public officials working to shape the future of Africa.

At the conference, these young leaders shared solutions for deepening engagement with youth and communities to improve government services, strengthen civil society, and build businesses in Africa. Discussions incorporated ideas for increasing youth employment, promoting transparency and civic engagement, supporting innovation and entrepreneurship, and advancing sustainable energy solutions. Fellows also engaged with industry experts, and youth activists to learn more about how to tackle sustainable development in their communities.

Keynote speaker Victor Ochen, the youngest African to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and founder of the African Youth Initiative network, challenged Fellows “to be a generation of peace, and serve as a bridge to a great and prosperous African society.”

Fellows were also invited to a partner reception hosted by Rendeavour, featuring a keynote from Ambassador Robert F. Godec who encouraged Fellows “to bring back what you learn in the United States, and serve as an example” to others.

The U.S. government supports the initial fellowship as well as follow-on activities. USAID, with its partner IREX, assists with continuing professional development opportunities, mentoring, networking, and training to advance these young leaders along their professional endeavors as they build a brighter future for Africa and forge deeper bonds with counterparts in the United States.

“The fellowship program is creating an enduring network of leaders committed to transforming their own societies,” said Kristin Lord, President and CEO of IREX. “Not only is that beneficial to communities on the continent, but it’s an investment in future business relationships and long-term people-to-people and government-to-government relationships that will benefit both the US and Africa.”

Photos  and  video  from the conference are available online.

Alex Cole, Director of Strategic Communications, IREX

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