Google+ Hangout: Young African Leaders
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of African Affairs
This video is available with captions on YouTube.
MS. HUGHES: Good afternoon, or evening if you’re joining us from Africa. I’m Dana Hughes. I’m a digital journalist with ABC News, and I’m very excited to be here moderating this Google Hangout featuring four of the first class of fellows from the Young African Leadership Initiative. It’s a program President Obama has championed, which has allowed 500 of the best and brightest across 49 different countries in sub-Saharan Africa to come to universities and participate in a program for six weeks.
I would like to first introduce the fellows. With us we have Cyrus Kawalya from Uganda. Cyrus, do you want to go ahead and introduce yourself?
MR. KAWALYA: My name is Cyrus Kawalya. I’m from Uganda and I’m studying currently at the Goldman School, which is the University of California, Berkeley.
MS. HUGHES: And now we’ll go to —
MS. PREMPEH: I am Afua Prempeh. I am representing Ghana. I am currently taking my institute at the Florida International University, and I am an environmentalist who is passionate about sustainable development and local assets-based development, community development.
MS. HUGHES: Okay.
MR. ALONGE: So my name is Adebayo Alonge. I’m from Nigeria studying the business and entrepreneurship track at Yale University. I distribute health care solutions in rural areas in Nigeria.
MS. TOUGOUMA: My name is Sylvie Tougouma. I’m from Burkina Faso. I am a law teacher in a private school in Burkina Faso, and I’m very passionate about women participating in politics. And I’m currently studying at the University of Virginia and the College of William and Mary. And I’m very excited to participate in this Hangout.
MS. HUGHES: Thank you. We did have a fellow from Kenya who unfortunately was unable to participate because of technical issues. And joining us are Assistant Secretary of State of African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield and Assistant Secretary of State for Education and Cultural Affairs Evan Ryan. And they’ll each give brief remarks before we open it up for questions.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Shall I start?
MS. HUGHES: Sure.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well, thank you, everyone, for being here. I’m really delighted to be in this Hangout with you and with Assistant Secretary Ryan and with Dana. This is my first Google Hangout, so I have to tell you I was a little bit nervous about doing this. I wasn’t quite sure what we would be doing, so hopefully this will go well for all of us so that I won’t be so nervous about doing it the next time. But I’m really, really excited to have the four Washington fellows. All of you who are here represent the best and the brightest that Africa has to offer, and we’re really thrilled to be a part of the incredible program and to share your incredible talent and your drive, and the drive of all of the 500 Washington fellows who are around the United States.
The impact that you will have on your communities and on your countries and on the world is just amazing, so I look forward to hearing from you directly about all of your experiences as you go through this wonderful program.
I also want to take a brief opportunity to mention one other thing. The week after the YALI Summit in Washington from July 28 to 30th, on August 4th, the President will be welcoming heads of state from 49 countries – 50 countries in Africa, plus the AU. The President, the Secretary of State, John Kerry, and all of us who work on Africa are really, really looking forward to this summit. It’s an unprecedented opportunity to talk about where our partnership with Africa stands and where we want to go in the future together.
So I thank all of you for joining us, and I know that all of you will be part of the future that we are all dreaming and wishing for for the continent of Africa.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY RYAN: And hello. I’m Assistant Secretary of State Evan Ryan with the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. And we have really enjoyed working closely with Assistant Secretary Thomas-Greenfield and her team on the Young African Leaders and the Washington Fellowship in particular. The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs oversees the State Department-funded exchange programs, exchanges where we bring people here to the United States, just like our fellows who are here with us today. We bring them on academic, professional and cultural exchanges. We also send Americans overseas on exchanges in the same tracks.
The YALI Fellowship has been particularly exciting, as Linda said, because it’s all about the exciting future of Africa, and the leaders that are joining us today are just an example of the 500 that are here with in the United States right now at 20 different universities across the country taking part in these six-week seminars. And it’s really been an exciting time for us, culminating in the summit, as Linda mentioned, in just a couple of weeks. So we’re really pleased to be with you today.
MS. HUGHES: Great, thank you very much. Now I just want to ask each of the fellows to give us a brief overview of what their experiences have been like in their universities.
MR. KAWALYA: To begin with, I must say that I feel very blessed to have come all the way from Africa to the university at Berkeley, the Goldman School, and already I feel it has a huge effect for my – the foundation for my next creative work back at home. And I’ve learned a lot within a very short time. First of all, I’m not a student of public policy, but I’ve learned to realize how important public policy is when you’re a change maker, and it’s something that I feel that now I want to work with and it has also shaped my new direction where I want to focus and what I want to do in the coming few years.
