Ambassador Jackson’s Remarks at the Inauguration of the New YALI West Africa Regional Leadership Center

On November 29, the United States and Ghana inaugurated a new building for the Young African Leaders Initiative Regional Leadership Center (YALI RLC) in Accra. The ceremony was attended by Ambassador Robert P. Jackson; the Honorable Minister of Education, Dr. Mathew Opoku Prempeh; Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA) Rector Professor P. Ebow Bondzi-Simpson; Accra RLC Director Mrs. Shola Safo-Duodu; members of the RLC Governing Council; alumni, partners, members of the diplomatic corps and the media.

Minister of Education Opoku Prempeh lauded the center for its commitment to promoting the leadership skills of West African youth and recalled the establishment of the YALI program by former President Obama as an investment in Africa’s future. He praised the United States’ continuing commitment to that vision and underscored Ghana’s pride at hosting the center and having a positive impact on West African youth.

Ambassador Jackson noted that the center is committed to supporting the efforts of African youth to promote democracy and rule of law, health, and security and to combat corruption and human trafficking, among others issues. “Like Africa as a whole, Ghana has changed and grown immensely since my first visit here in 1999. But I believe nothing will compare to the changes we will see in the coming generation … I’ve met many YALI participants over the years. I have faith in your ability to transform your communities. The United States has faith in your ability to transform our world. We’re going to stand by you.”

To learn more about the YALI RLC in Ghana, please see their website at:

Building Dedication Ceremony at YALI/RLC West Africa
Remarks by Ambassador Robert P. Jackson
Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA)
November 29, 2017 | 10 a.m. – 12 p.m.


Good morning. I am so pleased to join you today in celebrating the official opening of this expanded YALI Regional Leadership Center facility. Thank you all for being here, as well. We are doing more than just opening a new building today. We are opening new opportunities for young leaders to transform West Africa.

This facility is a tangible representation of America’s long-term commitment to Ghana and to the region. We are proud to invest in the lives and the futures of your innovators, trailblazers and entrepreneurs. I know there are some YALI alumni in the audience today; could you please raise your hands?

I’m so glad you’re here. And I admire you for the responsibility that you have embraced — to help shape the future of this nation, this region, this continent — and the world, really.

I also want to thank our distinguished partners at GIMPA, especially Professor P. Ebow Bondzi-Simpson. You have provided invaluable technical assistance in the design and rehabilitation of this building.

From the start, YALI has sought to empower future leaders as they address the myriad issues confronting the world today.  Issues like:

  • Democracy and rule of law,
  • Health.
  • Climate change,
  • Education,
  • Global security,
  • Trafficking,
  • Gender issues,
  • Corruption, and many more.

Through YALI, we convene the brightest young minds on the continent. We challenge them to take their leadership skills to the next level. I think we would all agree that we’ve had remarkable success thus far. Alumni, would you agree?

But we also know that the environment in which we learn — the quality of the equipment and the physical infrastructure — has a significant influence on learning outcomes. That’s why I’m so excited to inaugurate this facility.

Just as YALI helps young leaders take their skills to the next level, we’re now taking our own skills and abilities to the next level. We now have a well-equipped learning and communications environment that matches the prestige and the aspirations of the YALI program. This modern center will improve participants’ experiences as they live and interact with each other during their training. It will strengthen the bonds between them and enhance their connections with other leaders and experts. It will help promote the YALI learning culture.

Participants will even be able to use the Center’s technology to connect with the RLCs in Dakar, Nairobi and Pretoria — what an extraordinary opportunity to develop best practices and promote continent-wide information sharing. I imagine our trainers and trainees are eager to move in and get to work.

I’ve spent most of my career in Africa. I’ve seen tremendous changes over the years — reductions in poverty, improvements in health, and the steady spread of democracy. Ghana is a wonderful example. It has cemented its reputation for free and fair elections and democratic transitions of power. Ghana has fostered a vibrant, free press and built a professional, widely respected military. The Akufo-Addo administration is working steadily to promote private sector growth and job creation. Mr. Minister, I applaud the steps you are taking to expand education for Ghanaians and to improve literacy at the primary levels.

Like Africa as a whole, Ghana has changed and grown immensely since my first visit here in 1999. But I believe nothing will compare to the changes we will see in the coming generation. I read recently that the average age of an African head of state is 65 years old, and the average age of an African citizen is 19. This generation is coming into its own, and it is doing so with more access to information and technology than ever before.

We still face formidable challenges, in Africa and around the world. But I believe this generation will use its connections, its creativity and its technology to address these issues in ways we can’t even imagine right now. I believe they will see these challenges as opportunities, and that they will attack them with fresh perspectives and fresh energy. And so the question is: How do we best support them? How do we feed that enthusiasm to do more, to achieve more? This Center is one way. I want nothing more than for this Center — and the tools and training it offers — to inspire West Africa’s movers and shakers. My goal is that it will be an environment that stimulates astonishing, world-changing ideas — and the courage to pursue them.

Mr. Minister, I thank you for your support of the Regional Leadership Center. Just as you are working to expand education for Ghanaians, this Center expands educational and leadership opportunities for Ghanaians and for your brothers and sisters throughout the region.

To the RLC staff and partners, you have already changed and uplifted the lives of 2,000 of West Africa’s highest achievers. That was just the beginning. I foresee even greater success ahead with the new tools at your disposal. I challenge you to continuously pursue the highest standards and the latest technologies. I challenge you to keep that passion alive for offering the best possible experience to our YALI RLC participants.

To our alumni, please push each other — and push us — to be bold. Too many others are brazenly advancing a dark vision of the world. We must be bold and audacious and fearless in advancing the ideas that bring us together and positively resolve the challenges we face. I’ve met many YALI participants over the years. I have faith in your ability to transform your communities. The United States has faith in your ability to transform our world. We’re going to stand by you.

Congratulations once again. This is an exciting, cutting-edge facility, and I look forward to visiting often to meet the inspiring young leaders who pass through.