Cape Town - There is a perception that the quality of African leadership prevents the continent from reaching its full potential, but this could change as 500 young Africans have been chosen for the first Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders.
Forty-six of the young leaders are from South Africa.
US President Barack Obama launched the initiative in 2010 to invest in young leaders through leadership training, academic coursework and mentoring.
The fellowship is regarded as Obama’s signature effort to invest in Africa’s entrepreneurs, educators, innovators and activists.
Of the 46 South Africans, three are Capetonians who have made an impact and who are looking at the programme as a path to greater things.
One of them is Lukholo Mgamlana, 32, from Khayelitsha, who has been involved with youth projects in the community, particularly the Children’s Resource Centre.
He is now working for the Western Cape Department of Health and is a qualified traditional healer.
“The programme provides a platform where we can share and network with fellow leaders across Africa,” Mgamlana said. “Communities have similar issues, but some might deal with them differently.
Danielle Manuel, 35, grew up on the Cape Flats. The former volunteer rape counsellor has been working in the provincial government as deputy director of transport and public works for the past five years.
“Getting a critical mass of young like-minded people like us together is, I believe, a draw for change. I like the fact that the programme has an African focus and that we are being empowered to change things for ourselves.
“It is an opportunity for me to grow and learn and come back confident and inspired. I am looking forward to the relationships I will be building with amazing people and sharing tangible ideas.”
Paul Galatis, 33, is an entrepreneur who helped establish YuppieChef.com, one of South Africa’s leading e-commerce businesses, dealing in kitchen supplies.
“This fellowship represents an incredible opportunity to learn from the Americans in the applied entrepreneurial stream.
“I don’t know what to expect, but it will allow me to meet and learn from other African leaders. During the six weeks we’re there I want to immerse myself in the experience and stretch my mind.”
US consulate spokeswoman Jane Carpenter-Rock said the programme offered a wide range of opportunities for the South African participants.
“They will have an opportunity to interact with President Obama at a presidential summit in Washington; participate in a six-week intensive academic and leadership programme at a US academic institution; meet US government, civic, and business leaders; and access exceptional internship and apprenticeship opportunities in the US.”
The trio leaves Cape Town for the US on June 14.