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YALI 10 Summit | Ten Plus Ten: YALI and the United States Look Back, and Ahead, Together

The U.S. Department of State, in partnership with the Wilson Center's Africa Program, hosted the YALI 10 Summit, an all-virtual event, from May 24-28, 2021.


May. 24 – 28, 2021
8:30am – 12:30pm ET


Missed the live YALI 10 Summit? The Summit content is still accessible! Videos of the Summit sessions are now available on the Wilson Center YouTube Playlist here.

The U.S. Department of State, in partnership with the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars Africa Program, hosted the YALI 10 Summit, an all-virtual event, from May 24-28, 2021. The Summit highlighted and celebrated the achievements of YALI alumni and Network members, demonstrated the United States’ enduring commitment to Africa’s youth, and shared collective visions from the YALI network for the future of YALI.

Established in 2010, the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) is the U.S. Government’s signature effort to invest in the next generation of African leaders. Over the past decade, YALI grew from 115 young leaders to include more than 24,000 alumni of the Mandela Washington Fellowship exchange program, four Regional Leadership Centers (RLCs) in Africa, and an extensive digital community called the YALI Network with more than 700,000 members. These programs aim to strengthen democratic institutions and good governance, spur economic growth and prosperity, and foster peace and security in Africa.

The Summit celebrated 10 years of YALI and looked ahead to the next 10 years. Through five days of substantive sessions, networking opportunities, entertainment, and an Expo, the Summit convened YALI alumni and Network members, U.S. and African policymakers, and subject-matter experts to discuss many of the most pressing issues and promising opportunities facing Africa and the role that YALI has played, and will continue to play, in shaping Africa’s future. Over 5,000 participants engaged in fruitful and thought-provoking discussions with more than 100 speakers on a wide range of timely topics and nearly 300 vendors from U.S. and African organizations.

Day 1 showcased the achievements of YALI and the impact it has made in strengthening U.S.-Africa relations and leadership in African over the past decade. During the opening plenary, a variety of luminaries spoke to the impressive and deep-rooted impact of YALI throughout its first 10 years; they included:

  • Congressman Gregory Meeks, Representative, New York's Fifth Congressional District and Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, U.S. House of Representatives
  • Congressman Michael McCaul, Representative, Texas' 10th Congressional District, Lead Republican of the Foreign Affairs Committee, U.S. House of Representatives
  • Ambassador Mark Green, President, Director, & CEO, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
  • H.E. Hilda Suka-Mafudze, African Union Ambassador to the United States
  • Ms. Dana Banks, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Africa, National Security Council
  • Mr. Matthew Lussenhop, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, U.S. Department of State
  • Mr. João Vembane, 2016 Mandela Washington Fellow; Founder & CEO, JAV Consulting, E.I.
  • Ms. Elizabeth Liu, Special Coordinator for the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), Bureau of African Affairs, U.S. Department of State
  • Dr. Monde Muyangwa, Africa Program Director, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

In addition, the keynote address featured an interview with NBA star and philanthropist Mr. Serge Ibaka, and a plenary session reflected on 10 years of YALI, featuring remarks by the Chargé d’Affaires in the U.S. Embassy in Pretoria, Ambassador Todd Haskell, and YALI Alumni Mr. Javnyuy Joybert, Dr. Odry Agbessi, and Mr. Sem Mandela Uutoni speaking to the impact of YALI on their lives, communities, and country. Breakout sessions assessed U.S.-Africa trade relations and business goals, discussed the role of youth in conflict management and peacebuilding, and evaluated civil society’s critical role in addressing climate change.

