Welcome Reception Held for 2018 Ghana Cohort of Mandela Washington Fellowship

Chargé d’Affaires Christopher J. Lamora delivering remarks at the Welcome reception for the 2018 Mandela Washington Fellows.

On October 11, 2018, a welcome reception was held for the  Ghana cohort of the 2018 Mandela Washington Fellowship. Speaking at the reception, Chargé d’Affaires Christopher J. Lamora highlighted the value of creating space for talented, motivated individuals to gather, learn, share experiences, and help one another grow. He congratulated one of the fellows, Sena Nyame for campaigning for and securing a seat on the 2018 YALI West Africa Regional Advisory Board to represent Ghana. Mr. Lamora encouraged the 2018 cohorts to continue the awesome work they have started already, share their experiences, engage in mentoring and be leadership multipliers. Read his full remarks below.


Chargé d’Affaires Christopher J. Lamora’s Remarks

at Welcome Reception in Honor of the

2018 Ghana Cohort of Mandela Washington Fellows

Marriott Hotel, Accra, October 11, 2018, 6:30-8:00 p.m.


Honored guests,


We’re here tonight to welcome back our outstanding 2018 Mandela Washington Fellowship cohort.  Let’s give them another warm “Akwaaba!”

As you all know, the Fellowship is the flagship program of the Young African Leaders Initiative, or YALI.  The key word here is “leaders.”  Since 2010, YALI has supported more than 3,500 young African men and women in further developing the leadership skills and potential they had already demonstrated during the highly competitive and rigorous selection process.  YALI, and more specifically the Mandela Washington Fellowship Program, is about growth.  It’s about progressive leadership development.  It’s about looking at the skills the program candidates demonstrated yesterday, that laid the groundwork to make them successful Fellows today, so they can be the leaders of their nations and our world tomorrow.

Selected among thousands of extremely qualified candidates, the 33 talented young professionals present today represent Ghana’s best and brightest in the areas of Business and Entrepreneurship, Civic Leadership, and Public Management.  This year, these 33 Ghanaian fellows joined 700 others from all corners of the continent for an intensive six-week academic and leadership training program to help them effectively lead organizations, communities, and countries.

In particular I would like to acknowledge Mr. Sena Koby Nyame.  Sena returned home from his fellowship at Northwestern University and immediately sought opportunities to maximize the regional impact of this experience by campaigning for a seat on the 2018 YALI West Africa Regional Advisory Board.  We are very proud that Ghana will be represented on this board where Sena will represent other fellows in the region and advise on U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) follow-on funding opportunities in Africa.  Congratulations Sena!

Our 2018 cohort joins more than 150 Ghanaian Mandela Washington Fellowship alumni.  Alums like Ms. Adjo Dede Asare and Mr. Mutaru Mumuni Muqthar – both from the 2016 Mandela Washington Fellowship.

Ms. Asare is the Managing Director of Alfie Designs, a garment manufacturing company.  Since her fellowship experience, her business went from 25 to 100 employees, she expanded exports throughout the African continent and the United States, and she runs a fashion school that trains young girls how to sew at no charge.  Through her efforts, Ms. Asare presents opportunities to young women to learn new skills to better their economic outlook while at the same time spur economic growth within the country.

Mr. Muqthar is another success story from the program.  As the Executive Director of the West African Center for Counter Extremism (WACCE), Mr. Muqthar has made security and counterterrorism issues his life focus.  Since 2016, WACCE has expanded its programming beyond Accra to the rest of Ghana and the West African region.  And in January 2018, Mr. Muqthar was named the Daily Trust African of the Year 2017, making him the youngest recipient in the award’s history.  He joined the ranks of past recipients including Nobel Peace Prize winner Mukwege, a Congolese doctor recognized by the Nobel Committee just last week for his work with sexual assault victims in conflict areas.

I point out Ms. Asare and Mr. Muqthar not to claim credit on behalf of the U.S. Government for their great success, but to highlight the value of creating space for talented, motivated individuals to gather, learn, share experiences, and help one another grow.  That’s what programs like the Mandela Washington Fellowship can achieve.

But YALI doesn’t start and end with the Mandela Washington Fellowship.  The initiative also has the Regional Leadership Center programs and the on-line platform YALI Network.

The four YALI Regional Leadership Centers – one of which is right here in Accra – provide in-person and on-line training in business and entrepreneurship, civic leadership, and public management. They also offer extensive opportunities for professional development and networking.  The Accra Regional Leadership Center, located at the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration, serves talented young leaders ages of 18 – 35 from nine West African countries – Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, the Gambia, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Togo, and of course Ghana.

Separately, the YALI Network provides members invaluable opportunities to connect with other leaders in their community and to learn from experts in their respective fields.  The on-line platform has tens of thousands subscribers and offers on-line resources in a range of topics such as entrepreneurship, professional development, and human rights.

Many of you returnees are probably asking yourselves: “What now?”  The Fellowship has ended, but you’re energized, full of ideas, and ready to leverage all those new connections you made through the program.

I say:  Don’t let up.  Continue your awesome work.  Share your experiences with your colleagues, friends, neighbors, and families.  Be leadership multipliers.  Mentor those under and around you.  I encourage all of our Mandela Washington Fellowship alumni to engage with Fellows from the Regional Leadership Centers and YALI Network members to maintain and expand this momentum.  You’ve already made significant strides on your own.  Just imagine what you can do together.

Before I close my remarks, I want to congratulate 2018 Fellow Mr. Sena Nyame who was elected to the 2018 West Africa Regional Advisory Board.  Let’s give Mr. Nyame a round of applause.  Best of luck, and represent Ghana well, as I know you will.

2018 Fellows, I hope that you enjoyed a great Fellowship in the United States.  My Embassy colleagues and I look forward to meeting as many of you tonight as we can to hear firsthand about your experiences and to learn more about your hopes and plans for the future.

I, for one, cannot wait to see what you achieve next!

Thank you.