Besides being an inspirational global leader, US President Barack Obama has taken key steps to empower the youth both in his home country and also in Africa. As part of the Global Entrepreneurship Summit, Mr Obama’s special adviser on the youth, Mr Andy Rebens, held a live conference through Facebook yesterday, to tackle the questions raised by young people.
He addressed the issue of how entrepreneurship can be a vehicle for prosperity for both the youth and women. Besides his interest in inspiring the youth to embrace entrepreneurship, Mr Obama launched the Young African Leaders Initiative, through which he intends to equip young people on the continent to take up key leadership roles in various sectors, including politics.
Hundreds of young people, including some from Kenya, have taken part in the high-profile leadership forums organised by Mr Obama both in Africa and in the US.
The first of these was held in 2010. Since then, more than 2,000 such programmes have been launched in Sub-Sahara Africa, most of them with the assistance of the US Agency for International Development and the Peace Corps.
In February last year, President Obama initiated a programme known as ‘My Brother’s Keeper’, under which businesses and foundations would provide opportunities for young men from marginalised communities in the US.
The partnership involved programmes in education and providing economic opportunities for less-privileged youth, including those from racial minorities.
The move was, in itself, considered radical because it sent the signal that Mr Obama was confronting the race question, which is also tied with disenfranchisement and economic exclusion.
Given the unique place that President Obama occupies as the tenant in the most powerful political office today, he is in a position to influence other leaders, especially those in Africa, to put in place meaningful programmes that can have long-term effects in empowering the youth and putting them on a path to self-actualisation in business and other life spheres for a shared prosperity.
“He is an inspirational figure and he has prevailed,” Mr Morris Mureithi, a programme officer with the National Youth Council said of Mr Obama. He cited how Mr Obama started off as a volunteer, working as a community mobiliser, yet rose to the highest office despite numerous personal, racial and family challenges.
According to him, Mr Obama’s attitude — summarised in his call to action “Yes, we can!” — has been an inspiration both to the Government and to the youth, and has informed programmes such as the National Youth Fund.
Mr Obama’s visit, and his talks with government and private sector leaders, can build on such successes and the already existing partnerships to achieve greater results for the youth through agreements in knowledge and technology transfers, entrenching best practices in both the public and private sectors, and encouraging the growth of new ideas for future growth.