Addis Ababa, Ethiopia — On August 1, 2012 recent Young African Leaders (YAL) Innovation Summit participants Ms. Addisalem Tesfaye and Mr. Kenneth Oliko visited the U.S. Mission to the African Union (USAU) to brief USAU Public Diplomacy Officer Jasmine White on their experiences during their visit to the United States.
The YAL Innovation Summit was held in June 2012 and brought young African entrepreneurs and emerging civil society leaders from across the continent together for a series of events designed to partner young African innovators with U.S. business and nonprofit professionals in order to build U.S.-Africa ties and cooperation on investment and social responsibility. Apart from the opening session with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington, D.C., Addisalem and Kenneth completed mentoring "internships" in Denver, Colorado and Chicago, Illinois.
Ms. Addisalem Tesfaye currently serves as a consultant with SODNET on their Huduma initiative, a civil society organization focused on providing a model for open governance, allowing for transparency and accountability on the provision of services to various communities across Africa. In her capacity, Addisalem assesses the feasibility of using ICTs to promote citizen feedback on public service delivery in Ethiopia. Reflecting on her experiences from the YAL Summit, Addisalem commented that she was pleased to serve as a Cultural Ambassador for people who may not have had the opportunity to directly engage or work with an Ethiopian.
While in Denver, Addisalem interned with the Open Government Institute of Colorado, a non-partisan organization that "rallies around ideas and not people," in their work to create a more clean, transparent government, where she was introduced to various political ideologies and viewpoints surrounding the upcoming presidential elections in the United States. She was also able to present Huduma and discuss how crowd sourcing can be harnessed in the relationship between people and service delivering entities.
Through the coordination of World Denver, Addisalem was able to work with Wendy Norris, the CEO and founder of tekhne.co, a journalist, entrepreneur and a crowd-sourcing enthusiast. On her own, Addisalem was also able create linkages with Flobots.org, a rock and hip hop musical group based in Denver, on some of their music advocacy programs with underprivileged youth in the community
Mr. Kenneth Oliko, commented that through his experience in the YAL program, the "U.S. gets it" in their consistent outreach with African youth. Currently, Kenneth works as a Communication and Advocacy Associate in the African Union (AU) Department of Social Affairs. Over the course of his internship in Chicago, Kenneth was introduced to many African-American traditions through his hosts and was also able to share information about his home country of Nigeria. Kenneth's work centered on engaging young people and he had the opportunity to work with three different afterschool and neighborhood youth organizations.
Kenneth, who owns his own public relations firm in Nigeria, was also able to consult with a public relations firm in Chicago to solicit guidance in his aim to move forward with his work surrounding political campaigns and outreach in Nigeria.
Overall, Kenneth commented that he was pleased to see so many of his colleagues from across the African continent doing so much with the limited resources many of them are given. He was inspired by many of his fellow YAL Summit participants and the opportunity he was given to engage with those who are sincerely interested in breaking into the African market.
Both participants will work with USAU to use their newly acquired knowledge to organize an outreach project, sharing their YAL experiences and offering to help get other youth leaders in Ethiopia, Nigeria, and the AU connected to individuals and organizations interested in working with them. The two indicated that they will remain connected to the other YAL Summit participants, their mentor organization, as well as remain engaged with the State Department Alumni database, citing that the YAL exchange program helps connect Africans who are doing great things with those who want to help, empowering these young Africans to take the lead.
The Young African Leaders (YAL) Innovation Summit, along with the International Visitors Leadership Program, is sponsored by the American people through the U.S. Department of State. It is intended to facilitate personal and professional contacts between the people of United States and professionals on the African continent. For additional information on the IVLP, please click here.