Day 2 opened with remarks to commemorate Africa Day by USAID’s Deputy Assistant Administrator, Bureau for Africa, Mr. Travis Adkins, followed by the day’s keynote address by the Director of the Regional Bureau for Africa at the United Nations Development Programme, Ms. Ahunna Eziakonwa, on youth as the drivers of Africa’s transformation and development, which reiterated the commonalities between U.S. and African youth as well as the critical need to invest in youth programs and uplift young African voices. Breakout sessions touched on the social and economic disruptions of COVID-19 in Africa and the need for long-term sustainable development planning; the importance of communication, partnerships, and continuity for building sustainable civil society organizations; why it is essential for entrepreneurs to be responsive to their audiences in business pitching and communication; the need for anti-corruption efforts to include community and youth voices; the ways in businesses can use technology to adapt to the changing COVID-19 landscape; the need to clearly communicate goals and methods when fundraising for civic engagement projects; and the importance of creating avenues for youth participation in order to build a resilient and effective public service in Africa.

Day 3 began with the day’s keynote remarks by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, on the importance of servant leadership. She was later joined in discussion by two YALI Alumni, Mr. Olugbenga Ogunbowale and Ms. Elizabeth Kasujja, on the importance of servant leadership and the need to involve youth in building upon existing examples and expanding it across the continent. Breakout sessions included discussions on e-commerce and digital economies as the future of African development; the importance of civil society and youth engagement in ensuring accountable and ethical leadership; the need to bolster citizen and youth participation at all levels to create inclusive and sustainable development; the value of a service-minded approach in creating and leading high-performance teams; the ways in which women business leaders can empower other women and girls to find their voices and lead the next generation; the value of storytelling, podcasting and blogging as methods to create social change; the need for robust and transparent research and data to underpin public management; and the power of emotional intelligence in leadership to build strong and sustainable organizational cultures.

On Day 4, Acting Principal Deputy Secretary for the Bureau for African Affairs, Ms. Elizabeth Fitzsimmons, USAID Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Bureau for Africa, Ms. Maria Price Detherage, and 2019 Mandela Washington Fellow, Ms. Ogaufi Mampane highlighted the shared interests and values between Africa and the U.S. and reiterated the commitment to supporting youth leadership in Africa, as participants reflected upon the challenges and opportunities surrounding U.S.-Africa relations and why YALI matters. Participants then joined the live virtual Expo, where they interacted and networked with over 260 U.S. and African organizations and businesses spanning a variety of sectors.

The 5th and final day of the Summit looked toward building a vision for YALI for the next 10 years, beginning with a conversation between Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Diplomacy in the Bureau of African Affairs, Ms. Belinda Jackson Farrier, YALI Alumni Ms. Caren Wakoli and Ms. Gertrude Toezey, and Department of State Senior Advisor for Africa, Ms. Safia Mohamoud, on their hopes for Africa and how programs like YALI help to ensure that youth voices are included in shaping the future of the continent. During breakout sessions, YALI alumni and U.S. government officials engaged with the audience to discuss YALI members’ visions for Africa’s future in the realms of public management, civic engagement, and business and entrepreneurship, reflecting on the week’s previous sessions. Breakout session speakers included the Acting Director for the Bureau of African Affairs' Office of Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, Mr. Matt Miller, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Ms. Akunna Cook, Senior Advisor in the Bureau for Africa at USAID, Ms. Macani Toungara,and YALI Alumni Mr. Henry-Pacifique Mayala, Ms. Keke Haïna, and Mr. Samir Da Cruz Silva. The Department of State then recognized the winners of the “YALI at 10: My Life, My Community, and My World” competition, heard from one of the winners, Dr. Chidzani Mbenge, a 2019 Mandela Washington Fellow, who read her poem entitled “The Shy Girl Who Refuses to Die Shy,” and thanked the key partners of YALI before offering a reflection on the key outcomes of the week. Ambassador Robert F. Godec, Acting Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of African Affairs with the Department of State, closed the Summit with remarks on the way ahead for YALI, reflecting on YALI’s journey over the last 10 years, highlighting the persistent and transformative energy and commitment of African youth, and looking ahead to the dynamism and growth that lies ahead for YALI and for Africa’s youth.

Throughout the week, the Summit included networking opportunities, YALI highlights and testimonies from alumni, U.S. and African officials, and entertainment by YALI, African, and U.S. artists. The Summit’s reach and the engagement and enthusiasm of its participants testified to the power and value of YALI.  Many participants expressed their gratitude for the first decade of YALI and their anticipation for an even more impactful next ten years.

