JOHANNESBURG, June 8, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- More than 100 young African leaders met in Johannesburg, South Africa from June 7 - 8 to identify solutions to tough challenges in communities throughout the region by tapping youth innovation and leadership.
Young African leaders from 14 countries, including Angola, Botswana, Comoros, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe attended the Southern Africa Regional Conference as part of the U.S. government's Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders.
"It's powerful to meet other young leaders creating change throughout Southern Africa," said Bongekile Radebe, a Mandela Washington Fellow from South Africa. "This gathering is an opportunity to exchange ideas and best practices with others launching new businesses or scaling existing ones, advancing human rights, or using technology to improve the lives of people in their communities."
During the conference, Fellows debated whether "Africa can fund Africa" and shared their projects, ideas, and proposed solutions with other Fellows and partners like the Impact Hub. The audience comprised of business leaders, and other young African trailblazers provided feedback through a facilitated process to help Fellows identify solutions.
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 travel 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.
Chargé d'Affaires of the U.S. Embassy in South Africa Jessica Lapenn remarked that youth leaders need to align their purpose and passion to something bigger than themselves. "Create a network of support among each other and to work together to achieve the goals you have set for yourself in your home countries."
In South Africa, June is youth month, and the keynote speaker, Lebogang Chaka, CEO of Afro Visionary Legacy, reinforced the importance of young African leaders working together to improve the social and economic conditions in vulnerable communities across the region.
Gauteng Growth and Development Agency (GGDA) hosted a reception for Fellows and conference partners such as Microsoft, who remain committed to supporting young entrepreneurs across the continent.
The U.S. government supports the initial Fellowship as well as follow-on activities in Africa. 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 creates an inspiring network of leaders committed to advancing peace, prosperity, and more effective government," said Kathy Evans, Associate Vice President of IREX. "That benefits not only people on the continent, but forges people-to-people and government-to-government relationships that benefit both the U.S. and Africa."
Alex Cole, Director of Strategic Communications, IREX