So it is quite a lot. I’m still digesting most of it, and I know much of the plan will fall into place as we get closer to go back home and – but it’s generally been very, very wonderful and I’ve learned a lot within a very, very short time.
MS. PREMPEH: Okay. I’m very happy to be here. I’d like to welcome everyone who’s joining us, and greetings from the Sunshine State. There’s a lot of sunshine here, so it reminds me of home. I have learned a lot within a short period of time, not only about the United States but about 15 other African countries. Because before this, I hadn’t been – had the opportunity to be with so many people from different African countries. So it’s been a good learning experience. And the institute has been going very well. We’ve been learning about (inaudible) public management, issues like ethnicity, and how to harness the good that comes from diversity.
MR. ALONGE: It’s been a great experience here at Yale University on the business and entrepreneurship track. Three years ago, I started a pharmaceuticals distributions company, and on coming to the program here my focus was on scaling the distribution business across Nigeria. But the training on the program has actually opened my eyes to what is known as the concept of the theory of change. And this emphasizes on the need for you to experiment on particular models and then work with coalitions and work with public space and the private sector to scale that theory of change model across the continent. So one big learning point for me on this program is that I’m not just thinking anymore about just bringing about the change in the healthcare industry just in Nigeria, but I’m now thinking across all the rural communities across the continent.
In addition, I’ve also been able to discover that youths can actually bring about their own change through the concept of innovation hubs. The New Haven community where Yale is located has seen multiple periods of change in the economic status. And one way the government here is trying to reduce unemployment is by promoting start-ups and a culture of entrepreneurship. And one looks at back in Africa where we have a large population of over 40 percent unemployed, it’s one particular theory of change that I intend to take back to Nigeria, and which I also expect that the other fellows from the 17 other African countries here in Yale will do across the continent.
MS. TOUGOUMA: Greetings to everybody. I really want to first thank the Secretary of State Ryan for recommending me for this Hangout. I’m very grateful. (Laughter.) For these five past weeks, I’ve been studying in the UVA and the College of William and Mary. And I want to emphasize of what I’m learning about the program, the institute and about what I’m discovering as touristic sites. And I came in the United States with in mind that I would like to get more experience, more skill in order to more fully promote women’s rights in my own country and specifically the promotion of women participation in politics.
But since the first day of the institute that I’ve been introduced to the concept of design thinking, it started to change my mind in that I started to – wanted to make real change not only in politics, but in other area in women’s lives. And I remember one of our session about sustainability development, and the teacher was talking about the connectivity of every subject. And it’s opened my mind and I realize that I was narrow-minded and I started to broaden my mind, and I think that even promoting technology, water and sanitation, food security, it’s somehow contributing to improve women’s life, because if women do not have much food or something like that, they cannot fully invest in politics.
And I came also to learn about my leadership skills, and during the training, it’s a kind of resurrection. I discovered that I have lot of skill in me, and I needed to rebuild them. And I’m very excited in this program because I came to know that I’m really the definition of perseverance. Because perseverance always works. You can notice it with my English; I’m always persevering in speaking in English.
And what I’d also like to share with my fellow is that I have discovered the history of the United States by visiting the homes of the three founding fathers of the United States. I have been in Monticello and I have visited the house of Jefferson, and also at Montpelier and visited the mansion of James Madison, and I’ve also been in Ash Lawn-Highland and I also visited the home of Monroe. And —
MS. HUGHES: Oh, that’s great. That’s wonderful.
MS. TOUGOUMA: Yeah. (Inaudible) things, it’s changed my mind because when the tourist was explaining aspects of Jefferson, Monroe, they was very activist in defending the equality of rights between human beings, and at the same time they owned more than 500 slaves. And it was a kind of way to reflect on how we can have an idea. This idea is becoming reality today in that I can see my ideal president, Barack Obama, at the White House. And I have seen the (inaudible) to history. And I’m really excited in this program, and I came to discover myself – what I am and —
MS. HUGHES: That’s wonderful.
MS. TOUGOUMA: Yeah, thank you.
