DELAND, Florida — On February 11, 2021, the Young African Leaders Initiative Act of 2021, or the YALI Act, was introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Karen Bass. With 30 co-sponsors and bipartisan support, the bill aims to “Establish a comprehensive United States Government initiative to build the capacity of young leaders and entrepreneurs in Africa.”
The YALI Program and Initiatives
The bill supports further funding and revamping of the YALI program created in 2010 by the Obama administration. The YALI program is the U.S. Government’s initiative to invest in the education and professional futures of young Africans. Since 2010, the initiative implemented three programs. Each helped hundreds of thousands of young African leaders and entrepreneurs get connected and experience unique educational opportunities.
- The Mandela Washington Fellowship: Added to the YALI program in 2014, this initiative grants young African leaders a six-week fellowship at a U.S. university or college to study “business, civic engagement or public management.” After the completion of courses, fellows attend a summit in Washington D.C. There, they have the opportunity to connect with businessmen and women from all different sectors. This is one way in which the YALI program achieves its driving goals of creating lasting professional connections for these young leaders. All the while, it manages to strengthen the diplomatic bonds between the U.S. and African countries. Since its enactment, more than 4,000 young Africans have traveled to the U.S. for this unique opportunity.
- The YALI Network: This online network is an educational superhub for young Africans to learn anything from how to build a business to how to advocate against human rights violations. The network provides more than 25 free online courses and videos as well as ways for YALI members to connect with each other through social media. As of 2021, the YALI Network has more than 700,000 users from across sub-Saharan Africa.
- YALI Regional Leadership Centers (RLCs): There are four RLCs located at different higher education institutions across sub-Saharan Africa. These centers offer leadership training through networking opportunities, in-person and online training sessions, professional development opportunities and direct experience with private sector professionals. USAID as well as private sector companies run the RLCs. These public-private partnerships allow young African leaders and entrepreneurs to network with private sector professionals directly and build lasting relationships. The RLCs provide continued support and learning opportunities for fellows returning from the U.S.
Continuing its Mission
The YALI Act of 2021 would continue these programs and grant young Africans the opportunity to become global leaders in areas anywhere from technology to the government. The YALI program also creates an opportunity for these talented individuals to thrive in their native countries. The program discourages the brain drain effect by instituting support in the form of RLCs and the YALI Network. This allows young African leaders to continue to hone their skills and make an impact in Africa.
The YALI program has played a pivotal role in deepening diplomatic and economic relations between the U.S. and Africa. Investing in the young people of Africa means investing in innovative ideas, new economic opportunities and future diplomats. The passing of the YALI Act would reinstate the United States’ commitment to protecting not only Africa’s future but the future of the U.S. and its interests as well.
– Kendall Couture