The White House’s signature Africa initiative comes to fruition next week when 500 of the continent’s most promising young leaders begin a new, six-week leadership, academic and mentoring program that is the hallmark of the Young African Leaders Initiative.
On Monday, 25 of the Washington Fellows will begin what the White House is calling an “unparalleled opportunity” at the University of Virginia. Others will fan out to host cities around the U.S. The Presidential Precinct, a consortium that includes the College of William & Mary, James Monroe’s Ash Lawn-Highland, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, James Madison’s Montpelier and U.Va.’s Morven, will host this highly select group of fellows through the end of July.
Fifty thousand women and men, aged 25 to 35, applied for the prestigious fellowship, which is designed to support a very young Africa, where nearly one in three people is between the ages of 10 and 24, and approximately 60 percent of the total population is below the age of 35.
The Presidential Precinct’s tailored curriculum is rooted in the theme of civic leadership. While in Virginia, the fellows will take part in training, coursework and mentorship opportunities; participate in workshops, roundtable discussions and more, drawing from the expertise at each of the precinct’s six sites. More than 70 distinguished instructors from academia, the private sector, government, civil society, non-governmental organizations and local communities are scheduled to take part.
The program begins Monday at U.Va. with a keynote address from U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.).
While in Charlottesville, the fellows will venture off Grounds for some interesting field trips. At Ash Lawn-Highland on July 1, they will engage in workshops on cultural preservation and collaborative governance. On the 4th of July, they will travel to Jefferson’s home for Monticello’s annual Independence Day Celebration and Naturalization Ceremony. They will also spend a week at the College of William & Mary, Monroe’s alma mater, focused on designing aid and sustainable development initiatives.
The fellows come from 18 countries across Africa, including Nigeria, Ethiopia, Central African Republic and South Africa. Their backgrounds are as diverse as their countries of origin; they include teachers, journalists and human rights activists, among other professions.
The six-week program culminates in a summit with President Obama and other senior U.S. government, business and civic leaders.
The Presidential Precinct is one of 20 organizations across the country hosting the Washington Fellows this summer. The U.S.-based training is the beginning of Washington’s long-term investment in the young leaders. Once the fellows return home, they will have the opportunity to continue networking and take part in internships. For example, Microsoft will connect Washington Fellows with internships and mentors in their offices across Africa. Ethiopian Airlines has offered training at its offices around the continent.
A version of this news article originally appeared in U.Va. Today on June 11, 2014.