Washington — Speaking before an audience of young Africans pursuing success in many career fields, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton laid down a bet June 13.
“We bet you will use your talents and your skills to bring prosperity and a better future to those who need you,” Clinton said as she spoke at the State Department to participants in a three-week program of leadership development and mentoring for young adults representing almost all the nations of sub-Saharan Africa. They will spend time in Washington, Chicago and other cities meeting Americans in many different professions, spending time in their workplaces and developing ideas to advance the progress of their own nations.
Clinton implored the young Africans to become ambassadors for their countries in their meetings and contacts to come, teaching Americans about progressive trends unfolding in Africa: growing opportunities for women and girls, increasing democratization, expanding economic growth and booming activity in information technologies.
In working to broaden the American view of their nations, Clinton told members of her audience, they have the power to “break down the walls of ignorance and indifference,” to mobilize greater commitment to the goal to “truly make the world a better place.”
While the young Africans are participating in the program for exposure to ideas that might help advance their endeavors at home, they are selected for the mentoring program by U.S. embassies in Africa because of accomplishments they have already achieved in their countries. Saying, “You are our highest achievers,” Clinton noted particular individuals who have already left a mark on their communities:
• A young South African has launched a nongovernmental organization to give women and girls in her community more education and opportunities to promote greater advancement in society.
• An entrepreneur in Namibia has produced his own line of chili and barbeque sauces that he is now distributing around his country, with the goal of broader sales around the continent.
• A radio journalist in Guinea has been recognized for reporting on drug trafficking and is now developing programming to support expanding agricultural enterprise.
This is the third occasion that the Obama administration has convened a group of young African leaders to participate in a development and mentoring event as part of the President’s Young African Leaders’ Initiative. With this long-term effort to develop a positive U.S. relationship with African youth, the administration is reaching out to this generation as integral players in the world’s future economic growth.
“We want to see this group of young leaders thrive to be a great network,” Clinton said, noting that 60 percent of Africans are under 25.
At the same time, she said, the Innovation and Mentoring Summit gives the United States the opportunity to learn from the 60 summit participants about how the U.S. government might improve the U.S.-African relationship.
“This is not a one-way broadcast,” Clinton said with a smile.
After a few days in Washington, summit participants will split up for separate assignments in Seattle; Charlotte, North Carolina; Philadelphia; Pittsburgh; Miami; Huntsville, Alabama; Denver; Chicago; and Cincinnati. Partners in these cities will offer the Africans hands-on experience in the American workplace and exposure to American culture. This training aims to enhance U.S.-African collaboration to promote business innovation, investment and social responsibility in Africa.