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Five Young African Leaders Discuss What Drives Them

  • VOA News

Clockwise, from upper left, Young African Leaders Initiative fellows Glad Mabele of South Africa, Raabia Hawa of Kenya, Rui Figueiredo Soares of Cape Verde, Adele Boadzo of South Africa, and Balarabe Ismail of Nigeria.

Clockwise, from upper left, Young African Leaders Initiative fellows Glad Mabele of South Africa, Raabia Hawa of Kenya, Rui Figueiredo Soares of Cape Verde, Adele Boadzo of South Africa, and Balarabe Ismail of Nigeria.

The Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) was started six years ago to support an emerging generation of young African entrepreneurs, activists and public officials.

Its flagship program, the Mandela Washington Fellowship, began two years ago with the goal of empowering young Africans through academic coursework, leadership training and networking.

More than 40,000 people applied to join the Mandela Washington Fellowship program this year -- the largest number yet, and more than double the size of previous years. Nearly 1,000 were chosen in 2016 as Mandela Washington Fellows.

The three-day summit, which began Monday in Washington, featured a congressional forum, an expo with more than 100 organizations engaged in Africa, and Wednesday's town-hall meeting with Obama.

The young African leaders convened in Washington after six weeks of academic study and leadership training at nearly 40 institutions of higher education across the United States.

Here are the stories of five of the young African leaders:

► Adele Boadzo, a South African native and electrical engineer, is the founder of the energy nonprofit Hope Rises Solar. She says she is driven by her grandmother’s memory in the quest to bring solar electricity to her continent. Adele spent her summer at the University of California-Davis’s Energy Institute.

► Raabia Hawa, a conservationist from Kenya, is a part of the initiative Walk with Rangers that works to fend off poachers throughout her continent. Hawa was part of the YALI program at the University of California-Berkeley.

► In Nigeria, the most populous African country, food safety often means protecting people from unsafe food. Balarabe Ismail, a food safety expert from Nigeria, wants to improve the lives of his countrymen and fellow Africans by making sure the food they eat is safe and healthy. Ismail spent his time at Ohio State University.

► Glad Mabele, from Johannesburg, is the founder of Bela Books Creative in South Africa. Mabele is revolutionizing the way children in many African communities read and write. He studied at Cambridge College in Boston.

► Rui Figueiredo Soares, from Cape Verde, has years of experience flying planes and is committed to the field of aviation. But after a few close calls, his life goal now is to make the skies of Africa safer for pilots. During his summer at Arizona State University he has focused on public policy, with an eye on influencing politicians back home.

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