Forty five Nigerians are set to leave for the U.S. on Friday, to participate in President Barack Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). Mrs Maria Brewer, the Chargé d’Affaires of U.S. Embassy in Nigeria, made this known while addressing newsmen in Abuja.
Brewer said that the initiative, which was a Washington fellowship for young African leaders, was initiated in 2010 by Obama.
“This is the first year for YALI itself; there was a president’s forum for young Africans that President Obama initiated in 2010.
“This is the outgrowth of that and as the U.S. government, we are exploring how to take that initial action and turn it into something that is programmatic and will continue,’’ Brewer said.
She said that more than 49,000 applications from the continent were received in Washington D.C. for the 500 fellowships that were to be given out.
Brewer added that 15,000 applications came from Nigerians and 45 of the applicants were eligible for the fellowship, adding that the applicants were drawn from all over the country.
The Chargé d’Affaires also said that participation of the young fellows in the fellowship was an opportunity to realise the aims of the programme.
“The U.S. coursework and training is only the beginning of our long-term investment in these young leaders.
“Fellows will have opportunity for networking, ongoing professional development, seed funding and community service.
“In addition, the fellows will have access to dedicated funding opportunities to support their ideas, businesses and organisations.’’
According to her, five million dollars in small grants will be awarded in the first three years by the U.S. African Development Foundation to Washington Fellows seeking to start or enhance their own businesses or social enterprises.
She said that participants had to be between 25 to 35 years to be eligible to apply for the programme.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the participants are expected to undergo training courses for six weeks in civic leadership, public management, business and entrepreneurship in 20 top universities in the U.S.
After the six-week course, participants will also participate in a Presidential Summit convened by Obama in Washington D.C.
Also, a few fellows will stay in the U.S. to participate in an additional eight-week internship with American NGOs, private and government organisations.
Some participants, who spoke to NAN, expressed their determination to make the most of the course.
Mariam Mohammed, an Abuja based lawyer, said she would be taking a course in public management and would apply her new skills in promoting the management of her office administration and NGO.
“I started an NGO which is a group and we look out for people with health issues who need some financial help; we find cases and the genuineness of such cases, and we go to the hospitals and pay.
“When we can’t afford the bills, we send broadcasts through the social media, we get people to support us and send the receipts of payment as a proof that our cause is genuine.
“I realised that it is not just what you are doing but the ability to get the support for what you are doing that encourages them to want to work with you.”
Another participant, Amina Oshiokpekhai, a caterer said she would be taking a course in business and entrepreneurship.
“I had the opportunity to work at the local government, I was a one-time chairperson and I worked with women; I inspired them to encourage their wards to go to schools, academic, vocational or technical schools.’’
Oshiokpekhai said she hoped to use the acquired skills to build on her desire to create a world-class confectionery and build a culinary institute that would impart youths with like desires.
Also Olusegun Odunaya, an entrepreneur who operates a small scale company which specialises in renewable energy, said he would be taking a course in business and entrepreneurship.
“Our focus is on solar; our company provides small scale solar energy for people in both rural and urban areas.
“But sometimes, we run certain projects from the proceeds of what we earn from the urban communities to help those in the rural communities have access to this renewable energy source.”
Odunaya said he hoped to use his acquired skills to develop a “go green-initiative’’ programme for students in secondary schools across the country.
President Obama launched the YALI in 2010 as a signature initiative that supports young African leaders who strive to promote growth and prosperity, strengthen democratic governance, and enhance peace and security across the continent.