Obama Foundation Launches New Leadership Program For Young African Changemakers

Written by Peter Pedroncelli
Obama Foundation
The Obama Foundation Leaders: Africa initiative will support emerging African leaders. Photo:Brookings

The Obama Foundation has launched a new program to support and empower young leaders across the African continent who positively impact their communities.

The Leaders: Africa program is a product of former U.S. President Barack Obama’s foundation, and aims to provide young African changemakers with the tools to influence change that will move the continent forward, according to the foundation’s website.

Over the course of a year, 200 young candidates will receive resources and skills that are intended to enable each to have a desirable impact in their local context.

This is not the first time that Obama has been involved in mentoring and supporting young African leaders. He launched and oversaw the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) during his time as U.S. president.

Leaders: Africa builds on the success of YALI, and aims to continue the focus on leadership across the continent.


The emerging leaders from across Africa will be empowered “to take on the biggest challenges in their communities, countries, and continent,” according to a press release.

“We are committed to growing our global network of innovative and ethical changemakers who seek to drive change in their communities. This program will provide emerging African leaders from a range of backgrounds with the skills they need to create change.”

Obama Foundation building on YALI

Obama’s YALI initiative aimed to invest resources in the next generation of African leaders and entrepreneurs to address such issues as youth development, increasing the number of women entrepreneurs, and support for African innovation.

Each year from 2014 to 2016, 500 young Africans were chosen to visit the U.S. and receive mentoring at top U.S. universities.

Tanzanian Eugene Paul Kavishe was one of the YALI alumnae. He studied business and entrepreneurship for six weeks in 2014 at the University of Wisconsin as part of Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI).

He has since gone on to earn a bachelor of science degree in economics from Mzumbe University in Morogoro, Tanzania, before successfully growing a commercial poultry and agriculture business Vonkavy Agro Company Ltd.

The young African community leaders selected to take part in the new Leaders: Africa program will receive the skills and leadership experience through exposure to conferences, problem-solving workshops, technical training, and leadership development.

The program will begin with a five-day event set to take place in the coming months in Johannesburg, South Africa. Obama is expected to hold a town hall meeting to listen to the experiences of the selected young leaders and learn more about the work they are doing.

While in Johannesburg later this year, Obama is scheduled to deliver the 16th Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture, according to the Obama Foundation website. Obama is a popular figure throughout Africa and the speech is highly anticipated.

The theme of the lecture will be “Renewing the Mandela Legacy and Promoting Active Citizenship in a Changing World”, in honor of the 100th anniversary of the birth of the former South African president and anti-apartheid icon.