US initiative for 50,000 African leaders detailed at CCLP forum

WASHINGTON – 50,000 young African leaders have responded to a new Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI).

The YALI program was the focus of Monday’s CCLP lunch forum here, featuring the people who will be managing the program.

Bjornlund,  Warner


Left: Britta Bjornlund, Branch Chief, Study of the U.S. Branch Bureau of Educational and Cultural Program U.S. Department of State. Right: Joyce Warner, Senior Vice President and Chief of Staff, IREX.

500 of the leaders will be told next week that have been selected to come to Washington this summer, according to Joyce Warner, Senior Vice President and Chief of Staff of IREX, which is managing the program. The 500 will represent every sub-Saharan country.

100 of them will remain in the U.S. for two additional months of internships and mentoring, Warner added. And in addition to the 500 coming to the U.S., another 220 alternates were selected.

That means the vast majority of applicants were not chosen, but their interest will not go unrecognized.

“49,013 people will find out next week they were not selected,” said Britta Bjornlund of the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Program. But for all who applied, there will be programs created in their home countries.

“We are still planning,” Bjornlund said, with the participation of American embassies and industry partners in the U.S. and Africa.


Warner identified some of the private companies involved and offering internships, including Microsoft and Ethiopian Airlines.

All 500 leaders coming to Washington will take part in a White House town meeting, which is scheduled for the week before President Obama hosts heads of state from throughout Africa.

“Robust programming will keep going on when they get back home,” said Bjornlund.

“USAID is developing a mentoring program,” added Warner, which could be the most intensive outreach effort in U.S. public diplomacy.

Both Warner and Bjornlund praised the cost-effectiveness of the initiative which is budgeted at $6 million – money which had to come from other programs. And that total doesn’t include some costs, such as trans-Atlantic air fares.

Katherine Brown1.jpgKatherine Brown, Executive Director of the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy also spoke, describing a public meeting her agency held on the YALI last month. She invited participants to see the report and transcript her agency has posted online.

Warner noted this is the first year of a multi-year program, and the startup effort has been significant.

“Next year there will be a little more time,” she said.

The African program joins the Young Southeast Asian Leaders initiative announced in December which is slated to be expanded later this month.

Monday’s CCLP Washington Communication Leadership forum was part of a monthly series of First Monday lunch forums presented in partnership with the Public Diplomacy Council. Upcoming forum speakers and topics are here.