Obama Rolls Out More Initiatives to Pep Up Africa — From Alhassan Yushau Babalwaiz, ANA North America Editor

—500 Youths to Train in Washington This Summer

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Africa is featuring prominently in the U.S. foreign policy focus—as the Obama Administration gets into its second term: Five Hundred young people from across Africa will gather in Washington, D.C. this summer as trainees in an in-depth academic and leadership training programme known as Washington Fellowship programme–designed to equip them with skills in business, public administration, and civil society as next generation leaders.

During his second trip to Africa in 2012, President Barak Obama announced three transformative initiatives: the expanded Young African Leaders Initiative—YALI, Power Africa, Trade Africa, and the recently-announced US-Africa Leaders Summit.

Young African Leaders Initiative

Out of these programs, YALI seems to generate the most excitement—about 50,000 youth applied (with 15,000 from Nigeria alone)–with the list whittled down to 500.

“It is about engaging with young people and helping them find and maximize opportunity for themselves and their communities,” said US Under-Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield, while opening this year’s  Ambassador Andrew Young Lecture Series on Africa last week.

On their return to Africa, having spent several weeks in Washington–drilled in the Young African Leaders Initiative–YALI, the fellows will continue to draw support from the U.S. Government through networking, professional development, mentoring opportunities,  as well as helping them implement community service plans.

“We are excited to meet these Fellows as well as develop programs for the thousands of other young African leaders who want to be part of this network of young leaders,”  Thomas-Greenfield told the audience in a fully-packed auditorium at the Nigerian Embassy where the event was held.

Power Africa

In recognition of the dearth of energy in Africa, the Under-Secretary explained that the U.S. proposes Power Africa as a partnership between the United States, the African governments, and the private sector to double electricity access to sub-Saharan Africa—As a pilot project, the initial phase of Power Africa, which is being spearheaded by twelve U.S. agencies, will provide over 10,000 megawatts of energy to 20 million households and businesses in six Africa countries such as Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Ghana, Liberia, and Nigeria.

“Increased access to power means improved infrastructure, education, and healthcare for citizens…so far, we’ve identified projects to reach half of that 10,000 megawatt goal,” added Linda-Greenfield.

According to the Under-Secretary, the U.S. will commit more than $ 7 billion over five years in loan guarantees from OPIC and the Ex-Im Bank, the private sector will commit $14 billion—adding that future investments will depend on implementation of country reforms—including politically unpopular ones “ like unbounding regulators and raising tariffs to cost-recoverable levels.”

Trade Africa

Trade Africa, explained Linda Green-field, will remove barriers to regional trade, which will boost greater economic ties between Africa and the United States and other regional markets.

She said the initiative will start off in the East Africa Economic Community with countries such as —Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, and Tanzania.

“ As Trade Africa develops, we are hopeful to expand the initiative to other regional entities including West Africa,” the Under-Secretary added.

US-Africa Leaders Summit

Linda Green-Field also said that the United States will host the US-Africa Leaders Summit which will bring 47 African heads of states and other regional leaders to Washington for a two-day dialogue in August this year.

As the first-ever gathering of this kind to be hosted by a U.S. President, the summit will develop plans of action to support the efforts of African leaders in finding solutions to the most pressing problems on the continent.

 “We have heard from you, our partners in the diplomatic corps, that peace and security must be on the agenda, but that you also want to talk about trade and economic growth, democracy, and good governance,” she hinted on the agenda of the summit.

In her introductory statement, Africa Society President and CEO Bernadette Paolo, who moderated the event, gave plaudits to Linda Greenfield for her achievements in three-decades of diplomatic service: “No matter what rank is ascribed to Linda Thomas-Greenfield, she not only meets expectations, but exceeds them,” she added.

Other speakers at the event were Prof. Adebowale Ibidapo Adefuye, Nigerian Ambassador to U. S., Noah Samara, Chairman of Africa Society Board of Directors, and Mamadou Beye, International Government Relations Manager of Chevron, which sponsored the event.

Now in its twelfth year, the Ambassador Andrew Young Lecture Series is part of the programmes and projects being ran by The Africa Society of the National Summit on Africa—to educate Americans about Africa to help address the mis-conception about the continent and her peoples. It features speakers whose work has advanced awareness of US-Africa relations.