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President Obama: Power to the Young and Optimistic
As we all know, the people who will shape global development in the future -- the people we need to finish the job of ending hunger -- are today’s children, adolescents, and young adults. Their most productive years are ahead of them.
Africa is the youngest continent: nearly one-third of Africans arebetween the ages of 10 and 24, and about 60 percent of the entire population is younger than 35.
A young population can be a resource that leads to innovation and supports governance and political reforms. However, a large youth population that is educated yet frustrated could potentially cause instability which would undermine growth prospects.
The recent Arab Spring is a good example.
The African Union (AU) acknowledges the fact that the burgeoning youth population on the Continent could be a “demographic dividend or a big challenge. The AU has established several youth-focused goals including:
- To reduce youth unemployment by 2 percent per year from 2009–2018;
- To elaborate on a Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) framework; and
- To provide adequate funding to advance the youth agenda.
These are all good ideas, but there must be greater committment in moving them from policy positions to action.
Our world is increasingly interconnected. This means that global prosperity depends on the contribution of all economies, both large and not so large. The reverse is also true—that instability in one part of the world, even though it may be far away, may cause far reaching negative global consequences.
It makes good sense therefore that President Obama’s Administration is investing in the next generation of African leaders. The President launched the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), to support young African leaders as they spur growth and prosperity, strengthen democratic governance, and enhance peace and security across Africa.
Beginning this year, 2014, The Washington Fellowship, the new flagship program of the President’s Young African Leaders Initiative will bring over 500 young leaders to the United States each year, for leadership training, academic coursework, and mentoring. The Fellowship is organized as follows:
A 6-week Academic and Leadership Institute: Fellows will be placed at U.S. colleges and universities for academic and leadership institutes. Institutes will focus on skills development in one of three areas: Business and Entrepreneurship, Civic Leadership, or Public Management. Institutes will take place from mid-June to late-July 2014.
• A Presidential Summit with President Obama in Washington, DC: At the conclusion of the academic and leadership institute, all Fellows will participate in a Presidential Summit in Washington, DC. The Summit will take place in late July 2014.
• An optional 8-week U.S. Internship: As part of the Fellowship application, 100 Fellows will receive practical training at a U.S. business, civil society organization, or public agency in the United States.
• Alumni Activities in Africa: Fellows will have the opportunity for continued networking opportunities, ongoing professional development, access to seed funding, and community service activities upon their return home after the Fellowship.
Bread for the World believes that Obama’s YALI program presents a great opportunity to engage the next generation of leaders on global issues including feeding a growing global population amidst shrinking resources such as water and agricultural land. It is particularly critical at this time as conversations continue on the Post-2015 Global Development agenda to succeed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) –which include halving the proportion of hungry people by the September 2015 deadline.
“No matter how old you grow, I say to all of you today, don’t lose those qualities of youth—your imagination, your optimism, your idealism. Because the future of the continent is in your hands."
--President Barack Obama, South Africa, June 2013
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