MIAMI – Twenty-five young African leaders from sub-Saharan nations have been receiving training locally in a six-week public management institute, which highlights environmental issues.


[optinlocker]The Africans are being hosted at Florida International University as part of the Obama administration’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). They say they have learned many lessons which they plan to implement when they go back to their countries.

YALI’s flagship program, The Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, kicked off on June 16, bringing a total of 500 Africans to the U.S. for training and mentoring in business and entrepreneurship, civic leadership and public administration at 20 American universities and colleges. FIU is the only school in Florida selected this year, receiving a $100,000 grant to host the fellows.

As part of their training at FIU, the fellows, aged 25 to 35, have been visiting agencies in Miami-Dade County and participating in leadership training and community service projects.

Lindiwe Dlamini, an energy expert from Swaziland, said the program has helped her learn new leadership skills.

“It’s also a great opportunity to work with fellow African leaders,” Dlamini said. “”As much as we are all African countries, we’re very diverse. We’re very different. We do different things. We think differently. So it’s a good opportunity to bring different minds together and to learn from it.”

The YALI fellows come from other countries such as Burkina-Faso, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Mali, Mauritius, Senegal, Tanzania and Uganda.

“Miami has very diverse cultures, just like we have in Africa, where we have very diverse cultures from different ethnic groups but they come together and they work together and see the progress of Miami and they’re able to coordinate and then learn from each other and get something done,” said Harriet Adzofu, a psychiatric nurse from Ghana. “That hasn’t seemed to be the case in Africa. We don’t use our diversity as a strength to get things done. When I get back home, I will try to impart that knowledge on my people so that we can use our diversity as our strength to get Africa moving.”

Besides learning about effective leadership strategies, public administration and ethnic diversity, the scholars have also learned a lot about American culture from their observations at social outings.

 “I see YALI as a good opportunity to us because we are able to share the experiences that we are seeing in the US,” said Humphrey Anjoga, co-founder and COO of Uganda School of Professional Development. “Most importantly, we have been able to see the American culture. Sometimes when you stay back home, you wonder, What America is? How do the people do their work? How committed are they? Why are they different from us? I want to appreciate that Americans love their country as compared to what we do back home.”

On Saturday, the fellows attended a picnic with FIU faculty at Broward College in Hollywood. The group bonded over a game of soccer. Other social outings included watching the July 4 fireworks, going to a Miami Marlins vs. New York Mets baseball game and attending a Boyz II Men concert afterward.

“One of the things I would like to take back home and implement is what I’ve learned in regards to the water sanitation and hygiene, seeing that I do run a non-governmental organization that focuses on that aspect and I’ve learned quite a lot of things in regards to water management, sanitation and hygiene, which I will try to incorporate in our activities in my NGO, when I get back home,” said Mustapha Gwary,  founder and project coordinator of the Water For Sustainable Living Initiative in Nigeria.

He was one of 100 fellows selected to intern in the U.S. at the end of the YALI program. He will intern in Colorado at a non-governmental organization (NGO) to learn how it is run and use the experience to benefit his group back home.

At the end of their training, the Africans will attend a three-day meet with President Barack Obama in Washington, D.C., along with other Washington fellowship participants. After returning home, they will have an opportunity for continued networking, ongoing professional development, access to seed funding and community service activities.