Obama’s Young Africans Leaders Initiative

Young Leaders from Zimbabwe
Young Leaders from Zimbabwe

500 Washington Fellows arrived in Washington, DC this weekend for one of President Barack Obama’s signature programs for Africa is the Young Africans Leadership Initiative (YALI).  The selection was competitive with the 500 being picked out of 49,000 applicants across Sub-Saharan Africa. The United States showed leadership on gender equality with 50% of the fellows being women.

The goal of the intensive 6 week program is to assist young Africans to develop African solutions to African problems in  business and entrepreneurship, civic leadership, or public management by

  • strengthening democratic institutions
  • spurring economic growth
  • enhancing peace and security in Africa

Although all the country statistics are not available yet Zambia has reportedly sent 21 fellows. Zimbabwe sent 30 leaders in entrepreneurship, civil society, and community service in their communities.The country of Malawi sent just 9 fellows to Washington & Nigeria 45  and Kenya 46.

One of the women Tinotenda Pasi who grew up in the high density suburb of Chitungwiza, Tino was exposed to gender-based violence and struggled to find the funds needed to pursue her studies.

She developed her growing passion by participating in the Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) organization as a fellow, where she received various honors at SIFE World Cup competitions for her passion for community development through business. These include the Medal of Honor in France (2006), USA (2007) and Singapore (2008).

She believes that programs such as the Washington Fellowship provide a platform to share best practices on resolving pressing issues across continents. “I believe development is a collective effort and that the individual efforts of young Zimbabwean leaders in their respective fields all contribute to that collective effort,” she says.

Upon her return from the U.S., Tinotenda has set her sights on establishing the Hope Foundation, an organization which will target women and youth. She imagines two key programs.  “The youth component seeks to award educational opportunities to young people from high density suburbs through the provision of scholarships, career guidance and mentoring,” she says. The other program will focus on gender-based violence, working with survivors of gender-based violence to develop their entrepreneurial skills so they become self-sufficient and lead decent lives.

 Her notable achievements include raising nearly $400,000 from the MasterCard Foundation. She has previously worked as an economist with the Zimbabwe Women’s Resource Centre & Network (ZWRCN), where she specialized in gender responsive budgeting and policy analysis. Prior to that, she worked as a Business Development Associate in the Investment Banking Sector with Fin360 Research & Advisory. Her primary role was in market research, financial product development and marketing.

All the fellows will have the opportunity to meet the American leader for  for a three-day Presidential Summit, and Town Hall event.  President Obama has remarked that leadership training for young people will become one of his post presidency pursuits.

Professional fellowships  will be available to 100 of the fellows who will stay in the US longer at U.S. businesses, non-governmental organizations, and governmental offices. These  Fellows will have  access to seed funding and professional development opportunities and networking with other YALI alumni. President Obama’s father was a college student who came to the US to study and learn in the hopes of going back to Kenya and build the newly independent Kenya so perhaps YALI is one of the dreams of his father.




  1. A once in a lifetime opportunity. May they use it wisely. There are many US citizens who have never had a one on one with Prez. so don’t take it lightly. Take advantage of this time.

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