Young African Leaders Washington fellows join Michael Krasny.

President Barack Obama launched the Young African Leaders Washington Fellowship last year to “give thousands of promising young Africans…the opportunity to come to the United States and develop [their] skills at some of our best colleges and universities.” Fifty thousand people applied for 500 slots in intensive summer programs at universities nationwide. We check in with some of the fellows studying civic leadership at UC Berkeley’s Goldman School for Public Policy. And we’ll discuss the important work they’re doing back home, and their visions for the future of their countries.

Elaine Muntongwizo Vere, attorney with the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum and a Young African Washington fellow
Chundung Ashley Dauda, peace builder with the Women Without Walls Initiative in Northern Nigeria and a Young African Leaders Washington fellow
Zana Ouattara, co-director of the Bouake Caravan of Non-Violence, which brings campaigns of non-violence to public schools in Cote D'Ivoire and a Young African Leaders Washington fellow
Chief Sbonelo Mkhize, chair of the uThukela House of Traditional Leaders and a Young African Leaders Washington fellow

  • Beth Grant DeRoos

    To bad we don’t put as much effort in getting our own young black men into university programs like those being mentioned. The question is why?

  • Ben Rawner

    Could you ask your guests what their impressions of African Americans are? And what is something new and interesting that they have learned?

    • gege

      As an African I get this question all the time usually from older white Americans. My impression of AAs is of a people who truly have been culturally and mentally conquered. The fact that, after more than 3 centuries of their presence in America, the identity of AAs as Americans remains questionable and subject to redefinition by others (some of them recent immigrants) is in itself a tragic consequence of cultural and political imperialism. Surely, there is some of this in Africa too, especially because of the colonial borders, but Africans still have a strong sense of identity and belonging to the continent, be it in the form of ethnicity or nationality. I suspect that you’re more interested, as many of my older white friends, in knowing our views on the so called ‘African American culture’, especially drugs and violence (as if it were an imported rather than organic product of American society). Personally, I see it as the physical manifestation and expression of the psychological effects of cultural and political imperialism: the inferiority complex drilled into AAs right from childhood by the media combined with deliberate public policies in housing, law enforcement and the prison industrial complex intended not only to rob people of their dignity, but also to keep them in a perpetual state of psychological disorientation and debilitating fear, so as to prevent them from advancing. The enduring claim that AAs are inherently parasitic, violent, less intelligent and less responsible, and predisposed to criminal behavior than other groups–all in one–is simply plain racist, and an imperialist mindset invoked to justify the continuation of the dehumanization and subjugation of one groups by and to another(s).

      • Dedan Kimathi

        Thank you for your well thought out answer my brotha’. I’m an African born in America (You will note the difference between how I identify and those of us that suffer from Eurocentric mental imperialism here in Amerikkka). It should be noted that white folks who ask this question usually think that it is rhetorical. It is usually a precursor to a cultural divide and conquer that attempts to make a separation between the cultural/socio-political struggles of Black folks from the continent and those in the diaspora.

        Contrary to what most white Americans think, we Africans in the diaspora formed more of the cultural identity of these neo-european nation-states than any other group. They have little or no popular culture without the contributions of Black folks. Blues, Jazz, so-called “rock”, popular dance wouldn’t exist without Africans in America. And, its been that way since the inception of this country. In the 19th century the most popular form of entertainment on the globe was white men dressed and painted up as Black men and mimicking Black music. Robin Thicke, Iggy Aezelia and Macklemore prove that not much has changed.

  • Dedan Kimathi

    I would like to hear the guests thoughts on the notion of contemporary Pan-Africanism as a political force on the continent of Africa. Does their generation have any consciousness or ambition about Pan-Africanism?

    • gege

      Mr. Kimathi, that is a good question, especially considering the recent backlash against the African identity. The irony here is that, today, more and more young Africans seem to distance themselves from the ‘African’ identity. Instead, they emphasize their national identities; that’s the idea that initially catapulted Chimamada Adichie into public spotlight and world fame, and it’s gradually gaining dominance, particularly among young diaspora Africans. But does being Nigerian, Kenyan or Zimbabwean make you a non-African? In this age where other countries are seeking more regional, even continental integration–save for intra-independence movements in the UK and Spain–I personally think this attitude regressive, if not, suicidal. Our power lies in our oneness, and the independence movement proved that.

