President Obama launched the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) in 2010 in an effort to invest in the next generation of African change-makers. Through regional training centers, student exchange programs and follow-up resources, YALI empowers young African leaders to “spur growth and prosperity, strengthen democratic governance, and enhance peace and security across Sub-Saharan Africa.”
Despite its short tenure, YALI is already establishing itself as a force for good. Here are three success stories from the Young African Leaders Initiative:
Food For All Africa
Elijah Amoo Addo, a former chef at a restaurant in Accra, Ghana, used the leadership and business skills he learned from YALI to help launch Food For All Africa (FFAA), the first community food bank in Ghana. In 2011, Elijah noticed a homeless man rummaging through a dumpster for leftovers to feed his friends on the street. Moved by the encounter, Elijah began eliminating waste at his restaurant, saving the surplus food to feed the needier members of his community.
Three years later, Elijah applied to YALI’s s West Africa Regional Leadership Center to amplify his vision of feeding the hungry. Today, FFAA saves and redistributes up to $5,700 worth of food each month. Elijah, who hopes to expand services to other African regions within the next five years, is one of the true success stories from the Young African Leaders Initiative.
Lead Oak Foundation
While working at the primary health center of Benin City, Nigeria, primary care doctor Ajimegor Ikuenobe was disturbed by the scale of the malnutrition problem among the children in the community. After researching solutions to the crisis, Dr. Ikuenobe discovered a formula of maize, soya bean and groundnut that was high in the essential nutrients developing children need. Dr. Ikuenobe started Lead Oak Foundation to distribute the formula to vulnerable communities and to provide clothing, health consultations and cooking demonstrations to mothers and caregivers.
In 2017, Dr. Ikuenobe was selected for the Mandela Washington Fellowship, YALI’s flagship program. The fellowship empowers leaders through academic coursework, leadership training and networking opportunities. The Fellows are selected between the ages of 25 and 35, and “have established records of accomplishment in promoting innovation and positive impact in their organizations, institutions, communities and countries.”
In addition to the Mandela Washington Fellowship and the regional training centers, another success story from the Young African Leaders Initiative comes in the form of the YALI Network, an online platform where members can connect with other leaders in their community and learn from experts in their field. The YALI Network also offers a range of training, blogs and other toolkits to help amplify impacts.
Whether its members are hoping to solve specific problems like Elijah and Ikuenobe, promote human rights, start a small business or simply improve their public speaking skills, YALI is empowering the next generation of African change-makers.
– Whiting Tennis