Fostering Dialogue With Young African Leaders

Posted by Andrew Cedar
May 18, 2011
Young Leaders in Senegal Gather for Discussion

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



May 19, 2011

Rachelle in India writes:

Wow I think many things which occurred there was new to you, hope you had a great experience over there...

New Mexico, USA
May 19, 2011

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@ Andrew Cedar,

Enjoyed reading your posts, thanks.

Got me thinking back to how I came to get involved in construction and building the skill-set needed to make a career of it, then finding a specialty that suited me eventually.

So I have to wonder having been the beneficiary of Job Corps on the job training as a component of that process, whether that program could serve as a model to foreign governments they could adapt to suit their youth and employers as a placement program to ease unemployment.

By the same token, I could see this program you're involved in being adapted to state and local gov. applications here at home.

The way I figure it, either legitimate sources of opportunity will carry the youith forward in life or an organized criminal element will seek to recruit them , put them to work, and endanger their future.



Emmanuel I.
May 20, 2011

Emmanuel I. in Nigeria writes:

For me and other young Nigerians, is a welcome idea or development for youth from different countries to meet and trash out issues that will make the world a better place and mostly Africa and other developing countries. I don't know if your organization is partnering with the Nigerian government in any way?. I am a student of one of the Nigerian polytechnics and i am studying Accounting but i have strong passion for peace, gender equality and better life for all (human development). I will be glad to partner with your organization either directly or indirectly. I anticipate hearing or reading more form your organization. Thank for this wounderful opportunity given me to air my view.

Bijoux k.
Congo, Democratic Republic of the
May 23, 2011

Bijoux K. in the Democratic Republic of the Congo writes:

whaou! it is my dream for a better world : love, peace, relation... Oooooh thanks i'm interess job.

California, USA
May 27, 2011

Michelle in California writes:

I love this. Giving young people in Africa to let there voice be heard and giving them a chance and a hope to go somewhere. They need to do this in every part of Africa. They need to do this in Nigieria. Help them let these young people grow to change Africa for the better.

Debra W.
May 30, 2011

Debra W. in Georgia writes:

My dream is to help serve in Cape town sometime this year, but I am having a little problem getting to the place. I would like to teach over there one day. I need some help with my plane ticket and living arrangement. Please help me get over to Cape town South Africa.... Thank you A welling and able person.

Mfon E.
June 14, 2011

Mfon Abel E. in Nigeria writes:

Thanks for your great work. When will you come around to Nigeria? I want to be part of your leadership trainig and experiences. Please let me know. if i nee dto do something to get you coming, let me know.

nkereuwem c.
July 4, 2011

Charles N. in Nigeria writes:

Dialogue is not a weakness but a weapon to resolving differences across the globe. Let's embrace dialogue for global peace and sustainable development. Please I will like to be part of your leadership program me. Thanks


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