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YALI Fellows Tell VOA the Experience was Life Changing

Fellows Dagnachew Wakene of Ethiopia, Kamakei Sangiriaki of Kenya and Alice Niyonkuru of Burundi with STA host Shaka Ssali
Fellows Dagnachew Wakene of Ethiopia, Kamakei Sangiriaki of Kenya and Alice Niyonkuru of Burundi with STA host Shaka Ssali

For a second year, the Voice of America provided in-depth extensive coverage of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) Summit in Washington with programming in English and all language services broadcasting to the continent.

The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, the flagship program of U.S. President Barack Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) established in 2010, empowers young people through academic coursework, leadership training, and networking. The fellowship provides 500 outstanding young leaders from Sub-Saharan Africa with the opportunity to network and sharpen their skills at 20 U.S. colleges and universities with support for professional development after they return home. The program culminates in a Summit in Washington featuring President Obama.

Addressing Africa’s best and brightest this week, the President asked them to become “agents of positive change in their countries.” His speech was streamed live on and all Africa-focused VOA digital platforms. A number of fellows echoed his sentiment in interviews to VOA calling the experience life changing and inspirational.

Throughout this week, Mandela Washington Fellows appeared as guests in VOA’s popular TV programs Africa 54 and Straight Talk Africa, on the radio program South Sudan in Focus as well as in language programming to every African country VOA broadcasts are sent.

“What I’m taking back with me is humanity,” Hlayisani Nkhwashu from South Africa told VOA. “We need each other as Africans. We need to connect; the world is becoming a global village.” Kezy Mukiri from Kenya told VOA that through the program she experienced the life-changing effect of entrepreneurship in people’s lives. “You create solutions, you create employment and you give hope,” she said. YALI Fellow Samuel Douglass Karyah from Liberia told VOA that young people “hold the key” to economic prosperity in Africa. “You must start with the young people, giving them the business mindset. Yes indeed they can take the risk and become great business leaders,” he said.

Many YALI Fellows expressed deep appreciation for the work VOA’s African services are doing on the continent. “VOA is a powerful tool which has given me the opportunity to share my dreams and vision for my country,” said Cinderella Anena from Uganda.

In an interview with VOA Horn of Africa, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield called this year’s YALI program a great success. “It gives me so much hope for Africa’s future knowing there are people like these young people working in their countries in the future.”

The Voice of America has a weekly audience of 51 million people in Africa, broadcasting in more than a dozen languages through radio, television, the web and on mobile.