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Leaders Africa 2021

The Obama Foundation Leaders Africa program seeks to build a growing network of innovative and ethical changemakers who will drive positive change in their communities, the continent, and the world.

About Us

While past Leaders Africa programs have begun with a multi-day convening in the region with 200 Leaders from across the continent and then continued online for one year, this year’s program has been adapted given the COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts on travel, gathering limits, and more. In light of those constraints and to prioritize the safety of our program participants, supporters, and staff, the 2021 Leaders Africa program will be a six-month, non-residential, virtual program for approximately 35 emerging leaders from across the continent.

This year’s program will focus on honing leadership skills, building deep relationships with fellow leaders, and exploring how to drive, scale, and make sustainable change. Participants will discuss a wide variety of regionally focused and global issues with thought leaders in government, civil society, and the private sector from across Africa and the Obama Foundation’s global network. Upon graduation, this group of Leaders will join a pan-African community of like-minded changemakers and will become part of a lifelong Obama Foundation community with access to a deep network of support.

The virtual Leaders Africa program seeks to identify exceptional leaders in government, civil society, and the private sector who have a clear issue-focus and who can illustrate the impact of their work. Our objective is to build a network of leaders with integrity, who create positive, innovative change in their communities, throughout Africa, and across the globe.

The program will run from January 2021 through June 2021. Leaders will participate in the following core elements of the program:

Twice Monthly Virtual Video Calls

These live virtual sessions will be the primary form of collective engagement. Connections two times monthly will offer a mix of new content (conversations with experts, introductions to leadership frameworks, skill-building, etc.) and interactive, small-group work in breakout rooms.

Monthly Community Groups

Leaders will work in peer learning groups that encourage deeper relationship-building and peer-learning, and offer an opportunity to reflect on or discuss open questions from the group sessions.

Individualized Leadership Coaching

Leaders will be paired with a coach to help them gain self-awareness, clarify goals, brainstorm ideas, achieve their development objectives, and unlock their potential.

In addition to the required elements, Leaders will have the opportunity to participate in a range of supplementary programming, including virtual Obama Foundation events, virtual cultural events, and virtual one-on-one conversations with experienced leaders in the global Obama Foundation network.


Reflections on the 2019 Obama Foundation Leaders: Africa program

To mark the end of their program year, roughly 200 Obama Foundation Leaders Africa members from 45 countries gathered for a virtual graduation ceremony to celebrate their cohort and its success.

The Power of Place: Two leaders tackle food insecurity continents apart

Inside the 2019 Obama Foundation Leaders: Africa Convening

200 emerging leaders from across the African continent came together for five days of intensive leadership training, self-reflection, and peer-to-peer connection. Now, the work begins.

Obama Foundation Leaders: Africa Service Project

The Leaders: Africa program brought together 200 emerging leaders from 45 countries across the continent to explore new ways to take on the biggest challenges in their communities. The Leaders spent an afternoon at a primary school engaged in a service pr

Leaders: Africa | A Conversation on Leadership and Legacy

Veda Sunassee moderates a conversation between Fred Swaniker and Ben Rhodes on leadership journeys, the work of empowering and training ethical leaders, and how the next generation can tackle timely challenges as part of the Obama Foundation Leaders: Afri

Leaders: Africa | Ethical Leadership in Africa

Mo Ibrahim and Uzodinma Iweala sit down for a probing conversation on the nature of ethical leadership in practice and the tough choices leaders can face.

Mrs. Obama Invites the 2019 Obama Foundation African Leaders to Join the Girls Opportunity Alliance

Mrs. Obama is committed to helping girls around the world get access to the education they deserve. That’s why she’s calling on the 200 emerging leaders from across the African continent to continue their important work to empower their communities and to

President Obama Welcomes the 2019 Class of Africa Leaders

“Every generation has the opportunity to make its mark on the world.” The second class of the Obama Foundation Leaders: Africa program kicked off their program year on Monday, July 10, and President Obama shared a message of encouragement as they chart a

Announcing the 2019 Obama Foundation Africa Leaders

We are thrilled to welcome 200 leaders from across the African continent to the 2019 class of the Obama Foundation Leaders: Africa program. Meet these inspiring leaders below.

Meet the Leaders: Taryn Lock and Read to Rise

Taryn Lock is a Co-Founder and Executive Director of Read to Rise, an organization that promotes youth literacy in under-served communities throughout South Africa. Taryn will attend the kick-off event for the Obama Foundation Leaders: Africa program July

Meet the Leaders: Linda Kamau and AkiraChix

Linda Kamau is a founding member of AkiraChix, an organization in Kenya devoted to increasing the number of women in technology and empowering them to reach out to help others along the way. Linda will attend the kick-off event for the Obama Foundation Le

The 2019 program year concluded with acts of service across the continent

To mark the close of the 2019 program year, Obama Leaders from across the African continent volunteered to design and implement collaborative service projects that positively impacted their local communities.  Check out highlights +

A woman holds up a patterned piece of cloth.