A more detailed conference agenda and a full list of plenary and breakout session speakers are forthcoming and will be available for download on this page.

Selected Quotes

Day 1

Welcome & Opening Plenary

Mark Green

“After all, [the YALI Alumni] are the fortunate ones. The ones who have been entrusted with the opportunity to build a much brighter future, a future that is more peaceful, a future that doesn’t walk away from challenges like building a greener economy. A future that is more inclusive and respectful of others regardless of their background. A future that harnesses the brainpower of Africa’s youth to create new economic opportunities and wondrous new technologies for the whole world around you. A future that lifts up the human condition and reinforces human dignity.” 

“You can do great things. And this Summit and YALI’s mission can help you get there. So enjoy this time together, enjoy the fellowship, and take every advantage you can. This is your moment, and we’re all cheering you on.” 

Monde Muyangwa

 “Throughout the week, we will be celebrating all of you with your impact stories. We know there are thousands of these impact stories across the continent. And we hope you will tell those stories; you will share them with us. Because not only do they give us energy, not only do they inspire others. Not only does it make your other YALI alumni feel like they’re not in the trenches by themselves, that there is this army of YALI folks across the continent who are out there doing good work… At the same time, it gives those of us of the older generation much hope in terms of what you are bringing to the continent.” 

“With all of you born on the continent, what I see are young people across the continent, who are embracing that responsibility, who are embracing that obligation, to envision and shape the Africa that you want to see and that you want to leave for the younger generation.” 

Youth, Conflict Management, and Peacebuilding in Africa

Mark Green

“Africa may be the youngest continent in the world, with more than 70% of its population being young people. And yet, young people are too often not at the table when peace and security are being discussed. And their efforts of building peace at the community, national, and regional level are rarely acknowledged in peacebuilding frameworks.” 

 “Africa cannot sustain peace without the active engagements and contributions of her young people.”

Civil Society’s Role in Mitigating Climate Change

Lauren Herzer-Risi

“[The impacts of climate change] are being experienced disproportionately in the communities that have contributed the least to carbon emissions. Nowhere is this more starkly illustrated than on the continent of Africa.” 

“In our response to climate change, there is an opportunity to foster innovation, to form new partnerships, and strategically engage decision makers in new ways. There’s an opportunity to shape a more equitable future, and drive economic growth that is connected to the growth of clean energy.”

Day 2

Main Stage/Plenary

Monde Muyangwa

“Do not let the pushback related to resistance discourage you. Keep fighting. That is how change comes about.” 

“How do we fold [the gender issue] into the educational strategic plan for the way ahead, to make sure that we are not leaving young girls behind? I think that’s part of how we can amplify what youth bring to the table.”

Building Sustainable Civil Society Organizations

Merissa Khurma

“When we report on the results, or the outcome, or the impact, in line with what donors want, we often get stuck in the metrics. How do we measure the work that we’re doing? I think that there’s no better way to measure this work other than the stories of those individuals from communities that have been touched by the work that you do.”

“Understanding how to navigate the whole donor world and how to actually nurture these relationships over time is very important because then you risk donor fatigue. And there is nothing worse than that.” 

Pitching and Business Communication Skills

Linda Roth

“Storytelling is king. There’s so much content now, and how do you really connect with people? You connect with people by storytelling.”

“Make sure you know who you’re trying to reach. Each segment of your audience is going to need a different piece of storytelling content to motivate them to share your ideas, to share your product, to share your research.” 


Hosted By

Africa Program

The Africa Program works to address the most critical issues facing Africa and U.S.-Africa relations, build mutually beneficial U.S.-Africa relations, and enhance knowledge and understanding about Africa in the United States. The Program achieves its mission through in-depth research and analyses, including our Africa Up Close blog, public discussion, working groups, and briefings that bring together policymakers, practitioners, and subject matter experts to analyze and offer practical options for tackling key challenges in Africa and in U.S.-Africa relations.    Read more

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