Pan-Africa Youth Leadership Program (PAYLP) 2015

In the spring of 2015, Meridian International Center launched into its second year of implementation for the U.S. Department of State’s Pan-Africa Youth Leadership Program (PAYLP). This exciting program recruits an annual total of 72 African high-school students and adult mentors from Sub-Saharan Africa. The three-week cultural exchange aims to strengthen the participants’ understanding of civic rights and responsibilities, entrepreneurship, respect for diversity, and the importance of community engagement.

Fostering the Leadership Potential in Africa’s Future Leaders

PAYLP participants, recruited and selected by the U.S. Embassies throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, partake in interactive leadership trainings, conflict resolution seminars, entrepreneurship classes, community service, and cultural activities in Washington, DC, Muncie, Indiana and Chicago, Illinois.

In partnership with program partner, Ball State University, the PAYLP students are trained and mentored in the best practices for creating a sustainable action plan to identify and address a need in their home communities. Upon completion of the program, students have the opportunity to apply for small-grant funding from Meridian International Center to implement their action plans and create positive change in their communities.

The program also includes a comprehensive overview of U.S. history and culture, as well as many core leadership development facets, including:

  • A 4-day segment in Washington, DC to learn about U.S. history, culture and the U.S. system of democratic governance, civic rights and responsibilities in the U.S.
  • Leadership training, focusing on goal-setting, conflict resolution and negotiation, communication and presentation skills
  • Two weeks at Ball State University, based in Muncie, Indiana, where students are exposed to a mix of classroom-based lectures, interactive workshops, trainings, and simulations focused on social entrepreneurship, action planning and community engagement
  • Two-week living with the American host families
  • Site-visits, cultural and volunteer activities, and speaking engagements which provide hands-on learning opportunities for skills application and networking
  • Job shadowing and professional development opportunities for adult mentors

The program concludes with a four-day closing conference in Chicago, Illinois, where participants join together to share their experiences, deliver their action plan presentations and reflect on the lessons learned from the program.

Outcome: Young Changemakers on the Move!

Following their U.S. program, the participants return home with enhanced leadership skills, more confidence and a clear plan of how they can implement change in their communities. The students are given access to Meridian’s vast network of program alumni, including Mentoring Partnership for Young African Leaders (MYPAL), Professional Fellows Program for Economic Empowerment with Zambia and Zimbabwe, as well as alumni of African Leadership Academy, for mentorship and professional development opportunities.

The PAYLP Alumni also have access to Meridian International Center’s small grant funding opportunities to kick off their action plans in their home communities.

Examples of ongoing Action plans include:

  • Go Clean Project - Amina Ndagire (Uganda)
    A School Water and Sanitation (SWAS) Club – formed in October 2014, to help improve sanitation levels in Amina’s local school by June 2016. Some of the key problem’s indentified in Amina’s community are: poor sanitation and hygiene and access to reliable clean water. Amina aims to install water tanks with clean drinking water; make rubbish bins available; and spread awareness on sanitation issues through posters, focused group and community discussions. Amina plans to support the long-term sustainability of her initiative by organizing popular community events with entertainment and merchandise for sale. The additional funds raised will be used to augment and build another seed funding provided by Meridian. Amina’s long-term goal is to show the community that it is less expensive, in the long run, to repair sanitation systems and look out for one’s personal hygiene, than it is to face the personal health-related costs caused by poor sanitation.
  • Write Out Your Innovation - Jee-Won M. Arkoi (Liberia)
    Write Out Your Innovation is an after-school creative writing class for young girls in Liberia. Due to Ebola and 14 years of civil problems, children have lacked in English writing skills. The class will be held at the New Hope Academy with volunteers from the Girls of Distinction Club. Activities include vocabulary development, comprehensive reading, and creating and analyzing literary works over the course of several months. The budget needs cover costs for textbooks, chalk, water, snacks, and stationary. The creative writing contest, evaluations, and reports would evaluate the developed skills. Girls from 4th to 11th grade would specifically benefit from the organization.
  • War Against Plastic Bags – Mandresy Fenomanantsoa, Serge Rakotonirina, Fenosoa Manoa, Tanja Miharisoa (Madagascar)
    Madagascar is a country that embodies biodiversity. The Madagascar Cohort’s project focuses on preventing pollution caused by plastic bags. In the participants’ hometown, plastic bags clog pipes, and drains, which increases flood damage. The floods destroy homes, spread waterborne diseases, and ruin community spaces. However, plastic bag manufacturers are fearful of losing jobs and decreasing employment rates. The participants’ first step is to host press conferences in November to raise awareness on the issue, prove the projects credibility, and find funding and strategic partners. The group feels that advertising by using posters, social media, and alterative handmade creations (e.g. Malagasy baskets, paper-made bags, gifts, etc.) will move their ideas forward. The budget to start their project requires a room rental fee, transportation, reception, and journalist fees. By reducing bag pollution, they will improve sanitation and health.

Participating Countries:

Since March 2015, Meridian welcomed Young African Leaders from the following participating countries: Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda, and Zimbabwe. In July, Meridian hosted students and mentors from Cameroon, Ethiopia, The Gambia, Liberia, Senegal, and followed by a final cohort in October from Benin, Burkina Faso, Congo, Madagascar, Mali, and Niger.

Cohort 1

Cohort 2

Cohort 3



United States Department of State - Wikipedia

Project summary

Pan-Africa Youth Leadership Program (PAYLP) 2015 | October 2015
Number of Visitors: 72
Regions: Africa
Countries: Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Gambia, Liberia, Senegal, Benin, Burkina Faso, Congo - Kinshasa, Madagascar, Niger
Impact Areas: Civic Engagement, Education, Youth Leadership Development
Program Areas: Global Leadership
Partners: Public Sector