WASHINGTON, Aug. 8, 2017 /PRNewswire/ — One thousand young African leaders gathered in Washington, D.C., last week for the 2017 Mandela Washington Fellowship Summit. Representing 48 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, the diverse group of leaders immersed themselves in activities to strengthen their leadership skills and to build connections with each other and U.S. leaders from the public, private, and non-profit sectors.
Held July 31 – August 2 and hosted by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs with support from IREX, the Summit marked the culmination of the Fellows’ six-week Academic and Leadership Institutes at colleges and universities across the United States. Fellows now return home to apply the skills they have gained and utilize the networks they have created to enhance peace and security, spur economic growth, and strengthen democratic institutions to the benefit of Africa and the United States.
Mandela Washington Fellow Peo Pinkie Sebotho from Botswana commented on collaborating with other Fellows. “We were excited to share our experiences and our dreams for Africa. I made friends, I made business partners. We were planning what we would do together in the future.”
Mark Taplin, then Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs, said: “I don’t think of this as just a Mandela Washington Fellows Summit. This may be the biggest gathering all year here in D.C. of the up-and-coming, the leading and creating, the dreaming and doing, the sharing and caring. You are the future in business and entrepreneurship, in civil society and governance of the world’s most up-and-coming continent.”
Wade Warren, then Acting Administrator, U.S. Agency for International Development, also addressed the Fellows, calling on them to use the full power of the networks the Fellowship has helped them forge, and to think of challenges as opportunities.
Wednesday highlighted U.S. and African perspectives on leadership with remarks from Tony Elumelu, Chairman of Heirs Holdings and Founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation; Dr. Helene Gayle, CEO of McKinsey Social Initiative; Norman Moyo, Author and CEO of New Enterprise Business DPA & CUMII at ECONET; and General (Retired) Richard Myers, President of Kansas State University and 15th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“I’ve studied why leaders are successful and I’ve seen a common thread: legacy. So as young leaders, you must think legacy. You must think long-term. The age you’re creating is the age of empowerment,” Elumelu declared.
In his address, General Myers emphasized courage and risk-taking. “If you’re trying to make a difference, you have to persevere. It takes more than a heroic leader to make a difference, it takes all of us,” urged Myers.
Wednesday also featured a Congressional forum on investing in the next generation of Africa with U.S. Senator from Delaware Chris Coons discussing advocacy, entrepreneurship, civic engagement, human rights, and U.S.-Africa relations.
IREX President and CEO Kristin M. Lord notes: “The Mandela Washington Fellowship creates a network of leaders advancing peace, prosperity, and more effective governance. That benefits not only people on the African continent, but forges people-to-people and government-to-government relationships that benefit both the United States and Africa.”
The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders is a program of the U.S. government and is supported in its implementation by IREX.
Alex Cole, Director of Strategic Communications, IREX