As I mentioned in my previous blog post, I was traveling with Under Secretary Judith McHale to highlight the role young people are playing in shaping the future of Africa and the world, find ways to work with governments and citizens to partner with this generation to create positive change, and continue the momentum started by last summer's Forum for Young African Leaders with President Obama.
We finished our trip in Dakar, Senegal -- with a packed schedule over one and half days. As in South Africa, I was overwhelmed by how energized young people are to have their voices heard and to help solve local and global challenges. We met with students, professors, NGOs, business people, and the Government of Senegal -- all focused on how to ensure that young Senegalese are building the skills and networks they need.
Among the events, we held a discussion with entrepreneurs at SYNAPSE, a business incubator which has trained over 4,000 Senegalese young people through a partnership called Passport to Success. They pointed out that with 100,000 young graduates looking for jobs, these programs need to be scaled significantly to begin making a dent in unemployment. But their energy suggests that SYNAPSE is only in its infancy. Their businesses ran the gamut, from an animation studio to a clothing manufacturer -- and their reach into schools promises future growth for budding entrepreneurs and those seeking jobs.
Also noteworthy was a great lunch at the West African Research Center, with influential professors and educators from across Senegal. These teachers and community leaders are a key part of positively influencing young people and giving them the skills they desire. The professors were interested in broadening partnerships with American schools to focus on topics from religious pluralism to women's rights. They also were adamant about the need for expanding vocational training and skill-building to ensure that graduates were better able to find employment.
We had an excellent roundtable at our Ambassador's house focused on youth exchange as an important tool. I'll leave you with a quote from one participant that really captures the great interactions we've had over the course of this trip. It was from Aissatou, a young Senegalese woman who is using her degree in finance to provide loans and other financial services to women looking to start their own businesses. Reflecting on all she is currently doing and her participation in last year's Forum for Young African Leaders with President Obama, she noted: "I used to think that I could help influence my country only after I had 10 years of work experience. But, the best thing I can do is be a driver of change now -- because I'm dynamic, I'm fresh, and I'm young."
This trip is just one small piece of what the State Department is currently doing to engage young leaders across Africa. In fact, our embassies across the continent are focused on this issue throughout the month of May. To learn more about these activities, click here.
Related Content: Photos from Under Secretary McHale's Visit to Senegal