Good afternoon. It is my pleasure to be with you today as you take the first step in your journey as participants in the 2014 Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, the signature program of the Young African Leaders Initiative, or YALI, initiated by President Obama.
You are among the 500 participants from around Africa that will attend America’s top universities for six weeks of academic coursework and training. Afterwards, you will participate in a Presidential Summit convened by President Obama in Washington, DC.
YALI is a key part of President Obama’s commitment to invest in the future of Africa. The White House created this initiative out of recognition of the critical and increasing role that young Africans play in strengthening democratic institutions, spurring economic growth, and enhancing peace and security in Africa.
The YALI program recognizes that nearly one third of Africans are between the ages of 10 and 24, and around 60 percent of Africa’s total population is below the age of 35. If demographic projections hold, by the end of the century, 41 percent of the world’s youth will be African.
The U.S.-based coursework and training is only the beginning of our long-term investment in you. Following your return to Nigeria, you will have opportunities for networking, ongoing professional development, seed funding for entrepreneurs, and community service.
We wish you all the best, and trust that you will seize this opportunity and make the most of it. You are the next generation of Nigeria’s leaders, and to paraphrase President Obama, “you are the change we seek.” The U.S. is making this investment in you because we believe that positive change in Africa will come from a generation that rejects corruption, supports peaceful reforms, and advocates for the rights and dignity of all citizens, regardless of gender, religion, or tribe. You’re that generation, and we’re proud to welcome you to the U.S. in support of that vision.