Remarks by Deputy Chief of Mission Troy Fitrell at a reception in honor of the 2018 Mandela Washington Fellows from Ethiopia

Troy Fitrell
U.S. Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission
at a reception in honor of the 2018 Mandela Washington Fellows from Ethiopia
U.S. Embassy, Addis Ababa
May 15, 2018

(As prepared for delivery)

Salaam!  Good evening ladies and gentlemen, friends.

First of all, congratulations to all the 2018 Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders finalists and alternates!  You’ve been selected for one of the most exciting, inspiring and life-changing exchange programs from the Department of State.

Today, you learned about the Mandela Washington Fellowship – what you’ll be doing, learning, and experiencing for six-weeks in the United States.  When you depart for the United States on June 20, this will mark the start of a new chapter in your life.

Briefly, the Mandela Washington Fellowship is one component of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI).  The other two components of YALI are:

  • the YALI Network which provides virtual resources to learn, to connect and to gain new skills; and
  • the Regional Leadership Centers which provides training, mentoring and networking opportunities in Dakar, Nairobi and Johannesburg.

YALI was launched in 2010 to recognize and support the critical and increasing role of African youth in strengthening democratic institutions, increasing economic growth and prosperity, and enhancing peace and security across Africa.  Nearly one in three Africans are between the ages of 10 and 24, and approximately 70 percent of Ethiopia’s total population is below the age of 35.

The Young African Leaders Initiative – with its components:  the Mandela Washington Fellowship, the YALI Network, and the Regional Leadership Centers – are signature programs of the Department of State and the United States Agency for International Development to invest in the next generation of African leaders.

The Mandela Washington Fellowship attracts future African leaders –in business, academia, public health, civil society, in your communities.  All of you are dynamic visionaries who will make an impact.

This is a particularly exciting time in Ethiopia to talk about the future.  At our national day celebration last week, Ambassador Raynor highlighted the recent tone and direction set by Prime Minister Abiy’s administration and the eagerness we see among the Ethiopian people for constructive change, and their optimism for a brighter future.

He added that our experience in America tells us that such change will require effort.  It will take collective persistence and commitment to ideals.  It will take patience. And it will take the courage to hope, and to trust.

It will also take leadership and that is exactly why the United States sees YALI and the Mandela Washington Fellowship as critical to Africa’s future.  This experience will help prepare you to play a constructive and positive role in charting Ethiopia’s future.

You will not only network across Africa, but also among yourselves.  After the fellowship, you will have opportunities to apply for grants, to develop projects, and to share your experiences.

Tonight is an opportunity to meet my colleagues, alumni of the 2017, 2016, 2015 and 2014 Mandela Washington Fellowship, key partners and friends.  When you return in August, we look forward to hearing about your experiences and to engaging with you.

Again, congratulations!