The U.S. Mission to Nigeria has invited 101 young Nigerians to the U.S. to participate in the 2017 Mandela Washington Fellowship program.
The 101 Nigerians are to join their 899 colleagues from 48 other sub-Saharan countries for the fellowship program.
The Embassy in Abuja said the Mandela Washington Fellowship is the flagship programme of President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative, and a key part of the U.S. commitment to invest in the future of Africa.
Through this initiative, 40 U.S. universities will host 1,000 young leaders from Sub-Saharan Africa for institutes focused on public management, business and entrepreneurship, civic leadership, and for the second year, a specialized institute on energy.
Speaking at the pre-Departure Orientation Agenda in Abuja on Tuesday evening, the U.S. Counselor for Public Affairs, Aruna Amirthanayagam, said numerous Nigerians applied for the fellowship after due process selection.
“More than 22,000 Nigerians applied to participate in the 2017 Mandela Washington Fellowship program. After the review by our partner NGO, after a reading by members of the Mission Nigeria community, after an interview in either Abuja, Lagos, Jos, Kaduna, Benin, Port Harcourt, or Calabar, you’re here. And your experience in the United States begins in just 39 days,” Mr. Aruna told the selected participants.
He said that Nigerians along with 899 colleagues from 48 other sub-Saharan countries, will have the opportunity to engage students, professors, and professionals on the campuses of 40 universities, colleges, and institutions across the United States, from the University of San Diego in California to Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, and many places in between.
A participant, Chioma Okereke, an analyst for FBNQuest, described the program as a huge opportunity and a great responsibility.
“its a huge honor and responsibility placed on me. It reminds that there is so much that is needed to be done.
“Someone is taking me there for free and is expecting me to come out and make a huge impact in the society. My greatest fear is that we don’t have the capacity to be as developed as we want in Africa.
“Africa is the youngest continent in the world. In Nigeria, 60 per cent of our population are youth and most of these youth are unskilled. Most employers feel the youth are not qualified enough to be employed.
“So you see that opportunities are very scarce to develop oneself. If our youth are not prepared and they make up the population of the nation that means we are not getting there. For me this network is a great opportunity for capacity building, it reminds of the work I need to do for the people around my network. The program will groom me as a leader. the selection process was very fair. I thank God am among.
“Nobody recommended me, I went there with passion and I was able to pass across my message.”
Another participant, Adebayo Adegbembo, a programmer for Genix Games, said he will use the knowledge he will acquire from the program to engage other Nigerians in the areas of leadership, goals,and capacity building.
“As a leader, I work with young people across all ages. The knowledge I will acquire their will help me build on what I already have. One of the interesting part of the program is that they have a regional network of over 100,000 people.
“The idea is to give back to the people when I come back by holding mentorship sections, sharing what I have learnt across the network online and engaging in physical programmes that will be insightful.”
In 2010, President Obama launched YALI as a vehicle to support an emerging generation of African leaders.
In 2014, the program was expanded to include 500 young African leaders from sub-Saharan Africa.
In 2016, 1,000 young Africans participated in the fellowship.
Since its inception, 186 young Nigerians have participated in the fellowship, and over 45,000 young professionals in Nigeria have joined the YALI network.
In 2016, 100 young Nigerians participated in the fellowship.