Accra – U.S. Chargé d’Affaires Christopher J. Lamora hosted a Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) celebratory and networking event that gathered members from all three branches of the YALI family: Mandela Washington Fellows, YALI Regional Leadership Center participants, and active members of the online YALI Network. The event was an opportunity to recognize the contributions of these young leaders, and to urge them to look beyond their communities and to seek ways to work together to promote security, good governance, prosperity, and opportunity nationwide and across the continent.
In his remarks, Chargé Lamora urged solidarity among the members of the three YALI pillars, saying, “there are a half a million aspiring young African leaders in the YALI Network and 40,000 of them are here in Ghana! Think of the positive changes 40,000 young people could make by connecting and collaborating with one another, no matter which YALI program they participated in.”
Also present at the event were representatives from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Information and Programs (IIP) which administers the online YALI Network and works closely with Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) colleagues in embassies across Africa to leverage the influence of over half a million digital activists through the YALI Network.
While in Accra, the IIP team trained employees from 16 U.S. Embassies throughout Africa, as well as the USAID-administered Regional Leadership Center (located at GIMPA) on strategies to engage youth and train them how to administer online courses on good governance, civic education, disability rights, empowering and building opportunities for women and girls, and protecting the environment.
For more information or to join the YALI Network, visit www.yali.state.gov. Read Chargé d’Affaires Christopher J. Lamora’s remarks below.
Chargé d’Affaires Christopher J. Lamora’s Remarks
at Regional YALI Reception
Wednesday November 7, 2018
Good evening, and Welcome! I’m so pleased to have all of you here tonight.
With us this evening are our colleagues from 16 embassies across Africa, as well as local Ghanaian Mandela Washington Fellows, Regional Leadership Center Participants, and YALI Network members. It’s great to have representatives of all three YALI pillars here tonight – a warm Akwaaba to you all!
Although I’ve been in Ghana for a little over four months now, and living in this house for the last two, this is the first official reception I’ve hosted here, and I think that’s quite appropriate. We’re starting off where so much starts off – with youth.
Empowering youth is at the heart of the U.S./Africa partnership. In every country on the continent, we work with local governments, civil society organizations, and citizens from all walks of life to promote security, good governance, prosperity, and opportunity. And youth engagement is integral and critical to achieving those goals.
With that in mind, the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) was launched in 2010 to invest in the next generation of African leaders. Since then, we’ve committed significant resources to enhance leadership skills, bolster entrepreneurship, and connect young African leaders from across the continent with one another.
Since its inception, YALI has grown to include three program components: the Mandela Washington Fellowship, the Regional Leadership Centers, and the YALI Network. All of these complement one another to form a large and dynamic network of young African leaders who are improving transparency and accountability of governments, starting and growing businesses, and, ultimately, serving their communities.
Some of you have organized community service events. Others have launched programs on good governance, civic education, disability rights, empowering and building opportunities for women and girls, and protecting the environment.
By way of example, I want to highlight a few individuals here this evening:
- YALI Network member, EMMANUEL KOFI DAPAAH organized a community dialogue on human rights;
- RLC Alumna, EVELYN AIKINS NUSENU held a tree planting and community beautification project on International Youth Day;
- YALI Network member YENG ENOCK held a donation drive for his local schools;
- YALI Network member SAMUEL AKPAH gathered volunteers to clean the streets and gutters in his town; and
- YALI Network member BELINDA KULORDZI hosted an education event on hand washing and waste management.
Not just the five people I just named, but all of you here tonight were invited to join us because of your commitment to your communities, and by extension, to your entire country… and, I would dare to say, even to Africa as a whole.
But beyond just your community service and good works, I would urge you all to share your experiences, skills, and expertise, particularly with those who need a good role model. A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of speaking with the recently returned 2018 Mandela Washington Fellows, some of whom are here tonight, and I urged them to be force multipliers for leadership, to collaborate with their YALI colleagues, and to mentor other aspiring young leaders.
We at the U.S. Embassy want to see participants from all three YALI programs erase boundaries and come together as a united YALI Family. There are a half a million aspiring young African leaders in the YALI Network… and 40,000 of them are here in Ghana! Think of the positive changes 40,000 young people could make by connecting and collaborating with one another, no matter which YALI program they participated in.
You know… There are any number of catch-phrases and stories that get at this point… “It Takes A Village”… “Strength in Numbers”…
There are two images, though, that I want to put in your minds in this regard. The first comes from the ancient Greek fable-write Aesop, and the second from right here in Ghana.
Aesop tells the story of a crow that was extremely thirsty. The crow found a jug that had once been full of water, but only had a little bit left in the bottom, and he couldn’t get his beak down inside in order to take a drink. After considering the problem, the crow started picking up small stones and dropping them into the jug. With each stone that went in, it displaced a little bit of the water, and little by little, after a whole lot of stones, the water had gotten up to where the crow could drink.
The second image, from Ghana, is that of the unity sculpture…. You all know what I’m talking about. There’s one on a table in the living room inside. Although it’s carved from a single piece of wood, the individual pieces interlock but can move freely. And when you arrange them in a certain way, they lock together strongly, supporting one another and even a heavy object placed on top in a way that none of the separate pieces could do alone.
All of you here – and the other 40,000-plus YALI Network members, Regional Leadership Center participants, and Mandela Washington Fellow alumni across Ghana — are like the individual stones the crow placed in the jug, or the separate pieces of the unity sculpture. Each of you has your own character, your own strength, your own roles to play. But together, you can raise the water level and support a great weight.
This is why the future of the Network is in each of you… individually and collectively… and what you as leaders make of it. So be sure to take advantage of this opportunity tonight to meet your counterparts across all the YALI programs — and our colleagues from Embassies across Africa — make connections and begin making your plans for the change you want to see. Thank You.