The Gambia

Two men plant a plant.




A teacher talks to a group of students in a field


Meet the Leaders

A woman sews a piece of fabric.



Angola Leaders



Two leaders stand with signs thanking essential workers



A teacher shows a young man how to use the computer



A group of men carry supplies through an ally

Cote d'Ivoire


A teacher stands with a group of students in front of a school.



Students are in a classroom learning



A group of happy young children hold up the Madagascar flag



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A group of African Leaders clap and smile over a Zoom call

Celebrating the Close of the 2019 Leaders Program!

One year ago, 200 Leaders hailing from 45 African countries convened in Johannesburg, South Africa, and were challenged to inspire, empower, and connect to create positive change in their communities. After the convening, they returned to their home countries to implement lessons learned and continue their leadership training through virtual bi-weekly webinars. Even in the wake of COVID-19 and an altered global landscape, each Leader persevered and remained true to the values that led them to the Obama Foundation. We celebrated their successes with a special graduation ceremony.

Susan Rice is talking into a microphone

Susan Rice, former United States Ambassador to the United Nations and former United States National Security Advisor, Shares Words of Wisdom with Leaders

Susan Rice, former United States Ambassador to the United Nations and former United States National Security Advisor, joined the Leaders graduation ceremony and left them with some meaningful advice: "Be willing to accept and be open to criticism.  Every one of us can do better.  Those who care most about you will give you the important feedback."

A group of school children wearing face masks wave at the camera

In Zambia, Leaders Support the Deaf Community

In Zambia, Obama Leaders are collecting books for the school library and gathering hygienic products for students at Jennifer Memorial Special Community School, a learning center that provides free education for deaf children and children of deaf adults.  Learn more about their work + (Opens in a new tab)

Two women stand behind a thank you plaque

Leaders in Botswana Show Thanks to Frontline Workers

In Botswana, Leaders are ensuring front line workers fighting COVID-19 in their community know they are appreciated. On top of personalized thank you messages for healthcare workers, the group is also planning a game night for a local clinic once lockdowns have concluded.  Learn more about their work + (Opens in a new tab)

Three leaders circle around a box of food

Leaders from Angola Combat Food Insecurity

Leaders in Angola are addressing food insecurity issues heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic. Their Save a Family Project is safely helping distribute staple food items to underserved parts of the community.⠀ Learn more about their work + (Opens in a new tab)

Students are in a classroom learning

Ugandan Leaders Support Their Nation’s Next Wave of Leadership

In Uganda, Obama Leaders have united to support their nation’s next wave of leadership by organizing distance learning webinars, which provide young people with practical skills and resources that they need to run their organizations and grow their businesses. The target audience for the webinar series includes emerging young leaders,  entrepreneurs, and start-up founders. Once lockdowns conclude, Ugandan Leaders intend to organize an in-person skill-building conference to serve Uganda’s youth development.

Four people pose for their picture

Leaders in Burkina Faso and Mauritiana Teach Communities the Power of Service

Obama Leaders in Burkina Faso and Mauritania are creating a culture of civic engagement and community action among young people across West Africa. Through a series of community focused projects, including leadership training in schools, community clean ups, and blood donations, Leaders are encouraging young people to embrace service and are teaching others how to advocate for and engage in positive social change.

Three young people hold up signs advocating against rape

In Equatorial Guinea, an Obama Leader Campaigns Against Rape

Valerio Thompson Boco is the Founder of the nonprofit Girl Child Empowerment Initiative, an organization focused on empowering girls through education, skill building, entrepreneurship, talent discovery, art, film, and culture. For his service project, Valerio and his team developed an online campaign to build awareness and fight against rape and rape culture. As part of his work, he brought together young people in his community to discuss how they can work together to end violence against women.

A group of happy young children hold up the Madagascar flag

Leaders From Madagascar Teach Life Lessons Through Storytelling

Through their “Angano angano arirarira” project—which translates to Tales in Malagasy—Leaders from Madagascar were inspired to revive the tradition of storytelling in their local communities. In traditional Malagasy culture, elders would often sit down with their children and grandchildren to share life lessons and values like respect, friendship, and integrity through tales and fables. To keep traditions alive, Obama Leaders in Madagascar recorded fourteen Malagasy tales and shared them with over 200 young people. 

Zimbabwe Service

Leaders in Zimbabwe Support a Drug-Free Young Generation

In Zimbabwe, Leaders are uplifting and supporting the mission of The Drug-Free Young Generation program, which is committed to reducing the prevalence of drug abuse among young people. The Leaders are amplifying their online awareness and support campaigns, as well as advocating for reduced drug abuse and drug-related activities among students. In addition, Zimbabwean Leaders are teaching youth life skills and addressing the importance of mental health and wellness.

