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Obama, African Youth Leaders to Discuss Challenges


At the White House on Tuesday, President Barack Obama is scheduled to host an extraordinary meeting of more than 100 young leaders from more than 40 African nations. What is being called the President's Forum with Young African Leaders is part of observances marking 50 years of independence for 17 sub-Saharan African countries.

For nearly 90 minutes, Mr. Obama will interact with young leaders in Africa, using a "town hall" style meeting -- a forum he put to good use as a presidential candidate, and continues to use when he wants to connect with Americans when he travels across the United States.

To be streamed live on the Internet, the meeting will be a give and take discussion with young people who Mr. Obama sees as holding the future in their hands at a time of great opportunities and challenges for the African continent.

Although the event takes place against the background of 50th anniversary independence observances for 17 African nations, no African heads of state or government will be attending.

Invitees compose a broad array of professions and fields, including business owners and entrepreneurs, journalists, actors, women's leaders, youth counselors, and individuals involved in climate change and sustainable development.

African youth leaders are attending workshops at the State Department and other Washington venues, focusing on issues such as education, freedom of expression, human rights advocacy, transparency and accountability, democracy and governance, and the legal and ethical issues of HIV/AIDS.

They will also go to Capitol Hill to meet members of Congress, visit the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and spend time meeting with former U.S. Peace Corps volunteers, who will accompany them on visits to community service organizations in the Washington, D.C. area.

A key organizer, Maria Otero, the U.S. Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs, says the forum will allow young leaders to learn from one another, while giving U.S. policy makers a chance to learn how best to support African youth's vision for the future of Africa.

Otero and President Obama's Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy, Judith McHale, are scheduled to host an event at the end of the week called "The Way Forward" in which delegates will discuss their experiences.

White House officials note that 60 percent of Africa's population is below the age of 30, adding that this week's events could contribute to helping Africa's young people as they deal with the challenges they face.

During his only official trip to sub-Saharan Africa, President Obama, whose father was from Kenya,
told Ghana's parliament that the United States will be with Africa's youth as they take responsibility for their future.

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