Remarks at Alumni Reception
September 28, 2018
Madame the Minister of Grassroots Development
Madame the Director of FAIEJ
Monsieur the Prefect of Zio
Dear members of the diplomatic corps
Dear members of the network of the Global Alumni Association of Togo
It is a great pleasure to welcome you all to my home tonight. It has become something of a tradition to host a reception to welcome home the newest group of Mandela Washington Fellows, and I can tell you that it is an event I truly look forward to.
As you know, the Mandela Washington Fellowship is part of the broader Young African Leaders Initiative, or YALI. Most of you have heard me talk about how special YALI is to me. I helped create the program when I was working in Washington DC a few years ago, and I have watched with an enormous sense of pride as the program has grown. It is now, I believe, the biggest and the most important investment the U.S. government has made in the young leaders of Africa.
To date, more than 500,000 young people from across Sub-Saharan Africa have joined the YALI network of online training courses. Thousands more have attended seminars on leadership and entrepreneurship at the four YALI Regional Leadership Centers in Dakar, Accra, Nairobi, and Pretoria. And almost 4,000 of the most dynamic, most impressive young leaders have been accepted as Mandela Washington Fellows, including 46 from Togo! And I am very happy to inform you that we are currently accepting application for the next group of Fellows.
Tonight we welcome home the Mandela Washington Fellows who completed their fellowships this summer in the U.S. They did intensive course work at some of America’s most prestigious universities and they made important connections with representatives of civil society, the private sector, and government.
But as in the case of any exchange program, what they did in the U.S. is less important than what they are going to do here in Togo, and I guarantee you, they are going to do big things. I know this because they are intelligent, passionate, and committed. And they have another thing in their favor which is also very important: the support of the alumni network. All the people who came before them as participants in our exchange programs – not only the Mandela Washington Fellowship but also the Fulbright, the International Visitor Program, the Humphrey, and many more. I have worked in Africa for 30 years and I can say that I have rarely seen an alumni network that is as active and as connected. And I am especially pleased by the level of cooperation between our young alumni and the more senior members of the network. I will give you a perfect example: Just yesterday, I attended the opening ceremony of a new project that puts technology in the service of efficient local governance. This project called Nenyo City is the product of a close collaboration between Nadege Afoutou, Mandela Washington Fellow of 2015, and the Prefect of Zio, Etse Kodjo Kadevi, who participated in the International Visitor Leadership Program 14 years ago! This shows the powerful impact that can be created when our alumni join forces.
So, I hope all of you recognize the value of this network, and I encourage you to make the most of it, because Togo needs you. It needs your talent, your energy, and your passion. And it needs you to work together to find solutions to the problems confronting the country and unlock Togo’s potential so that it can really take off.
Know that my team and I at the U.S. Embassy will be there to support your efforts as much as possible. I wish you great success in all your future endeavors, and I thank you once again for coming tonight.