MS. HUGHES: Yeah, that’s great. And actually – that actually speaks to my first question, which – as you may know or may not know, today marks the 100 days that the 200 girls in Nigeria, northern Nigeria were kidnapped by Boko Haram. And around that issue, actually it speaks to a lot of the things that you guys as fellows are talking about here and in your home countries. It speaks to issues of education, of unemployment, of leadership. So my question to you guys, particularly to Adebayo and to Sylvie, are: Do you think that as Young African Leaders, a program like this, long-term could have influence in countries like Nigeria or other countries where there is that kind of marginalization and disconnect between the area where the girls were kidnapped from and those that are really succeeding in Africa? What are your thoughts about that?
MR. ALONGE: Talk about the Boko Haram crisis in Nigeria is actually underpinned by a severe social disconnect from the federal government. If you look at how the country’s structured, you’d realize that the area where – in the northeast of Nigeria where the Boko Haram crisis is at its worst has the lowest indices in times of government support and education and other social indicators.
And if one looks deep within, it actually gives a reason why the vast number of people who are unemployed in that region are easy recruits for the Boko Haram group. There is no doubt that a program like this, this program here in the U.S. that helps to open the minds of African – young African leaders into the possibilities of creating businesses and growing across their value-creation structures and models across the continent, will lead to a situation where jobs will created as these businesses are formed. And also in areas like health care, water, solid waste management, and many of these other areas by which the livelihoods of individuals are measured, we actually see that young people can actually create private sector models to actually provide the solutions to underserved communities.
There’s no doubt that a program like this, especially with the focus on scaling, on also ensuring that every for-profit business that any young person goes into also has a social impact side, would actually help to provide some of the services that the government has failed to provide over the last 50 years on the continent. And no doubt people who are well fed, people who are well catered for, people who have a reason to live in their lives will not want to be involved with any sort of terrorist activities, and to reduce the input in terms of the numbers of people who actually give form to terrorism (inaudible) Nigeria or in Kenya or anywhere on the continent.
So it’s actually a very useful program to improve stability across the continent.
MS. HUGHES: Does anyone else want to weigh in?
MS. PREMPEH: If I could add to that. I – numbers vary according to research, but it’s known that about 200 to 300 million people in Africa fall into the age bracket of 15 and 24. This present a good opportunity to groom people and then build a better Africa, but also presents a challenge. The endless resource is not tapped into and well groomed. They are going to have problems, like my brother said, because other things are going to convince people to do, well, the negative.
I think that one of the beautiful things that this fellowship does is that it recognizes that good needs balance. And so there is the business track, because private people need to invest, economies need to grow, and then there’s the public management track for people who are in governments who are going to make the decisions, and there’s the need for them to understand the rule of private sector and then their rule. And then there’s the civil society that sort of acts as a check for government and for private sector, and it is only when the balance is gained that development can work. And I think this program very cleverly finds a way of bringing us together to network now and to build a better future for Africa.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I would love to comment on this as well because I do see this program as contributing to providing opportunities for young leaders in Africa to get the training so that they can serve as catalysts to other populations. The situation in northern Nigeria where you have thousands of young people who are uneducated, who are unemployed, who are not vested in the future of their countries, of their communities, and they are enticed by the extremist ideology that Boko Haram preaches – or anywhere else on the continent where extremists are preaching an ideology of violence and terrorism. This program provides an opportunity for young people to see the future, to start preparing for the future and see where their place is in the future.
I was so impressed with what Sylvie said about finding herself and finding that she has leadership skills that she didn’t know she had. And I think – I’ve been so impressed listening at all four of you talk about your visions for the future. And I know that if the other 496 YALI participants are anywhere near as impressive as you are, when you return home and start to have impact on the lives of the people around you, we’re going to see major change on the continent. So thank you for your participation in this program.
MS. HUGHES: Sylvie, did you have something you wanted to say?
MS. TOUGOUMA: Yes. I do believe that a program like YALI can contribute to resolving the crisis in north Nigeria, because for me, sometime people act by ignorance, and I can notice that the conflict is somehow influenced by poverty, lack of a job, lack of education. And through the Washington Fellowship there are some fellows who are getting trained and getting more skill on how to develop their business, and they can employ some people in this area. And I strongly believe that education is a powerful arm to resolve – in contributing to resolve this crisis, because many people do not have access to education and this program can help us to go and educate, like civic education, and contribute to involve many people with us to resolve this problem. I do believe that this is a great program that can contribute to resolve the crisis.
MS. HUGHES: And Cyrus?
