29/08/2014: Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI)

On July 28th, 2014, the Ambassador of Malawi to the United States, His Excellency Mr Steve D. Matenje, met with nine young entrepreneurs selected by the U.S. government to participate in the 2014 Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) program. Officially named the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African leaders in honor of former South African President Nelson Mandela, YALI is President Barack Obama’s flagship program that embodies his commitment to invest in the future of Africa.

The nine fellows: Daniel Dunga, Chipiliro Kansilanga, Mweta Katemba, Nabulambo Kilembe, Thomson Ligowe, Lombola Lombola, Hastings Mkandawire, Vanessa Nsona and Ahmed Sunka were among 500 young African leaders aged between 25-35 years selected from nearly 50,000 applications from across the continent to participate in six weeks of intensive leadership training, and skills building at 20 top U.S. universities. They also met with President Obama and Mrs Michelle Obama.

The nine fellows participated in the program with flying colors. Two of them, Hastings Mkandawire, the founder and Director of Turbines Development Enterprise, and Lombola Lombola, Co- founder and Managing Director of Bamboo Express, each received a grant of $25, 000 (about MK10,500,000) to help them expand their businesses and entrepreneurial skills upon return to Malawi.

Mr Mkandawire and Mr Lombola were among 36 fellows selected to receive the grants from a total of 150 of the 500 fellows who qualified to apply for the grants.

Mkandawire runs a hydro-power plant project in Nkhata Bay enabling many families in the district to access affordable electricity, prevent deforestation and achieve sustainable livelihoods.

His work was recognized by President Obama at a summit he had with the 500 fellows in Washington D.C, as one example of the many inspiring stories of young Africans transforming communities on the African continent through technological innovation.

Mkandawire said he would use the grant to purchase equipment such as turbines and hydro power accessories to expand electricity generation, transmission and distribution in his community.

“Increased production of electricity will also increase job opportunities for the youth. Prices of products will be reduced since most products will be produced per unit time,” he explained.

Lombola on the other hand said he will use the grant to help accelerate and expand his bamboo furniture enterprise through the acquisition of power tools, a showroom and scaling of its apprenticeship programme.

“Now I will also increase the number of youths undertaking internships which will provide an opportunity to unemployed youth in Malawi,” he said.

To be eligible for a grant a business or social venture must be 100 percent African-owned and managed, by a young African and based in and operating from one or more Sub-Saharan African countries.

In his remarks the Ambassador Matenje, congratulated the fellows on being selected to the 2014 YALI program. He said that the program is critical in helping the Malawi Government create a robust and productive youth sector in Malawi. He appealed to the nine fellows to be role models for other youths and deepen the skills they learned from the program for the development of Malawi. Ambassador Matenje also briefed the fellows on the role of the Malawi Embassy to the U.S in promoting trade and investment with the U.S.

The 2014 YALI program focused on one of three tracks: business and entrepreneurship; civic leadership or public management. The formal program was augmented with workshops, mentoring and networking opportunities with leaders in their fields from the U.S. public, private and NGO sectors.