U.S. Ambassador Dennis Hankins joined Mali’s 2021 Mandela Washington Fellowship recipients to discuss U.S. engagement in Africa and the critical role youth will play in shaping the continent’s future. The Mandela Washington Fellowship is the flagship program of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), created in 2014 to deepen the United States’ engagement with youth in Africa.
The discussion was part of a two-day orientation to prepare Mali’s seven fellows for the exchange program, which begins June 21, and will be conducted virtually this year to protect the health and safety of fellows.
The seven participants were selected among more than 320 applicants nationwide and represent several sectors critical to Mali’s development, including agribusiness and entrepreneurship, women’s and children’s rights advocacy, and education. The fellows are from Bamako, Mopti, Koulikoro, and Timbuktu.
- Bakary Coulibaly, from Koulikoro, will study Business and Entrepreneurship at Northwestern University. He founded the Computer Science Training Center of Safo (C.F.I.S) to help youth in his community escape poverty by providing them with the skills necessary to pursue a job in the technology field.
- Mariam Doumbia, from Bamako, will study Business and Entrepreneurship at Purdue University. Mariam serves as Country Director of OKO Finance, an international social enterprise providing crop insurance solutions to rural farmers, and is the owner of a moringa farm, which employs dozens of rural women from surrounding villages.
- Seynabou Dieng, from Bamako, will study Business and Entrepreneurship at Clark Atlanta University. Previously the CEO of a consulting and research firm servicing small and medium enterprises and non-governmental organizations, Seynabou has now established her own food processing business, Maya.
- Ezechiel Amagoron Douyon, from Mopti, will study Civic Engagement at Kansas State University. In addition to working at SNV Netherlands Development Organization, Ezechiel founded an association building youth capacity and promoting civic engagement and co-founded a school, Complexe Scolaire Douyon.
- Diana Sididi, from Timbuktu, will study Civic Engagement at Kansas State University. A women’s rights and disability advocate, Diana works as communications consultant at World Bank Group, and is co-founder of Derhane, a video blog which advocates for diversity and inclusion.
- Salimata Sangare, from Bamako, will study Public Management at Texas Tech University. Salimata has myriad experiences in tax policy and in building public-private partnerships. She currently works at the Mali Investment Promotion Agency (API-MALI) as Director of the One-Stop Business Registration Office and has led projects for UN Women and the UN Capital Development Fund to promote women’s entrepreneurship.
- Boncana Maiga, from Bamako, will study Public Management at the University of Minnesota. Boncana has more than 10 years of experience as a child advocate and one day hopes to found his own lobbying organization and establish an advocacy and lobbying school.
Ambassador Hankins explained that empowering youth is at the heart of the U.S.-Africa partnership. “Our mission is to partner with Africans to promote security, good governance, prosperity, and opportunity. And we believe those goals are all intertwined. The YALI program exemplifies this partnership and will have a long-lasting impact in Africa as it continues to build opportunities for African youth.”
The YALI Mandela Washington Fellowship includes six weeks of academic and leadership training hosted by U.S. universities with a focus on one of three tracks: Business and Entrepreneurship; Civic Leadership; or Public Management, followed by a summit attended by business, government, and NGO leaders. Upon returning to their home countries, fellows continue to build their skills through support from U.S. embassies and other U.S. partners. Fellows have access to ongoing professional development opportunities, mentoring, networking and training, community service, and seed funding to support their ideas and ventures.
Today in Mali, more than 60 alumni are already growing innovative businesses, forging durable networks with young leaders across Africa, and deploying their skills in their communities. Mali’s Mandela Washington Fellows hail from myriad backgrounds and from every corner of Mali but are all united in their leadership ability and commitment to Mali’s future.
The U.S. Embassy in Bamako congratulates the newest class of YALI Mandela Washington Fellows on all they have accomplished and all that is to come!