The Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) was launched by former President of the United States Barack Obama as a signature effort to invest in the next generation of African leaders. The need to invest in grooming strong, results-oriented leaders comes out of the statistics to support young African leaders as they spur growth and prosperity, strengthen democratic governance, and enhance peace and security across sub-Saharan Africa. There are four Regional Leadership Centers (Ghana, Kenya, Senegal, and South Africa). The YALI Regional Leadership Centers are a project of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and serve as regional hubs across the continent to encourage transformational learning and enhancing leadership skills.

The East Africa Regional Leadership center serves 14 countries in East and Central Africa: Burundi, Central African Republic, Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda. Selected participants engaged in leadership training across three tracks of study:  Business and Entrepreneurship, Civic Leadership, and Public Management in a 4-week residential format with a focus on individual and team leadership skills, innovation, creative learning, and communication.

‘Currently working on the BVKit Innovation under incubation at Makerere University School of Public Health ResilientAfrica Network (RAN), I was selected to participate in the 13th Cohort from November 2016 and graduated February 2017 under the Business and Entrepreneurship track’ shared Margaret Nanyombi. The BVKit Innovation is a rapid portable screening and diagnostic tool for Bacterial Vaginosis-a condition that causes excessive growth of bacteria in the vagina with increased risk of Sexually Transmitted Infections including HIV and HPV. During this YALI session, all participants were taken through a series of different developmental skills and lessons including Design Thinking, Human Centered Design, 7 habits of being an effective person and actual community problems to solve in the away weeks under the supervision of Expatriate facilitators from all over the world.

Margaret added that, during the first week, participants were taken to Brunkenhurst, a recreational centre where they took part in team building and bonding activities to allow all the participants to get acquainted with each other. ‘My take away from this was to learn to work with team members as we all contribute differently towards everything we are involved in. No leader can survive without a team to support and hold him up’ she noted. It is also during this session that participants were invited to share about their  backgrounds, what they could do and what they needed help with giving them an opportunity to further identify areas of need and which participants could help out accordingly. ‘I must share that this was also an opportunity for the participants to share through teaching and learn from one another’ a composed looking Margaret shared.

Additionally, Margaret had the following to share, ‘We learnt the value of diversity, taught to respect each other’s  opinions, taught to build on each other’s ideas instead of turning them down or saying no to them. My team was made up of 3 Ugandans, myself, 1 Kenyan and 1 Congolese.We were tasked to come up a solution to encourage Salesmen to gather data in a timely manner. We came up with Noteskia- a voice mobile assistant that allows salesmen and women  to input orders and send orders direct to a database. It offers and manages successful transmission of data end to end between the Salesman or woman and Supplier/Depot. We emerged 2nd in the business and entrepreneurship track of our cohort. Creating such solutions and innovations does not stop at the end of the program, backed by the support of the allocated facilitators, participants are encouraged to reach out to companies that would be interested in their innovations and we as a team have embarked on this already’.

In the final week, all participants returned to the campus where they presented the solutions developed to address the different community problems to the colleagues and facilitators. This exercise was followed by a Graduation Ceremony for all who had been directly involved.  .

This learning process is not the end to the YALI Program, participants continue to receive both technical and non technical support to grow their  individual businesses and Innovations. In addition, YALI too helps start-ups to get in progress with the different skills imparted into them during the trainings and some receive monetary support through the various YALI programs and networks. It is a program which helps participants to fully  leverage connections made with participants in one’s cohort to connect to local partners while penetrating different regional markets and eco systems.

YALI enhances participants’ skills in leadership, entrepreneurship and personal development while supporting  community work.  How one uses their area of passion to bring about positive impact and change in their community is YALI team’s interest.

Business track facilitators




yali grad