Outstanding young leaders from 17 African countries recently spent six weeks at the Mendoza College of Business to learn about business and entrepreneurship through a signature program by President Barack Obama.
The Washington Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) invited 25 young leaders from sub-Saharan Africa to receive immersive training by Mendoza professors from June 16 through July 25. Notre Dame was among 20 top colleges and universities to host YALI fellows.
“This program allows you to take a step back and look at improving your organization,” says participant Candice Potgieter, an astrophysicist and CEO of the KZN Science Centre in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. “You always need a balance to see how you can do something better. For our science center, we need to look at our funding models to see how to improve them. That’s how nonprofit organizations can end up being sustainable, and how we can introduce our model to other African countries. The professors at Mendoza have given me great ideas to explore when I return to South Africa.”
President Obama launched YALI in 2010 to support young African leaders seeking to spur growth and prosperity, strengthen democratic governance and enhance peace and security across Africa. The Washington Fellowship is a new component of the program that will bring 500 students to the U.S. each year for five years for leadership training, academic coursework and mentoring, and will create unique opportunities in Africa to put those new skills to use.
A three-day summit in Washington, D.C., immediately followed the six-week program. All 500 YALI participants attended a town hall meeting with President Obama. They also heard remarks from Secretary of State John Kerry and were scheduled to hear from first lady Michelle Obama.
After the trip to Washington, selected participants received an eight-week internship with an American nongovernmental organization or business.
As part of the Notre Dame Initiative for Global Development, the University program was supported by a $100,000 grant from the U.S. Department of State. Additional support was provided by the Kellogg Institute’s Ford Family Program in Human Development Studies and Solidarity, the Notre Dame’s Engineering, Science, Technology and Entrepreneurship Excellence Masters (ESTEEM) program, the IBM Corporation and Coca-Cola Foundation’s 5by20program, focused on female entrepreneurs.
“These participants are exceptional leaders who will return to Africa with new ideas to help take their respective country’s future to a new and higher level,” said Marc Hardy, director of nonprofit executive programs at Mendoza. “This is an extremely engaged group of successful entrepreneurs in many different areas. It is an honor for the Mendoza College of Business at Notre Dame to host such a motivated and distinguished cohort of Washington Fellows.”
In addition to their coursework, the Notre Dame fellows visited businesses in the South Bend area, including Better World Books, the Tire Rack and Union Station Technologies. In Chicago, the IBM Innovation Center, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Capsim and the Chicago Cubs served as enthusiastic hosts.
Also focusing heavily on community service in South Bend, the fellows worked with the Boys and Girls Club, YMCA, YWCA, Unity Gardens and the Center for Hospice.
“The Washington Fellowship at Notre Dame is a vital aspect of the University’s global gateway into a continent that faces great challenges but presents vital opportunities,” said Peter John Opio, academic director of the YALI Institute at Notre Dame. “It’s an opportunity for Notre Dame to become an effective partner toward the socioeconomic transformation of Africa in a more concrete way.”