It’s startling to think how young Africa is. The United Nations estimates that the continent is home to some 200 million people aged 15 – 24; a figure they predict will double by 2045.
With such a tremendous youth population, the possibilities are endless. Realizing this, President Obama launched the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders in 2014 to invest in the next generation of African leaders.
Part of President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative, the fellowship empowers 1,000 emerging leaders aged 25 – 35 from Sub-Saharan Africa by engaging them in academic coursework, leadership training, and building networking skills.
“These are the young leaders whose skills, passion, and visions for the future will help shape the fate of their countries and the world,” Obama explained in 2014. “It is in everyone’s best interest to help them prepare with the tools needed to build a healthier, more secure, more prosperous, and more peaceful Africa.”
These are the exact ideals that have driven and continue to drive Counterpart International’s work on the African continent.
Intrinsic to all of Counterpart’s work is our dedication to building the capacity of local, emerging leaders. We equip individuals, organizations and communities with the skills needed to become solution creators for their own families, regions and countries. With over fifty years of experience, we’ve partnered with organizations and individuals from Mauritania to Mozambique through our time on the continent, and we have worked to inspire young Africans as they have inspired us. We currently have 11 programs in Africa expanding access to education, improving health and nutrition, and enhancing civic participation.
In Senegal, we are partnering with over 20 communities and 270 schools in the Matam Region, to ensure our Food for Education Program increases school attendance, teaches sustainable farming methods and builds long-term community gardens in the face of intensifying drought.
Just this past June, Counterpart hosted the Working Together for Malawi Conference in Lilongwe. More than 250 civil society organizations joined in cross-sectoral dialogue that provided leaders with tools needed to more effectively achieve their goals and overcome barriers.
And in Zambia, Our Fostering Accountability and Transparency (FACT) is partnering with 138 civil society organizations and government agencies to improve access to health and education services for 184 communities. Counterpart also developed a strategy for inclusion that engages women, minorities and those living with disabilities in civic participation activities to help ensure all voices are heard.
We are thrilled by programs like the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders – the opportunities that emerge, the potential that flourishes, and the great things these emerging leaders will achieve for their communities and countries.
“The most important investment we can make is in local communities, because they are the ones who know the challenges and will create the solutions!”
– Joan Parker, Counterpart International President & CEO
As we gather with 1,000 of the best and brightest African minds in DC, we look forward to listening, learning and being inspired by these young men and women. It is these lessons, these discussions and these networks that they will take from our capital to capitals all across Africa. And perhaps, it is there that we will meet again…