President's Young African Leaders Initiative

Date: 06/29/2013 Description: 2013 Young African Leaders Initiative banner/logo © White House Image

Date: 05/01/2013 Description: President Obama speaks to young African leaders visiting the White House in 2010. - State Dept Image

The Obama Administration’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) is a long-term effort to invest in the next generation of African leaders and strengthen partnerships between the United States and Africa. This wide-ranging effort has been led by the White House and the U.S. Department of State in partnership with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Peace Corps. The next phase of YALI will develop a prestigious network of leaders across critical sectors, cement stronger ties to the United States, and offer follow-on leadership opportunities in Africa, with the goal of strengthening democratic institutions and spurring economic growth. The Department of State has supported the Initiative through a series of high-profile forums with youth leaders including the President’s Young African Leaders Forum (August 2010), First Lady’s Young African Women Leaders Forum (June 2011), and Young African Leaders Innovation Summit and Mentoring Partnership (2012) in addition to more than 2,000 subsequent youth programs in sub-Saharan Africa.

Date: 05/01/2013 Description: First Lady Michelle Obama (center) with visiting participants of the Young African Women Leaders Forum in 2011 in Washington, DC. © White House Image

The President’s Young African Leaders Initiative has developed a variety of approaches and programs have been tried and tested in Washington, at U.S. Embassies and USAID mission in Africa, and by the most important element – young African leaders. The essential elements of the program, now taking root and generating sustaining momentum include:

  • Buy-in From the Highest Levels of the U.S. Government: With the participation of the President and First Lady in the 2010 and 2011 Young African Leaders Forums, as well as outreach to youth from other cabinet-level officials like [former] Secretary Clinton and Administrator Shah, U.S. Government officials at the highest levels are promoting the importance of youth engagement globally, and in Africa specifically.
  • Supporting Policy Frameworks: The U.S. Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa, released in June 2012, prioritizes efforts to empower the next generation of African leadership. President Obama said the following in announcing the Strategy: “These young men and women have shown time and again the willingness and ability to change their communities and their countries for the better, and the United States will continue to be their steadfast ally and partner. America’s partnership with this new generation of Africans will extend beyond our Government to the broad and deepening relationships between our peoples, businesses, and institutions. These roots will drive our path to a future of democracy, peace, and prosperity for generations to come.”As a result, State and USAID have designed youth policy frameworks that move youth from the periphery to the center of economic and political development.
  • “Top-down” Meets a “Grassroots” Approach: In addition to these seminal events, U.S. Embassies across sub-Saharan Africa have embraced youth engagement as a policy priority by conducting over 2,000 youth-targeted programs and establishing Embassy Youth Councils in more than 20 countries. Through this outreach and ongoing Peace Corps and USAID youth programming, the U.S. Government is creating a continuing dialogue with youth leaders as they outline their own visions for Africa’s future. The result is an initiative that has developed in an organic manner, based on need, dialogue, and collaboration.

Date: 05/01/2013 Description: Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Tara Sonenshine (center) stands with the 2012 Young African Leaders Initiative participants. - State Dept Image

Response From Young African Leaders: Young leaders in sub-Saharan Africa are responding to U.S. efforts to empower youth, convene dialogues, and foster networks by taking advantage of these opportunities to establish their own platforms to impact their communities. Since 2010, the State Department has supported approximately 160 exchange participants through an International Visitors Leadership Program specifically designed for young African leaders under the age of 35. The State Department has also awarded more than $750,000 in small grants to alumni groups supporting youth development in Africa—many of these projects are developed and implemented by YALI alumni. In 2012 USAID awarded two grants totaling $1.3 million to support the core principles of YALI, allowing significant and ongoing investments in young leaders including professional training, access to mentorship, and networking opportunities in Africa. As the U.S. Government continues to partner with young leaders through this Presidential Initiative, these efforts will increase U.S. public and private sector engagement with the continent and enrich young leaders' potential to contribute to economic, political, and social development of Africa.

For more information on the Young African Leaders Initiative please contact