Good Ideas Leapfrog Languages, Borders–and Age: Young African Leaders Share Their Vision in Washington, DC

By Alex Tung

“Good ideas leapfrog languages and borders,” said Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton in her remarks to the 115 young leaders from 47 countries of sub-Saharan Africa at the 2010 President’s Forum with Young African Leaders yesterday.

These young leaders  were selected based on their “strong leadership qualities” and “their track record of affecting positive change.”  They represent the “young and growing economy” of Africa, where 60 percent of the population is under the age of 25.

Yesterday’s highlight of this three-day event was a “town hall” style forum in the White House, hosted by President Obama.   The discussion focused on the participants’ vision for transforming their societies in the next 50 years.  The year 2010 marks the 50th year of independence for seventeen countries across sub-Saharan Africa, and this forum provides a timely opportunity for these young leaders to reflect on the past and plan for the future together.

“The world needs your talents and your creativity,” said President Obama as he addressed the group,” United States wants to listen to you and work with you.”

Through this forum, participants like Lesego Sekano from South Africa hopes to “meet young leaders who are … passionate about Africa…want to make a difference in building a better non-dependent Africa with an economically, independent Africa through initiatives like entrepreneurship and skills development.”

The participants will take part in plenary sessions, small group discussions and meet with members of Congress and leaders of American civil society during the rest of their time in Washington DC.

Alex Tung is a research intern with the Nourishing the Planet project.

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