MR. KAWALYA: Yeah. Just to add on from my personal experience of the program is that I’ve realized that now I start to see things from a global perspective instead of just seeing them as a Ugandan. I realize that we share quite a lot of similar problems around the world, only that in some places of the world they’re escalated and in others they are lower. So it kind of gives us a chance as African people to go back and try to start to set measures and rules and regulations so some of these things don’t kind of fall apart. So I feel that if many people can go through this program, it will be something that will create a very powerful change in the long run.
One, I’ve come to obviously meet very many African people that I didn’t know before, and I’ve learned more about my continent. And we’ve learned different things during our discussions and class sessions that kind of create the need for us to come together and be able to solve most of our problems. So I think the program is generally very wonderful and very powerful and will have a long-term profound effect on us.
MS. HUGHES: Well, that actually leads me to my next question, which – some of the questions on the Google Hangout that we got from the public spoke to this. And that’s that when you all talk about when you go back, this could be a catalyst for change. But do you anticipate problems with the reality on the ground? You have in some countries – in Uganda, Museveni’s been president for almost 30 years – you have politicians and a way of doing things that have been in existence for decades in some cases. How do you think that this program or your experiences can influence that? And do you expect pushback and challenges?
MR. KAWALYA: I personally expect a very huge challenge when I go back, no doubt about that. I don’t expect anything to be easy, but there’s one thing I’ve learned from my dean (inaudible) here at school. She’ll say that the only way you can make change is work with the people that are there. And it’s something that I didn’t before. I came here; all I thought was, like, “Can I go against this? Can I go against that?” But now the whole idea has shifted to a point that you have to work with these people, you have to find a way of working with them.
So I expect a lot of challenges, but more than ever I’m confident and ready now to deal with what is going to come after this.
MS. HUGHES: I’d be curious to hear from someone else. Adebayo, Afua?
MS. PREMPEH: I’d just like to add to that.
MS. HUGHES: Go ahead.
MS. PREMPEH: I think one thing that we’ve learned through our leadership training is that change must start with us and with understanding ourselves, and that is the only way that you can influence other people by also understanding them, of course. It’s not going to be overnight. There will be resistance. Change is not easy for anyone. But it starts with one person and it starts with understanding other people and pushing the point across. And eventually, I’m sure a movement will start across Africa that is going to cause real change, yes.
MR. ALONGE: Well, I find this question particularly interesting, because just yesterday and on Friday, we had this discussion around the resistance that we expect to face when we go back to start some of these laudable projects in systems that are almost ossified in how they conduct business and how the society is run.
And one of the professors here, Ian Shapiro, mentioned on Friday that one of the key things that we as private sector young leaders need to do is to find a means to create coalitions with the public sector. And one way for us to present the ideas that we have is not for us to come and say, “This is the idea we have,” but more like to look at how – what are the current projects that government and the other key stakeholders are currently pursuing that is similar to what we have, and then give them the ability for them to also own the projects, so we are not the ones saying, “Take these projects from us,” but more like asking them what questions they would like us to ask them so that they have space within the solution that we are trying to create, and that they also kind of share from some of the credit that derives from the project. So in specific terms, this program is actually – Yale has actually tried to prepare us for some of this resistance.
At the program yesterday, we had somebody from IBM who also took us through the part of building an ecosystem. It’s easier for you to be able to get key stakeholders in the economy to buy into your idea if you are more than one person, if you have a coalition of – an ecosystem that’s built around other youth groups, built around the local government, built around a key movement who can then push forward a voice. And obviously, it’s so very important for us to be able to say, “These are examples in other places – I mean, evidence-based proposals. These are examples of this idea that we are bringing forth that have worked in several countries similar to ours.”
So there’s a process through which, yes, there’s going to be resistance, but there’s a process that this program has actually prepared us for, and to go through working with those who resist the change so that they also have ownership of the solution that we propose.
MS. HUGHES: Great.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY RYAN: Dana, if I can just add, an important part of this program for us is ensuring that we stay connected with these fellows when they return, and we want to make sure that whether it be through networking, mentoring, seed funding for programs that they propose, community service opportunities with our embassies and with USAID and here at State, we’re going to stay connected to make sure that we can continue to provide guidance and support in any way we can.
