In the first week of August, the White House invited ALA Founder and CEO Fred Swaniker to participate in the first-ever ‘President’s Forum for Young African Leaders.’
While the highlight of the week was a townhall-style meeting with President Obama, Fred also met with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, two Undersecretaries of State, the Director of the Peace Corps, and several others in the administration. Fred was also chosen to represent all 115 African participants on a panel discussion entitled “Ubuntu in Action: Partnering for Development in Africa” led by the director of the Peace Corps.
“What struck me most about the week was how seriously President Obama and his foreign policy team believe the future of Africa lies in its next generation of leaders,” Fred said by phone after the event. “This was exactly the philosophy that had guided the development of ALA. I was touched by the awareness of ALA among leaders at the highest levels in the USA, and it reinforced for me the importance of the work we are doing.”
The US government has been engaging ALA in greater and greater depth over the past year. The US Ambassador to South Africa, Donald Gips, has attended several ALA functions, and Consul General Andrew Passen spoke passionately to ALA students about leadership, democracy and citizenship. When Vice President Joe Biden came to South Africa for the opening game of the World Cup, he met with four ALA students: Kwinoja Kapiteni (Tanzania), Lennon Chimbumu (Zimbabwe), Dagbedji Fagnisse (Ivory Coast) and Rumbidzai Gondo (Zimbabwe).
The White House and US State Department have come to a conclusion we share: Africa’s solutions must come from Africa. “It’s amazing to see one of the most influential offices in the world seconding our view that investing in the next generation of African leaders is the key to the continent’s transformation,” Fred said. “It isn’t often that politicians look beyond the generation in power for answers. We are thrilled that President Obama and Secretary Clinton are doing so.”
That ALA has captured the imagination of so many leaders across Africa and around the world is a testament to the impact we are having. Your commitment to our work has given Africans, and now the White House, an example of how to empower future generations to be agents of positive change.