President Obama to host Young African Leaders

WHITE HOUSE – In 2010, seventeen countries across sub-Saharan Africa celebrate fifty years of independence.  In honor of this important historic moment; in acknowledgement of the extraordinarily young demographic profile of the region; and as part of an effort to forge strong, forward-looking partnerships in the years ahead, President Obama will host a forum in Washington, D.C., from August 3 – 5 with approximately 120 young leaders from civil society and the private sector representing more than forty countries in sub-Saharan Africa. 

Together with American counterparts and U.S. government officials, the participants will share their insights on key themes of youth empowerment, good governance, and economic opportunity.  President Obama will host a town hall meeting at the White House with these young leaders to discuss their vision for transforming their societies over the next fifty years.

The President’s Forum with Young African Leaders presents the U.S. government and American friends of Africa with an opportunity to deepen and broaden our understanding of the trajectories of African societies, and to reflect on how the next generation are building their communities’ and their nations’ futures – just as their predecessors did in the era of independence from colonial rule.  In addition to the town hall meeting with the President, the forum will include small-group discussions on topics such as transparency and accountability, job creation and entrepreneurship, rights advocacy, and the use of technology to empower individuals and communities.  African participants will have an opportunity to meet with grassroots service organizations to share experiences and strategies.

As the President said in Accra, the future of Africa is up to Africans. The U.S. government’s role in this gathering is as a convener, encouraging networks between young American and African leaders, and pursuing lasting partnerships on behalf of our common security and prosperity.  This dialogue and follow-up events in Africa will help the U.S. government better assess how to support Africa’s own aspirations going forward.

Amongst the delegates is a young community activist in Togo, Koffi Amegbo Nomedji, who believes that his participation in President Obama’s Forum with Young African Leaders will spur his work in developing his homeland.

“I will build strong relationships with other young African leaders, and from them I will learn to increase youth involvement in public affairs,” he told “I hope to empower queens [women leaders] in rural communities to apply democracy and to lead … their communities to enforce women’s rights. In the long term, I expect a real partnership between the United States and my country to promote a wide range of programs in education and reform in sectors like health and agriculture,” he added.

Nomedji, program director of a nonprofit, ALAFIA, focuses particular attention on improving the lives of widows and their children in rural villages. Traditionally, widows are forced to undergo months of enforced mourning without engaging in farming or trading after the passing of their husbands. Following the mandated period of bereavement, widows typically are pressured to marry male relatives of their late husbands, according to Nomedji. The months of inactivity during mourning leave the widows and their children impoverished, and the forced marriages increase the widows’ exposure to HIV/AIDS, Nomedji added.

Another candidate is a young Sierra Leonean working to improve his nation by strengthening civil society and job. Donald Kalokoh is the Sierra Leone country representative for Youth Action International, a nongovernmental organization (NGO) working to empower women and youths to reach their full economic and social potential.

He also serves as speaker of the Mano River Union Youth Parliament’s Sierra Leone chapter. The Youth Parliament is a network of young people who advocate for peace, human rights and the empowerment of youth in the countries of the Mano River Union.

Kalokoh is one of approximately 110 African youth leaders who were recently nominated by their local U.S. embassies to attend the Young African Leaders forum, which features a town hall-style meeting with President Obama.

Kalokoh, who holds a diploma in community development and certificate in human rights from the African Institute of Management, Governance and Development (AIMDG) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, told, “My vision for the future of Sierra Leone is to have a country where there is equal employment opportunity, good governance, no corruption, and economic prosperity, a situation where young people would be regarded as leaders of today and not leaders in waiting.”

“It has always been my dream to meet with President Obama, whom I consider a ‘living monument’ of Africa,” Kalokoh said. “I am looking forward to gaining a lot of inspiration from the forum because it will offer me an opportunity to articulate the views and expectations of young people in Sierra Leone and the West Africa region which my leadership has offered me the opportunity to learn and experience.”

Trendy Africa Media is a credentialed member of the Foreign Press Center; Washignton, DC

A pictorial re visit of the Inauguration;

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