MS. HUGHES: Well, that actually leads me to a question that I wanted to ask the two of you, which is that you’ve planted this seed. Is the United States, is the Administration prepared to then have policies that will support this sea of change that these young people are asking for? If it’s a question, for example, of national security, how will you – how does this program influence the policies that you will have for Africa going forward?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I’ll take that question. First and foremost, we see youth as the future of this continent, and we’re hosting a heads of state summit that is about investing in the next generation. The next generation are these young people we’re talking to today and the others who are in this program, and the tens of thousands who applied for the program who were not selected. Our policies are directed, and in fact, we see as a priority for our policies in the coming years to focus on building societies that support their youth. We’ve asked that African leaders come to the summit in August to discuss what kinds of investments they are making in their youth, and we’ve had an enthusiastic response from the leaders we’ve spoken to about some of the investments they’re making, but also new ideas that they have.
So I think many of them have bought into this. They see the benefit of investing in their youth, with countries with – I think I heard Sylvie or one of the speakers talk about the large population of young people. The figures we have are that 60 percent of the population are 35 and under. Majority of them are unemployed, many of them undereducated, so we have to have policies that focus on education, policies that focus on job creation, policies that focus on investment, and policies that focus on providing opportunities for young people.
And this is what YALI is about. We’re hoping that we can bring a thousand young people to the United States next year. But it’s not about the ones we bring to the United States; it’s the ones who are impacted at home, because there are tens of thousands who are interested. As we noted, 50,000 applied for this program. We had almost 80,000 attempted applications for the program. We’re setting up a YALI network so that they can connect with each other across the continent, so that they are engaged with each other and they’re learning from each other. In fact, I have told the group that I met with from Howard that they are the best mentors to each other, that they will be contacting each other about issues that they are addressing in their country and see how it’s handled, and maybe learn from the experiences of each other.
So I think this is the beginning of what is going to be a major change, and it certainly will be reflected in the policies that we have toward Africa.
MS. HUGHES: When you do discuss – when you have discussed these policies with current leadership in African countries, is there a discussion of measureable outcomes that the United States is looking for? Is there a discussion of aid or assistance that would be helpful for that? Or conversely, is there a discussion of consequences? Is there anything sort of tangible that the Administration is looking at in terms of supporting this program and Africa – and the youth of Africa being the future?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY RYAN: Yeah. So, as I mentioned a little bit before, we are looking at – currently, we have a robust alumni program in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, so all of our YALI fellows will now be a part of our ECA alumni. But we also are going to have a real separate track for them as well where they can apply for seed funding. If they leave here with a very good idea of what can be transformative and something that they really want to work on developing when they return, we have alumni grants and seed funding that we really are looking to work with them on.
And we are hoping – as Linda just mentioned, there’s no better mentors back on the continent than these fellows for the members of the YALI network, the 49,000 other applicants. So we’re hoping that this has a real multiplier effect and that they can work with each other, share these ideas, share these experiences. And we’re also, to the extent that we can, really hoping that our other alumni – we have Fulbright alumni on the continent and other alumni of our exchange programs. We want them to be engaged with the fellows and with the YALI network when they return.
So our hope is that networking, working on community service projects together, a community service project that a fellow might come up with while here as part of our program – that everyone can work together in concert to make the changes that they all have identified while here on this program. And our hope is that our embassies and alumni can play a big role in that.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: And we’re encouraging African leaders themselves to engage with these young people, that they have so much to contribute to their countries, and they need to engage with them to get ideas from them. And again, we’re getting an enthusiastic response.
MS. HUGHES: Great. Okay. Oh, sorry. Cyrus, do you have a question?
MR. KAWALYA: Just to ask a question: When the African leaders come to the States, there’s going to be a bunch of YALI fellows that are still going to be around. Will they be invited to interact with them or the conference or something that will be going on?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: There are some events in which some of the YALI fellows who are still in the United States will participate in with the heads of state. We’ve been told that YALI fellows will be invited to a number of events around the city during the visit of the heads of state. We also know that some embassies are inviting their nationals to the embassies to meet heads of state. So again, I think there will be opportunities. It’s not broadly organized, but there will be individual efforts.
MR. KAWALYA: Yeah, thank you. I think it’s a very important part for us to be able to also engage with them while they’re still in the States, to just show our cooperation and our willingness to also work with them so that when we go back, we don’t – they don’t feel like the United States took us away to come back and kind of rebel against them. You know this is the talk that has been going on.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: It is. So you can reach out to your countries. I would say send a note to your heads of state that you’ve had this amazing experience and you want to come and share what you learned from that experience. And we’ll encourage them to accept hearing from you.
