5 June 2017

Africa: Young Leaders Gather to Generate Innovative Solutions to Tough Challenges in West Africa

press release

Accra, Ghana — More than 130 young African leaders met in Accra, Ghana from May 31 to June 1 to collaborate on solutions to tough challenges in their countries and communities.

At the West Africa Regional Conference as part of the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, these young professionals collaborated with their peers to share solutions for deepening engagement with youth and communities. During the conference's pitch competition, Fellows had the opportunity to showcase their state-of-the-art projects and ideas to potential business partners, including Rainbow Consult, Kwese TV, Rendeavour, nFortics, Africa Internship Academy, and The CSR Training Institute.

Mandela Washington Fellow Laud Anthony Basing from Ghana won the competition with his innovative pitch for a v-discharge toolkit, a self-administered vaginal diagnostic tool that connects to a mobile app to treat infections and improve health outcomes for women across West Africa.

"The pitch competition and the Fellowship provided an important platform to showcase my product, obtain important feedback, find partners, and acquire investors," Basing explained. Other pitches included a disability-friendly apparel business, a culinary tourism company, a multi-purpose community tool bank, and a community literacy project.

Young African leaders from 21 countries attended the conference, including Benin, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Cameroon, Chad, Côte d'Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, São Tomé and Príncipe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo.

U.S. Ambassador to Ghana Robert P. Jackson urged Fellows to continue to push forward, stressing that, "innovation is what is needed to change the face of the continent. Leaders are those who refuse to give up in the face of challenges."

Dr. Patrick Awuah, Founder and President of Ashesi University College, delivered the keynote address and reminded Fellows that, "the character of a leader will become the destiny of a nation."

The Mandela Washington Fellowship brings 1,000 young African professionals from across the continent to US universities for six weeks of leadership training. Competitively selected, the Fellows represent the continent's emerging generation of entrepreneurs, community leaders, and public officials working to shape the future of Africa.

Fellows also presented on how they are tackling community problems to support entrepreneurship, end youth unemployment, and foster economic development.

Theo Sowa, CEO of the African Women's Development Fund, encouraged Fellows to understand the importance of collaborating with each other, now and into the future. "Leadership is not about the individual. It's about the collective and working together."

USAID and IREX support Mandela Washington Fellows in Africa after they complete the U.S.-based portion of the Fellowship, with continuing professional development opportunities, mentoring, networking, and training to advance these young leaders along their professional endeavors as they help build a brighter future for Africa and forge deeper bonds with counterparts in the United States.

"Through the Fellowship, these young leaders can engage and build the kind of relationships, business practices, and transparent governance that is essential for both African and US businesses to enter and thrive in emerging markets," said Taleb Salhab, Vice President for Global Programs at IREX.

Photos and video from the conference are available online.

Hashtag: #MWFCon17

Alex Cole, Director of Strategic Communications, IREXacole@irex.org

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