The 2018 U.S. Exchange Program Alumni Conference – “Partners for a Brighter Future in Ethiopia” – was organized by the U.S. Embassy and brought together 250 alumni from all over Ethiopia. Discussions focused on how participants could contribute to Ethiopia in areas such as volunteerism, women’s empowerment, disability and inclusiveness, business and entrepreneurship, learning across generations, and work-life balance. The conference provided a platform for Ethiopian alumni to network, share experiences and ideas, collaborate, and explore opportunities to build a better future.
In his opening remarks, U.S. Ambassador Michael Raynor told alumni, “Your participation in a U.S. exchange program simply honed your skills and built your connections to help you exercise your talents to their fullest extent.” He stated that, “We invest in our exchange programs because we understand that, in the end, it’s people who move us forward through history. Now is the time for Ethiopia to move forward, and each of you will play a vital role in making that happen.”
For nearly 80 years, the U.S. Department of State has administered exchange programs for more than 50,000 participants each year to improve understanding among different cultures and viewpoints, build language and leadership skills, and enhance democratic values and institutions, economic prosperity, and security. Among the one million U.S. exchange program alumni worldwide, there are 565 current or former heads of state, 63 Nobel Prize laureates, and thousands of leaders in private, public, and non-governmental sectors worldwide.
Since the late 1950s, Ethiopians have participated in U.S.-government exchange programs, which include the Fulbright, Humphrey Fellowship, International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP), Voluntary Visitors Leadership Program (VolVis), Girls Can Code (GCC), English Access Micro-scholarship Program (Access), Youth Exchange and Study Program (YES), Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), African Women Entrepreneurs Program (AWEP), and the Pan-African Youth Leaders Program (PAYLP).
Over 2,000 Ethiopians have traveled to the United States on State Department exchange programs, and prominent Ethiopian exchange alumni include former PM Hailemariam Dessalegn; prominent opposition political figure Dr. Merera Gudina; musician Dr. Mulatu Astatke; co-founder of Sheger FM Mr. Abebe Balcha; founder of KMG Ethiopia Dr. Bogalech Gebre; and several former presidents of Addis Ababa University including Prof. Mogessie Ashenafi, Prof. Endrias Eshete and Dr. Admasu Tsegaye.