MR. KAWALYA: Thank you.
MS. PREMPEH: And I think I’d like to add that the experience we are having here is a learning experience. It is not sort of a copy-and-paste or a cut-and-paste experience. We are learning from the experience here how things were done, the process. And then we’ll go back home and then try to apply the ones that work, sort of like benchmarking. So it’s not – because our societies are different, conditions are different, so what works in the United States might not necessarily work in the same way back home. The idea is to know what to do and make the right choices.
MS. HUGHES: Great. And going back to the Africa summit, so I just want to be clear that you – these YALI participants will have some – or have the opportunity to have some interaction with the heads of state?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: The YALI summit is from the 28th through the 30th and the heads of state summit is from the 4th through the 6th. There will be some YALI participants who will still be in the United States after the YALI summit, and our expectation is that they will have some engagement with the heads of state.
MS. HUGHES: And is that something that – not just here, but in the – but when they go back home, that the United States has been trying to foster?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We have encouraged leaders to reach out to their youth. Several countries that I met with when I was in Africa the last time told me that they actually have youth councils and that they already engage with their youth. We’re encouraging more youth activities on the part of government. And as I mentioned, we’ve been encouraging governments to share with us their commitments that they’re making to their youth so that we can compile all of that and share it broadly. There’s some countries that are committed to education programs for their youth. There are countries that are committed to volunteer programs for their youth. There are others that have committed to creating new youth councils and engaging with those youth councils. So it’s not always about money. It’s about engagement, it’s about communicating with each other, and it’s about sharing new ideas.
MS. HUGHES: And – so then I want to ask you and then each of the fellows to talk about this as well. Are you also engaging with civil society in these various countries? And has there been a discussion within the fellows and also with – at the State Department, at the Administration, about how civil society – human rights organizations, humanitarian organizations – fit into the idea of YALI, and then how they will play a role in this future that you’re talking about building?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Yeah. Civil society is a huge component of our engagement on the continent of Africa. We support vibrant and strong human rights organizations and civil society organizations in countries, and we’ve engaged with African leaders across the board about the importance of supporting civil society. And as you know, a component of the YALI program is civil society building. There are a number of fellows who are here to build their capacity on how to work in communities and promote civil society. So again, I think that’s going to be an important component for them when they return.
MS. HUGHES: And Sylvie, would you like to weigh in?
MS. TOUGOUMA: Yeah. I would like to mention that right here, we are making lot of connection, and especially at UVA and William and Mary. We are working with the Presidential Precinct, which is a consortium of the two first universities of Virginia and the three home of the founding fathers. And it’s a big network that connecting us with many teachers, member, leader of organizations. And we have been planning of what we are going to do after the fellowship. And even last week, we have a post – some posts in the Presidential Precinct network looking for some fellows to apply for some research at the Monticello architectural site.
And I think there is a future for the YALI program. It’s – institute is not the end. And I think we will be measure – measure it after the institute and not only during the institutes. We are making a lot of connection, and I think in six month, one years you are going to see the effects and the practical effects, and – I’m sure.
MS. HUGHES: So there’s a question that we got from the Google Hangout page from a young woman. She’s 16. Madeleine Barrett (ph), she’s from Washington D.C. And she asks – she says that it seems that many young people in the U.S. tend to think of Africa as one country, rather than individual countries with their own separate governments. Why do you think that is, and how do you think countries in Africa interact with each other? Do most African countries have good international relations with one another, and what can be done to improve international relations between different African countries?
MS. PREMPEH: Okay, if I can just answer that. I think that last week we had a meeting with the university president, and he asked us what our experience has been like. And the first thing I said was that I thought it was only in the movies that people thought Africa was one big country. But I think that is the beauty of this cultural exchange. It’s not just we learning from Americans, but Americans learning from us. There is a very component of our program, which is community service. And at first we didn’t quite understand why and the form it took, but the first time we went to a park there was a girls’ empowerment summer camp going on. And we got to interact with them, and they asked questions about Africa, like, “Do you speak African?” And it’s an opportunity for us to explain that there are so many countries in Africa with their own unique identities. So we are enjoying it. We are enjoying learning about America, and we are enjoying teaching people about the beautiful diversity and all the good things that are in Africa.
And yes, I think that there is a promising future for international relations between Africa as a continent, not as a country, and the rest of the world. Like President Obama said when he came to Africa – I think that was his first sub-Saharan visit, when came to Ghana. He said that what – in the 21st century, the future of the world is not going to be determined by what happens in Rome or Moscow or Washington. It’s also going to depend on what happens in Accra. The world is a global village now, and what affects one part affects the other.
