More than 100 young African leaders are meeting in Johannesburg 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 are attending the Southern Africa Regional Conference as part of the US government’s Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders.
“It’s powerful to meet other young leaders creating change throughout Southern Africa,” says 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 US government, the Mandela Washington Fellowship has brought 2 000 young African professionals from across the continent to US universities for six weeks of leadership training since 2014. An additional 1 000 Fellows will travel to the US 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.
ChargĂ© d’Affaires of the US Embassy in South Africa Jessica Lapenn remarks 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.”
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.