President Barack Obama
President Barack Obama

On the heels of his visit to Kenya and Ethiopia, U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday urged Africa’s youth to build on progress for their continent.

President Barack Obama
President Barack Obama

“The continent has archived historic gains in health from fighting HIV/AIDS to making childbirth safer for women and babies. Millions have been lifted from extreme poverty. So this is extraordinary progress,” Obama told 500 young leaders visiting from sub-Saharan Africa countries.

“And young people like you are driving so much of this progress, because Africa is the youngest continent,” the president urged in Washington the Mandela-Washington fellows of the Youth African Leaders Initiative (YALI) to build on the progress.

YALI was launched by U.S. government five years ago with the aim to support emerging African leaders as they “drive economic growth, enhance democratic governance, and strengthen the civil society structures that will help the continent grow and prosper.”

The fellowship this year connected the young leaders to 20 U.S. universities, where they spent six weeks expanding their skills in everything from entrepreneurship to civic affairs.

“Our hope is that ten, fifteen and twenty years from now, when you have all gone on to be ministers in government or leaders in business or pioneers of social change, that you will still be connecting with each other, that you will still be learning from each other and that, together, you will be reaching back and helping the next generation,” Obama said.

At the Washington summit, Obama also announced up to 80 Americans will be traveling to Africa next year, in a reverse exchange, to work with Mandela-Washington Fellow alumni and other young Africans. He noted that the fellowship will also double the number of participants, with up to 1,000 young Africans traveling to the United States in 2016.

The White House says about 140,000 members of the YALI network have access to online courses, including guidance on how to start a business.

The U.S. leader also announced the opening of a YALI Leadership Center in Ghana, joining an existing center in Kenya. Two other centers in South Africa and Senegal will open by the end of this year, with all four spaces helping train 3,500 young Africans each year. Enditem

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