MR. ALONGE: Okay. I find this question quite interesting, because last week we were discussing in the library for African-Americans, and one thing I noticed is that most young Americans actually know quite a lot about the continent. In fact, just two days ago I was speaking with a young lady – she’s aged 19 years – and she was reading out to me off the top of her head over 30 countries in Africa. So it appears people who actually think as Africa as one country seem to be over a certain age. Most young Americans are actually quite aware about the continent.
Also, as to her question as to how Africans relate with one another, I would come to it from the point of trade. It’s well known that Africa is a market of one billion people, but less than 10 percent of its trade is between African countries. If you look at China, over one billion people, India, most of Asia and Europe, and even the North America states, what you see is that trades amongst these continents is – within these continents is over 30 percent on average. So it’s something that she has identified very well. Africans are not trading well with one another. We prefer to import and trade with Asia and the other more advanced economies. And it’s actually an imperative for the African Union and all our political leaders to begin to bring down the barriers to trade across the continent. We need to be able to promote the economic – the regional economic groups across the continent, from the SADC to ECOWAS, so that we can integrate more and achieve scale economies for the various businesses located on the continent.
And one thing I always tell people, the reason why we see a lot of conflict in Africa is because we don’t trade with one another. There’s no reason why I would want to harm somebody who accounts for most of my income. So the more trade we have, the more stability we will see across the continent. So I must say thank you to the young lady who asked that question.
MS. HUGHES: Great. So we are just about out of time. I wanted to see if Sylvie wanted to say something as well.
MS. TOUGOUMA: Yes. I think that this young girl raised an important questions, and what came in mind is that this question called for African unity, African union. Because for a long time, our leaders are trying to come together, and I think it’s time for our leaders to break barriers between our countries and to work like United States. We can be united without conformity. I took the example of the United States’ 50-state model – 50 states, but they are together. And I really think that’s – it’s a call. This question of the young lady is a call of unity between African countries.
MS. HUGHES: Great. If Assistant Secretary Ryan and Assistant Secretary Thomas-Greenfield would like to say a few closing remarks, that would be great.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY RYAN: Thank you so much. This has been really exciting for me, and we’ve looked forward to this program for a long time. To be able to be on a Google Hangout right now with four of our fellows who are actually at the academic institutions makes it all the more exciting. And I just think it’s really wonderful to hear how it’s resonated with everyone, because our idea through this fellowship is to really offer the best that we have to offer in the United States, and that for the fellowship, it’s our academic institutions. And it sounds like you’ve had really wonderful experiences at your universities, and robust discussions about challenges that you all face and ways that we can all work together.
And the other thing that I think is so interesting to hear is this idea of how not only has this experience of the academic institutions been very fulfilling, but also this chance to network with Africans from other countries and to really network with one another. When you do return to your countries at home, to be able to have this network of connections from people all over the continent we hope will be as helpful as our continued work with you in terms of the embassies and our alumni. So I just think that this for us has been really heartening to hear, that we think all of our goals in terms of what this is offering – it seems like we’re right on track with you. So we just wanted to thank you all for your hard work and your participation in this program, because it really is exciting to listen to you.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: And let me also thank you as well. Thank you for helping me get through my first Google Hangout experience. I’m looking forward to the next one. But I have just been really impressed by everything that all of you have said, and one of – the last conversation on the fact that you are also advocating in America for Africa, because my job as Assistant Secretary for African Affairs is made doubly difficult because Americans don’t know a lot about Africa. They see the bad things. So you have been great ambassadors for the continent in the communities that you are living in, to share your experiences, to share your knowledge with the communities about Africa. And I don’t think we realized that you were going to have that impact as well.
So again, I want to thank you; I want to encourage you. I will look forward to meeting all of you when I visit your countries over the next year. I know that you are on an exciting adventure and that your futures are bright, and that the continent is bright because of you. Thank you.
MS. HUGHES: And I would like to thank both Assistant Secretary Ryan and Assistant Secretary Thomas-Greenfield and all of the fellows for participating, as well as all of you who have logged on and watched. If we did not get to your question, feel free to continue to submit them, and someone at the State Department will get back to you with an answer. Thanks so much for joining this Google Hangout on the YALI Network, and it’s been really fun.