Between August 3rd and August 5th, Washington, DC will be host to a group of dynamic young African leaders selected to participate in the inaugural President’s Forum with Young African Leaders. (PFYAL). In recognition of the 50 years of independence that a large number of African nations (see CNN map to see which countries) are celebrating this year (see the Rush Resolution unanimously adopted in the U.S. House of Representatives), President Obama wanted to bring together the faces of Africa’s future to not only mark the achievements made by these African countries over the last 50 years, but to also focus on what is in store for Africa for the next 50 years and beyond. In a phone conference, Michelle Gavin, Special Assistant to the President & Senior Director for African Affairs at the National Security Council, noted that the President was personally involved and committed to the goals of the PFYAL and also that the PFYAL was guided by his speech in Ghana where he underscored that the future of Africa is in Africa’s hands. The Forum is to hear from these young African leaders on the challenges and opportunities they and their countries face, in order to shape U.S. policy towards Africa.
African nations, like many other developing and emerging countries, have very youthful populations (approximately 44 percent of sub-Saharan Africa’s population is under 15 years— see Population Reference Bureau for population data). The challenges of this ‘youth bulge’ have been much discussed (youth unemployment; increased risk of conflict and crime; strained social services; and so on); but the opportunities must also be equally highlighted (a large labor force; a more ‘plugged’ in generation with increasing access to technology; increased global awareness due to access to technology; and so forth). Therefore, the future of the continent of Africa, in my hardly waning optimistic opinion, is bright. If you think I am joking, check out the profile of the PFYAL participants!
Leadership Africa USA’s president, Walker A. Williams, was part of a distinguished panel who met with these Young African Leaders to discuss the challenges and opportunities related to quality education and skills training in Africa. Walker underscored the importance of leadership and life skills training in helping to shape the lives of Africa’s youth. Enhancing academic learning with skills that promote self-confidence; improve communication skills; and stimulate the entrepreneurial spirit is a recipe for charting Africa’s next 50 years on a road to sustainable growth and development.
Interestingly, the Young African Leaders noted that they do wish to receive more leadership training in order to strengthen their effectiveness in their various fields. Food for thought for U.S. policy towards Africa’s youth…