Young African Leaders Initiative

On Thursday, June 27, Carson City and Adams Hub welcomed a delegation of 25 members of the Young African Leaders Initiative. (YALI.) The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, begun in 2014, is the flagship program of the YALI, which empowers young people through academic coursework, leadership training, and networking. In 2017, the Fellowship has provided 1,000 outstanding young leaders from Sub-Saharan Africa with the opportunity to hone their skills at a U.S. college or university with support for professional development after they return home.

Each Mandela Washington Fellow takes part in a six-week Academic and Leadership Institute at a U.S. college or university in one of three tracks: Business and Entrepreneurship, Civic Leadership, or Public Management. UNR is one of a handful of universities selected to host a delegation.

Adams Hub Entrepreneur in Residence Matt Westfield, an adjunct professor of business at UNR and a founder of Entrepreneurs Assembly (EA), is enthusiastic about the university’s involvement in the YALI program. Westfield recently returned from a trip to Africa with EA board member and UNR faculty member Dave Croasdell. The men worked on forging relationships and fostering entrepreneurial ecosystems in a number of West African countries, including Senegal, Guinea-Bissau and Ghana. Affiliate chapters of Entrepreneurs Assembly are already operating in Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“We’re honored to help African nations continue to build their economies. For us it’s a love and a passion to spread entrepreneurship,” he notes. His enthusiasm and energy clearly resonated with the group.

The Fellows, who are between the ages of 25 and 35, boast records of accomplishment in promoting innovation and positive impact in their organizations, institutions, communities, and countries. In 2017, Fellows include leaders from 48 countries across Sub-Saharan Africa; half are women.

“We wanted to give these young leaders a taste of what’s happening here in the entrepreneurial environment in Carson, as part of their six week Northern Nevada residency,” says Miya MacKenzie, Chief Professional Officer of Adams Hub. “Fortunately we have a terrific group of very generous entrepreneurs here who are eager to share their experiences.”

Adams Hub hosted a panel discussion by founders of several business incubator startups, including Easykeeper, a livestock herd management software; LuDela, a candle company/social venture whose genesis was in Africa; Mapwater, a software company providing water-use intelligence through the Google Earth Engine; Dunce Labs, a college-prep consultancy; and Cycladex, whose scientists have developed an eco-friendly way to refine gold ore.

“The opportunities being pursued by the Northern Nevada startups in our incubator were remarkably relevant to the business opportunities the YALI members are pursuing back home. Many of them are involved in tourism, mining and agriculture. To have incubator businesses that are also operating in these same sectors was serendipitous. And it also speaks to the diversity of economic opportunity both here and in Africa,” says MacKenzie.

After brief presentations by the Adams Hub startups, there was a Q & A session with audience members and the entrepreneurs. Then YALI delegates toured the Capitol and revitalized downtown Carson with Carson City Tourism’s Joel Dunn. The Carson expedition finished with a lively social at the new Union Taphouse and Eatery, where YALI delegates continued a spirited, informal Q & A with the Adams Hub entrepreneurs over pizza and soft drinks.

Following the academic component of the Fellowship, the Fellows will visit Washington, D.C., for a Summit featuring networking and panel discussions with U.S. leaders from the public, private, and non-profit sectors.

One hundred selected Fellows then remain in the United States to participate in a six-week Professional Development Experience with U.S. non-governmental organizations, private companies, and governmental agencies that relate to their professional interests and goals.

Upon returning to their home countries, Fellows continue to build the skills they have developed during their time in the United States through support from U.S. embassies, four Regional Leadership Centers, the YALI Network, and customized programming from USAID, the Department of State, and affiliated partners. Through these experiences, select Mandela Washington Fellows have access to ongoing professional development opportunities, mentoring, networking and training, and support for their ideas, businesses, and organizations. Fellows may also apply for their American partners to travel to Africa to continue project-based collaboration through the new Reciprocal Exchange component.