In support of U.S. President Barack Obama’s Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, USAID and IREX organised the Southern Africa Regional Conference. It emphasised how Fellows can live by example, mobilise resources, and build inclusive societies to achieve the United Nations’ Global Goals for Sustainable Development
. As leading community activists, social entrepreneurs, and public servants, the Fellows also discussed the importance of public-private partnerships, fostering transparent governance, and strategies for achieving the African Union’s Agenda 2063.
Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, Special Envoy on Gender, African Development Bank Group encouraged Fellows to be bold and audacious in addressing issues facing the continent.
“Nobody necessarily invites you to take a seat at the table, so you need to claim it,” she said.
Todd Haskell, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Southern Africa and Public Diplomacy, Bureau of African Affairs, U.S. Department of State urged Fellows to work together toward positive change in their communities.
“This conference reflects a founding principle of the Mandela Washington Fellowship – that smart, dynamic young people are more powerful working together than alone,” he said.
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Speakers also included Dr. Joseph Chilengi, Presiding Officer, Economic, Social and Cultural Council (ECOSOCC), African Union; Phuti Mahanyele, Executive Chairperson, Sigma Capital; Cheryl L. Anderson, Mission Director, USAID/Southern Africa; and Kristin Lord, President and CEO, IREX.
Over the three-day conference, Fellows showcased their projects and ideas to partners from the private and nonprofit sectors at the conference’s “Pitch Competition”, sponsored by BancABC, Procter & Gamble, Impact Hub, and CareerCore. Jane Nthanda Jere, a Fellow from Malawi, received first place for her rehabilitation centre for disabled children.
“We want to be able to improve the function of these children so they can be more independent and have a better quality of life,” she said.
The Mandela Washington Fellowship brings hundreds of young African professionals from across the continent to U.S. universities for leadership training in business and entrepreneurship, civic leadership, or public management.
The Southern Africa Fellows represented 14 countries – Angola, Botswana, Comoros, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.