Godwill Arthur-Mensah, GNA
Accra, May 31, GNA - African leaders have been urged to take advantage of their huge population to boost their economies through economic integration and trade.
Mr Orondaam Otto, the Board Chairperson of the West Africa Regional Advisory Board of Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, said Africa was one of the fastest growing populations in the world hence the leadership must maximise their numbers by trading among themselves to make positive impact.
Africa is the second-largest and second most populous continent in the world with an estimated 1.2 billion population as of 2016.
He said Africa needed transformational leaders in all spheres of life who would serve their communities selflessly with commitment and dedication without lording it over their citizens.
Mr Otto said this at the opening ceremony of the third Mandela Washington Fellowship West Africa Regional Conference in Accra on Wednesday.
The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders began in 2014, and it was the flagship programme of the Young African Leadership Initiative (YALI), which was launched in 2010 by former US President Barack Obama.
YALI is to empower young people through academic coursework, leadership training and networking. It was established to create African leaders who would promote excellence and ensure equity, equality and justice.
The two-day regional conference would focus on; “Promoting Regional Development in Africa through Youth Innovation and Leadership.’’
There were more than 200 participants drawn from West and Central Africa including Liberia, Mali, Cameroon, Nigeria and Ghana.
YALI has four centres in Africa; Kenya, Ghana, South Africa and Senegal, that training young leaders in leadership, entrepreneurship and professional development.
According to statistics, nearly one in three Africans are between the ages of 10 and 24 and approximately 60 per cent of Africa’s total population is below 35 years.
Former President Obama initiated the move to support young African leaders to spur growth and prosperity, strengthen democratic governance, and enhance peace and security across the Continent.
Mr Otto said fellows of YALI were expected to undertake community service with selflessness and dedication geared towards resolving Africa’s myriad of challenges.
He entreated African leaders to invest in their people by inspiring their generation to make positive impact, saying; ‘‘we must support each other irrespective of one’s language, ethnicity and creed and not leaders who would enslave their people’’.
He challenged Africans to rise up and take their destiny into their own hands to build a continent that everybody would be proud of.
The United States Ambassador, Mr Robert P. Jackson, said Africa was faced with many economic, social, political and technological challenges, therefore, the continent needed innovative ideas to turn her fortunes around.
He said there was the need to cultivate the mind-set of ‘‘can-do’’ and willpower that would change the destiny of the continent for the better.
The Ambassador called for economic integration through trade, saying ‘‘we want to see West African nations trading more among themselves’’.
He gave the assurance that the US Government would continue to collaborate with the sub-region through joint military training and combat human and wildlife trafficking.