Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addressed a Meridian-led delegation of dynamic, young African business and social entrepreneurs on Wednesday, June 13th. The delegation, called Young African Leaders is in the U.S. on a three-week leadership development program that includes a Washington summit and a two-week mentorship program with private companies and organizations in nine U.S. cities. The program, implemented by Meridian and sponsored and underwritten by the Department of State in close collaboration with the Bureau of African Affairs, is aimed at creating economic opportunity for these young people and strengthening economic ties between the U.S. and Africa. In addition to focusing on trends in entrepreneurship and innovation, the program will expose Americans to the business challenges and economic opportunities in Africa.
The participants, who were selected by the U.S. embassies in Africa for their potential to promote and develop entrepreneurship, come from 42 African countries, range in age from 20-35 years old, and are leaders in their diverse fields that are revolutionizing the African business environment like mobile technology, agribusiness, and healthcare. They are also applying their professional skills to address social problems in their communities, from environmental protection to youth and women’s empowerment.
Secretary Clinton was introduced by Assistant Secretary of State at the Bureau for African Affairs, Johnnie Carson, who praised the Secretary for her continued commitment to Africa. After welcoming the group, Secretary Clinton talked about the tremendous potential of Africa as one of the fastest growing economic regions in the world and how important this was for the future of U.S.-African relations. She spoke of Africa’s role at the forefront of many of today’s global challenges and of the continent’s importance for U.S. foreign policy. Secretary Clinton referred to the fact that 60 percent of Africa’s population is under 25 and that this presented a “cause for celebration”—if young people in Africa can get their voices heard and have the freedom to reach their potential. She went on to praise the group of young leaders for being emblematic of the best of young Africa, singling out the accomplishments of several of the individuals in the delegation. Among them was Clarisse Karungi Iribagiza. At just 20 years old, Clarisse is a businesswoman from Rwanda who is the CEO of HeHe Limited, a company that has quickly become one of East Africa’s leading mobile development companies. She was the recent winner of a reality TV show, “Inspire Africa,” a 13-week “Apprentice”-style show that brought together 24 young Rwandan, Ugandan, Kenyan and Tanzanian entrepreneurs.
The Secretary closed by urging the delegates to use their three-week visit to the U.S. to become “ambassadors” for their countries to convey to Americans the remarkable developments underway in Africa.
Secretary Clinton addresses US Young African Leaders Initiative
Young African Leader Aisha Ali interviewed on Voice of America program on her participation in Meridian-led program (in English and French)
Young African Leader Manasseh Mathiang interviewed on Voice of America program on his participation in Meridian-led program (in English and French)
Young African Leader Ken Mwenda Gikunda interviewed on Voice of America program on his participation in Meridian-led program (in Swahili)