Guest blog post by U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Bruce Andrews
The United States understands the importance of creating opportunities for young people to succeed, both in this country and around the world. That is why yesterday, during a town hall with 500 exceptional young people who participated in the Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders - President Obama announced the expansion of his Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). At the town hall, President Obama announced that the fellowship, the flagship YALI program, will be renamed the “Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders,” and will be doubled to reach 1,000 participants per year by 2016. Launched in 2014, YALI is a signature effort to support the next generation of African leaders and embodies President Obama’s commitment to invest in the future of Africa. The Washington Fellowship connects young African leaders to leadership training opportunities at some of America’s top universities to help expand their leadership skills and knowledge so they can foster change in their communities and countries.
At the Commerce Department, we are also working closely with young entrepreneurs to help spur economic growth by helping them gain the skills and connections they need to launch new businesses and create jobs in their communities. Entrepreneurship is a cornerstone of the global economy, giving people the power to unlock their economic potential and transform their communities. With the launch of the Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship (PAGE) initiative, chaired by Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, the U.S. government is partnering with 11 prominent American business leaders to mentor the next generation of entrepreneurs. Africa is an area of interest for PAGE efforts. In fact, as part of a trade mission to West Africa this past May, Secretary Pritzker and PAGE member Nina Vaca, CEO of Pinnacle Technical Resources, visited the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST) and the MEST Incubator program, which provides training, investment and mentoring opportunities for aspiring technology entrepreneurs in Africa. In addition, PAGE members Steve Case, Chairman and CEO of Revolution, and Alexa von Tobel, CEO of LearnVest, will be sharing their experiences and expertise on Wednesday on an “Enabling Inclusive Economic Development” plenary session, as part of the fellowship Summit.
Africa is home to six of the world’s 10 fastest-growing economies, and the Commerce Department is committed to helping U.S. businesses find opportunities for growth in these markets. Next week, as part of the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, the Department of Commerce and Bloomberg Philanthropies will co-host the U.S.-Africa Business Forum, a day focused on trade and investment opportunities on the continent. The Forum is part of President Obama’s U.S. Africa Leaders Summit, which will convene leaders from more than 45 Sub-Saharan and North African nations, and is the largest gathering any U.S. President has held with African heads of state and government.
With 60 percent of Africa’s population under the age of thirty-five, the future of the African continent depends on the leadership, skills, and ingenuity of this emerging generation of leaders. As the new Deputy Secretary of the Commerce Department, I value our investment in the development and cultivation of the emerging generation of leaders in Africa. And I see this as a vital step to ensure that the mutually beneficial economic partnership between the U.S. and Africa continues to deepen and thrive for years to come.