Remarks by Chargé d’Affaires a.i. Melinda Tabler-Stone at the Opening Ceremony of the Accra Leadership Center

Professor Franklin Achampong Manu, Rector of GIMPA

Director Osei, YALI West Africa Regional Leadership Center partners and participants, Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

I am very pleased to be here today to welcome the first class of participants in the Young African Leaders Initiative (or YALI) Regional Leadership Center, West Africa.

I only arrived in Ghana two weeks ago, and while Ghana is new to me, YALI is not.  From my previous position in our Bureau of African Affairs, I watched YALI take shape and succeed with the first class of YALI Mandela Washington Fellows.

I am excited by YALI’s goals and inspired by the individuals who have participated in it so far.

There has been huge interest in YALI since President Barack Obama announced this initiative to support young African leaders in August 2014.

We believe YALI participants will form part of the vanguard on the continent as they spur growth and prosperity, strengthen democratic governance, and enhance peace and security across Africa.

Interest and enthusiasm has come not only from people who want to take part in the program, but also from people who want to support this effort.

This is why the United States Government decided to expand YALI beyond the Mandela Washington Fellows program, to invest deeper in the next generation of African leaders by establishing four Regional Leadership Centers – or “RLCs”– on the African continent:  in Kenya, South Africa, Senegal and one here in Ghana.

These Centers will reach exceptional young leaders from a wide range of backgrounds and diverse experiences, and will provide quality leadership training, support entrepreneurship, and enhance professional networking.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Today, we are proud to open the first RLC in West Africa.  This center of learning and professional development aims to support more than 4,000 young leaders over the next four years.  The Accra center will have three over-arching features:  inclusiveness, leadership and partnership.

Let me speak first about Inclusiveness:

The Accra Regional leadership center is not just for participants from Ghana, but also from Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, The Gambia, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Togo. But of course, inclusiveness means more than spanning a number of countries.  As President Obama said last week in Nairobi, “…you don’t have to look a certain way, or be of a certain faith, or have a certain last name in order to have a good idea.”  Leaders come from all walks of life, so to truly attract the most exceptional, we must reach out to all young leaders, regardless of gender, race, creed, socio-economic status or physical ability.  The United States Government is committed to ensuring that RLC programs make it possible for a wide array of young African leaders to achieve their full potential.

Next is Leadership:

To bolster young leaders to impact Africa’s next generation, the RLC must itself be a leader.  It will provide state-of-the-art training facilities, technology labs and conference space to link young leaders with others from across Africa and in the United States.

This is where they will share their ideas, new contacts will be made, and ideas will be incubated.

And this is where women will come to learn and develop their skills on equal footing with their male colleagues.

The third theme is Partnership:

Partnerships are absolutely critical to achieving these aims.

The wide array of guests here today, from diverse institutions including government, academia, the private sector, and civil society, truly reflects the collaboration necessary to make this Center possible.

Your involvement, your unmatched capacity and competence are critical for us to achieve the vision of YALI.

There are a few partners that deserve special recognition.  First and foremost, Rector Manu, let me express our deep appreciation to GIMPA, for hosting the Accra Regional Leadership Center, and welcoming participants from across this region.  I also want to express gratitude to the MasterCard Foundation for its very generous contribution, without which this RLC would not be a reality.

In addition, I should mention Africa 2.0 and the Private Enterprise Federation– both have been instrumental in the opening of the RLC.  I would also like to acknowledge the contributions of the partners seated here on the stage, Microsoft, Webster University and Ecobank.

Lastly, I want to congratulate all of the young women and men selected to be in the first group of Accra RLC participants.

You were chosen after a competitive recruitment process because of your impressive leadership potential.

We are confident that you will make an immense impact in your communities in a wide range of areas, including education, health, sustainable development, publishing, journalism, rule of law and human rights.

I know you are bringing a wealth of experience and enthusiasm to this program.

I want to emphasize that the Accra RLC is yours!  We look to you, individuals who are already serving their communities, to gain new skills here in the fields of business and entrepreneurship, civil society, and public administration.  In turn, after your training, we look to you to serve as mentors to other young Africans.

Last week in Nairobi, President Obama said:  “Through our Young African Leaders Initiative we are empowering and connecting young people from across the continent, who are filled with energy and optimism and idealism, and are going to take Africa to new heights.”

Ladies and gentlemen, I wish you a productive time at this center, and much success on your road to those new heights.  Thank you very much.