The U.S. Consul General, John Bray, has urged the 2016 batch of Mandela Washington Fellows to use their knowledge to transform Nigeria.
Speaking during a reunion conference for the Fellows in Lagos, Wednesday, Mr. Bray said the U.S. government had always intended the Young African Leaders Initiative to be an avenue for networking and exposure to resources to help the participants become effective leaders in business, government, and civil society.
“I am asking you to define this conference as the moment when you take your game to the next level,” said Mr. Bray.
“To gather everything you have learned in the United States, and from each other, and act with all the force in you to accomplish positive change in Nigeria.
“Ask yourself – how much more can you empower thousands of fellow Nigerians to access opportunity and gain the knowledge that you hold? How many more Nigerians can you reach?”
The Fellows departed Nigeria for Washington for a six week studies in civic leadership, business and entrepreneurship and public management in various universities in the United States.
Mr. Bray said the 2016 Fellows would enjoy the support of the USAID, IREX, and the State Department to attend events, organize events, create networks, and partner with other organizations.
“We will do that in numerous ways as my Public Affairs Section colleagues from Lagos and Abuja will explain. We want your projects this coming year to be the best they can be,” he said.
“As you give back to your communities, I want you to think ahead in your work, so that you look at horizons beyond Nigeria, in concert with other Mandela Washington Fellows.”
The Mandela Fellowship is the flagship programme of President’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) and a key component of President Barrack Obama’s commitment to invest in the future of Africa.
The programme, initiated by the US Government to recognise the increasing roles that young Africans are playing in strengthening democratic institutions, economic growth, and enhancing peace and security in Africa; started in 2014.
In an interview with journalists on the sidelines of the conference, Darcy Zotter, Public Affairs Officer at the US Consulate, said the YALI programme became imperative because African problems need African solutions.
“That those solutions are gonna come from Africans,” Ms. Zotter said.
“And all the US government is hoping to do is to provide a fertile ground and a fertile network and to provide those people with the skills so that they can turn their ideas into solutions.”
Ms. Zotter said the fellowship would continue running despite Mr. Obama, who initiated it, leaving office later this year.
“It was one of my worries, what’s going to happen to the programme, but I was pleased to learn in Washington that this programme has been so successful and that members of our Congress have been so impressed with it.
“There is bi-partisan support for it, it got funded again. We have every reason to expect regardless of who becomes president, this programme will survive based on its merits.”