Remarks at Alumni Reception

Remarks at Alumni Reception
September 29, 2017

Madame the Minister of Commerce
Madame the Minister of Grassroots Development
Madame the Representative of UNDP in Togo
Members of the alumni network
Honored guests

It is a great pleasure to welcome you all to my home tonight. This is the second time I have hosted a reception at my house to welcome home the new Mandela Washington Fellows, and I am very pleased to do it.

As you know, the Young African Leaders Initiative – which includes the Mandela Washington Fellowship program – is very special to me. I actually helped create the program when I was working in Washington DC a few years ago.  I have watched with an enormous sense of pride as the program has grown.

Almost 300,000 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 3,000 of the most dynamic, most impressive young leaders have been accepted as Mandela Washington Fellows, including 36 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. I know they have big plans and big ambitions, and I have no doubt they will be successful in realizing those ambitions because they have the support of the alumni network.  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. As I look out at the audience, I am amazed by the level of professional experience and expertise of our alumni.

I hope all of you recognize the value of this network, and I urge 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.