Remarks by U.S. Ambassador Michael A. Raynor at the 15th YALI Connect Camp Closing Ceremony

Remarks by
Michael Raynor 
U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia
at the 15th YALI Connect Camp Closing Ceremony 
Satchmo Center, Ethiopia
December 15, 2017

(As prepared for delivery)

Good morning and a warm welcome to Ethiopia for our guests!

As YALI Connect Camp participants, I know that you have spent the last week here Addis Ababa getting to know one another, and having great conversations about capacity building, innovation, mentoring, and leading for social change. These are all important topics, and ones that will help you achieve your professional as well as personal goals.

What I enjoy most about my job are the opportunities to meet and interact with young people in Africa.  The Young African Leaders Initiative, also known as YALI, is the U.S. government’s signature effort to invest in the next generation of African leaders.  We have this program because of our commitment to Africa, and because Africa is a young continent. Nearly 1 in 3 Africans are between the ages of 10 and 24, and approximately 60 percent of Africa’s total population is below the age of 35.  That is anticipated to increase to more than 70 percent by the year 2050, as Africa’s population is expected to exceed 2 billion people.

We realize that meeting the needs of that population is not something we can do on our own.  We will need strong partners and strong leaders here on the continent to address the needs of that growing population and to help realize Africa’s tremendous potential.

YALI was launched in 2010 to support young African leaders to help them spur growth and prosperity, strengthen democratic governance, and enhance peace and security across Sub-Saharan Africa.

This YALI Connect Camp is special – not just because it was held in Ethiopia for the first time – but because focuses on specifically on Mandela Washington Fellowship alumni and their mentees.  Each of you was selected to participate in the 15th and final YALI Connect Camp based on your vision, your mentor-mentee relationship, and your shared goals.  After this week, I hope you are closer to making your project and ideas a reality.

The idea of mentorship is critical to the success of the YALI program.  The prestigious opportunity to participate in YALI is only open to a select few.  At the same time, we realize that we need to expand the reach of the program to have the kind of impact that’s needed.  By sharing your skills and experience, by mentoring other promising young leaders, you can help make that a reality.

It is impossible to overstate the important role that you and other African youth need to play in building a better future. From job creation, to good governance, to building inclusive societies, there are many challenges to be overcome. We have confidence in your ability to achieve those goals.

The future belongs to you and the thousands of African youths across the continent.  The YALI Connect Camp takes your energy and ideas, and provides a structure for you to implement social change in your communities, where you will make a difference.

This week you’ve had the chance to hold conversations on obstacles preventing you from reaching your goals, share perspectives on a range of community issues, and identify possible solutions to those challenges.

I’ve been following the camp on Twitter, as time permits, and I like what Dominque of Rwanda tweeted earlier this week:  “Start with what’s strong, NOT with what’s wrong. Your community can bring better things on the table.”  What also struck a chord with me was Margaret of South Sudan’s tweet:  “Look at communities as not consumers but as producers.  Everyone has a talent to bring to the table to create change in communities.”

I encourage you to take what you have learned here to heart and share it with as many others as you can.  Please also stay connected and share with us your successes. Your projects – be it women’s empowerment, improving English language skills, promoting entrepreneurship among youth and women, storytelling or volunteerism – will facilitate social change and impact your community, and by sharing them we can help expand their reach.

Before I close, I want to recognize the hard work of Ohio University and the university’s Scripps College of Communication – our partners that administer and organize the YALI Connect Camp:

Dr. Yusuf Kalyango, Professor and Director of the Institute for International Journalism in the Scripps College of Communications

Dr. Judith Miller, Professor in the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs

Ms. Mary Rogus, an Associate Professor of Journalism

Thank you Yusuf, Judith and Mary for all of your efforts and facilitation this week at the 15th YALI Connect Camp.

I also want to recognize two people who have been working behind the scenes managing the logistics of the camp and documenting your experience:

Elias Hailemariam, the Administrative Coordinator of the YALI Connect Camp 15-2017

Tedos Teffera, photographer and cameraman

Again thank you and I wish you all the best!