Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders 2015 Press Briefing

As Prepared For Delivery | May 06, 2015 | Gaborone

Good morning. Thank you for joining us today as we introduce the lucky13 Batswana leaders who will participate in the prestigious Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders in 2015.

In 2010, President Barack Obama launched the Young African Leaders Initiative – known as “YALI” – to empower the incredible talent and creativity of young Africans. Last year, President Obama expanded the initiative to include a fellowship component to give 500 young Africans from across the continent the opportunity to come to the United States and develop their skills as the next generation of leaders in civil society and business and government.

Across the continent the response was overwhelming. Last year, and this year, 500 Batswana applied for the Fellowship.

The objective behind YALI is to support these leaders as they spur growth and prosperity, strengthen democratic governance, and enhance peace and security across Africa. President Obama recognizes that the security, prosperity and justice that we seek in the world cannot be achieved without a strong, prosperous and self-reliant Africa. And to seize the potential of today’s Africa, we must nurture its dynamic youth.

The Mandela Washington Fellowship is the flagship program of this initiative. “The spirit of this program reflects Madiba’s optimism, his idealism, his belief in what he called ‘the endless heroism of youth.”

The young Batswana leaders selected to participate in this prestigious program all have a proven record of accomplishment in leading and promoting positive change, not only in their work, but more importantly in their communities.

The 13 leaders selected to represent Botswana will be part of a larger delegation of 500 Africans, representing bright, ambitious, and dedicated young heroes on the continent. They will participate in a six-week academic residency at a U.S. university, which will include leadership seminars, mentoring and networking sessions, as well as community service opportunities, site visits, and cultural outings. After the academic component, Fellows will unite in Washington, D.C. for a Presidential Summit to interact with senior U.S. government, business, and civic leaders, including President Barack Obama. In addition, two of our fellows have been invited to participate in a professional internship following the Summit.

Upon return, Fellows have numerous opportunities, including internships with companies and non-profit organizations, professional mentorships, travel grants to attend and speak at high-level conferences, and fundraising assistance. I am proud of our 2014 Mandela Washington Fellowship alumni who have taken advantage of these opportunities, and who will soon be launching a service project to provide leadership training, networking and mentoring to young professional teachers, and young entrepreneurs.

What a privilege to present these 13 Batswana today. We expect great things from them during the fellowship and for years to come. I will now introduce our 13 young Batswana leaders. When I call your name, please stand up and be recognized.

Mr. Bakang Palai works in property asset management, and his firm is responsible for several of Gaborone’s newest shopping centers, industrial parks and residential developments. He is the Co-founder of the Green Building Council, which promotes sustainable building in Botswana and is assisting in the formation of accreditation tools to rate “green” buildings.

Ms. Lorato Mudongo is a Mandela Rhodes Scholar currently pursuing a Master’s degree in psychology. She is focusing on gender-based violence, with the goal of reshaping Botswana’s academic discourse and social practices on gender. She actively volunteers to empower young women in leadership roles, and fights for gender equality and maternal health rights.

Ms. Ludo Chube is a journalist working for the Daily News in the Chobe District, covering a wide range of issues, including the environment, global health, and gender-based violence. She voluntarily trains communities in disaster risk management, and works with the district’s library committee to encourage reading.

Ms. Lepang Ferguson is an entrepreneur, innovator, and business owner, who designs products from native materials, and plans to market high-quality products from local artisans on the global stage. She helped design the opening ceremony of the African Youth Games, and volunteers to care for underprivileged women who are terminally ill.

Mr. Xukuri Xukuri is an influential community leader, activist and board member with the Khwedom Council. Mr. Xukuri has a long history of volunteer work, assisting with education campaigns, tutoring, and mentoring youth in his native rural community.

Dr. Orapeleng Phuswane works as a medical doctor at Princess Marina Hospital. As a pediatrician, her goal is to help build the first and finest children’s hospital in Southern Africa. She currently volunteers in community outreach projects to identify at-risk children.

Mr. Phenyo Moroka is an influential radio and television broadcaster, and host of the Yarona FM morning show and a business television show on CNBC Africa. As a social entrepreneur, he works with students to understand what youth need to improve their lives, and formulates follow-on strategies to help them reach their goals.

Mr. Monametsi Sokwe is the Executive Director of Ngamiland Council of Non-Governmental Organisations – NCONGO – the only district level NGO council in the country that provides leadership and strategic direction to more than sixty civil society organizations in Ngamiland. He is a volunteer at an environmental NGO to mitigate climate change, and at a local NGO which supports orphans and vulnerable children.

Ms. Malebogo Motlhabane is a Senior Public Relations Officer for the Ministry of Lands and Housing in the Kgatleng district, disseminating and publicizing land management issues, and providing customer service to a large clientele. Previously, she was the Senior Communication and Broadcasting Officer for Botswana Television.

Mr. Moses Kebalepile is an entrepreneur and research officer at the University of Pretoria, where he is pursuing a PhD in Public Health, specializing in environmental epidemiology and respiratory health. As a leader in preventative measures in public health, he is the inventor of the “Asthma Grid” which will predict eminent asthma attacks.

Ms. Tuduetso Madi is an Administration Officer for the Department of Curriculum Development and Evaluation at the Ministry of Education and currently earning her Master’s degree in politics and international relations from the University of Botswana. She mentors disadvantaged youth, teaches life skills, and encourages leadership.

Ms. Dorothy Okatch is the Leadership Coordinator at Stepping Stones International. She helps young people return to school, assists them to find employment or internships, and guides them in starting their own businesses. She is earning a Master’s degree in social work from the University of Botswana, and is an accomplished small business owner. She is the first International Basketball Federation referee in Botswana, and volunteers with the Special Olympics and Police Basketball Club.

Ms. Unami Moatswi cannot be here today. She is the Operations Manager for the non-profit organization Young 1ove, a U.S. Embassy partner which provides awareness training and classes to end intergenerational sex and contribute to the reduction of teenage pregnancy and HIV incidence. She mentors undergraduate students, and volunteers for the United Nations Population Fund to implement sexual reproductive health campaigns.

What an impressive group of young leaders.

The Mandela Washington Fellowship is just the beginning of our relationship with this new cohort of Batswana leaders. The U.S. Embassy looks forward to working with them upon their return and helping them build an even stronger, more prosperous and resourceful Africa. As President Obama said, “I have no doubt that you’re going to leave behind for the next generation, and the generation after that, an Africa that is strong and vibrant and prosperous, and is ascendant on the world stage.”

Thank you.