      Now I must admit that this new attitude is not without a source: It’s a direct consequence of the failure of African governments to deliver on the Pan-African agenda of strength in unity. With many African countries failing (DRC or CAR, S.Sudan or Somalia, to name but a few), the Pan-African identity has become a burden instead of a privilege. Why should a Botswanian be subjected to questions about the bombings in Kenya, Nigeria, or to ethnic cleansing in CAR? It’s makes more sense to extricate oneself from it all by clinging to national identity. Yet, undoubtedly, the long-term solution to most of these problems lie in adopting a more united approach and attitude toward them and build strong states capable of pulling resources together whenever necessary. Weak states like the DRC, CAR, S.Sudan and Somalia just can’t solve their problems on their own, and our former colonial powers and now China won’t help for free. There is a always a big price to pay with such help–if not loss of sovereignty, then most certainly economic loss. That’s why Pan-Africanism is critical.

  • GiorgioOrwell2nd

    What are your guests opinions on the influence of the current US African American/Hip Hop culture’s influence on youth in their own countries…ie..excessive materialism and glorification of violence.

  • Hilary

    I’m so enjoying hearing these voices – their excitement about what they are learning here and will take back with them to their countries. They understand better their local problems and challenges. They are a bridge between the new and the developing aspects of their countries, cities, towns and villages. They will represent the authentic voice of their needs. My family left Berkeley for one year to live abroad. We lived in Senegal (Dakar). It was just our own self-imposed sabbatical. It was a magical and profound year for me and my husband (we did volunteer work) and our kids who speak French to continue their French education in a Senegalese/French school and for us to improve our French. My husband did volunteer work at a school to resurrect their defunct OLPC network. With limited resources but a source of his own knowledge (and intermittent access back to fellow tech colleagues in the US) he was able to get things working again and train one local person to keep up the support. His biggest “aha” moment was realizing how much outside NGO’s and companies come into try and ‘save the day” for many African nations and then leave. People want the “feel good” moment but it ends up just following apart because of the lack of undersanding of so many local aspects by those coming in – politics, infrastructure (water, electricity), social, religious, climate, knowledge, engagement….I very much like the idea of this program bringing opportunities to these young leaders who will take it back to their countries and build grass roots with energy that stays!!

  • Linnea George-Kupfer

    This is a comment for the listeners of this program. I want to encourage everyone who is listening to GO to Africa. You cannot know or understand these people and their hearts unless you have been to Africa in person. My trip to the Swahili coast in 2001 has left a deep impression on my heart. And I have a hole in my soul that only Africa can fill. I love you!

    • Hilary

      I understand!! I know we will go back to West Africa. How or when it will happen I don’t know but it will….

    • burnpaper

      Agreed! I was in Peace Corps and lived in Mauritania (and visited Senegal a few times). It was an amazing life experience and really opened my eyes. I learned so much and met so many awesome, dynamic people. It was an honor to explore the local cultures and, hopefully, share the good things from my own. I know my friends who lived/traveled in Africa had varied but enriching experiences as well. If you ever have an opportunity to visit Africa, take it! You won’t be sorry! 🙂

      I wish the folks involved in the Young African Leaders Washington Fellowship program the absolute best. Every region needs strong, forward-thinking leaders. (And I’m hoping you’ll be able to help with the continent’s ‘marketing campaign’, so everyone will know Africa’s [both as a whole and its individual countries] many wonderful and unique qualities!)

  • Rose

    I am from the Ivory Coast and have been living in the US for 12 years. I can relate to what they are talking about. I have this desire to go back and help; I have a Ph.D. in molecular microbiology and want to do research; but there are no prospect of that in the Ivory Coast… It is very difficult to go back when you think about the corruption. It’s difficult to even know where to start if you want to help. Can your guests speak about that? I personally feel like it’s better to help from afar….

  • I would LOVE to go to Africa, but I don’t know how. Unless I’m with the government, a hard to get non-profit job, the only way I can find to do it is by paying a lot of money for private volunteer programs. How else can I go to Africa and do something meaningful as a global citizen?

    • Hilary

      You can do it like we did….we have contacts now in Dakar and places that you can help but speaking French is required. But yes, you still have to have the funds to sustain you for some time….

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