A man is teaching a young girl how to use a computer

Leaders from Namibia Bridge the Digital Divide

Through their “Transforming Lives Through Internet Connectivity” project, Obama Leaders in Namibia are doing their part to bridge the digital divide. Leaders partnered with a local service provider to establish accessible and inexpensive Internet connectivity to a remote school and its surrounding households, clinics, and public institutions.

A teacher and students come together to read stories online

Leaders from Mozambique Organize Virtual Reading Rooms

Through their “Education Seed” project, Obama Leaders in Mozambique have created a network of virtual reading clubs for children. They also launched a fundraising campaign to raise funds for local libraries. Their reading clubs run online once per week, and once lockdown ends, the Leaders intend to organize in-person reading clubs in schools.


Obama Leader in Mauritius Protects Her Community from COVID-19

Obama Leader Lalita Purbhoo Junggee is the Founder of Eco Hustle Ltd., a company that manufactures upcycled bags and biodegradable sanitary napkins. In the wake of COVID-19 and the increased need and demand for protective masks, Lalita quickly mobilized her team to sew and distribute masks to her community members.

Côte d’Ivoire Leaders

In Côte d’Ivoire, Leaders Develop a Platform to Tackle Food Insecurity

In Côte d’Ivoire, Obama Leaders tackled food insecurity and weakened supply chains brought on by COVID-19 lockdowns across the country. The group created an SMS platform to help women, people living in rural communities, and people with disabilities to more easily access food products at prices up to 80 percent off. The platform allows users to order goods for direct delivery. 

Nigerian Leaders stand with the prize winner

Nigerian Leaders Support Families and Award a Selfless Teacher in Lagos

For their service project, Obama Leaders in Nigeria provided 100 families across six districts of Lagos with food boxes, hygiene packs, workbooks, and radios to help children tune in to their remote schooling. They also awarded educator Mariam Babalola a special plaque and a cash prize for her sacrifices to ensure that her students are engaged and supported during the lockdown.

Leader plants a tree

Leaders in Togo Create “Operation One House One Plant”

In Togo, Obama Leaders have created the “Operation One House One Plant” service project to tackle deforestation. The initiative aims to educate communities on the importance of the environment and equip young people with a plant to care for in their own homes.  Learn more about their work + (Opens in a new tab)

Leader from Liberia hands out masks

Leaders in Liberia Protect their Communities from COVID-19

With their “Masking Covid N Washing Covid Out” end-of-year service project, Obama Leaders in Liberia are protecting their communities from COVID-19 by distributing protective masks and promoting social distancing, hand washing, and other COVID-19 preventative measures.

South African Leaders on a Zoom call

Leaders in South Africa and Lesotho Address Mental Health and Wellbeing

Obama Leaders from South Africa and Lesotho have united to raise awareness and provide information, tools, and support for the mental health and wellbeing of their fellow leaders in the Obama Foundation network and beyond.  The inspiring change makers  have created virtual safe spaces for participants to heal during this unprecedented time, all while becoming mindful leaders and mental health ambassadors who can relay the importance of wellness to their employees, coworkers, and beneficiaries.  Learn more about their work + (Opens in a new tab)

Young man giving blood

Obama Leader from Cabo Verde Helps Community Donate Blood during COVID-19 Pandemic

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, blood banks across Cabo Verde have run dry. To address the issue, Obama Leader Pedro Lopes created an online campaign and platform to encourage those in his network and community to donate blood. To help limit the number of people who would visit the hospital on a given date, Pedro’s online platform allowed users to plan which day and time they would visit clinics.

Woman is cutting fabric to make a face mask

Leaders in The Gambia Distribute Protective Face Masks to Prisons

When Leaders from The Gambia sat down to develop their service project idea, it was critical for them to ensure that no one was left behind. The group of changemakers united to hand sew and provide 1,200 cloth face masks for every prisoner and prison officers in all three facilities in The Gambia.  Learn more about their work + (Opens in a new tab)

A group of doctors stand together

In the Republic of Congo, Leaders Help Manufacture and Distribute Hand Sanitizer

Obama Leaders in the Republic of the Congo joined local entrepreneurs, members of Marien Ngouabi University’s science and tech faculty, as well as the National Standards Agency, to locally produce 250 liters of certified hydro-alcoholic gel along with hands-free mechanical dispensers. 150 liters of the gel and several dispensers will be distributed to schools and medical centers in the near future.  Learn more about their work + (Opens in a new tab)

A woman washes her hands

Leaders Tackle COVID-19 in Benin

For their service project, Obama Leaders in Benin installed handwashing stations to ensure the families of park rangers can protect themselves from COVID-19. The group of Leaders also created public health campaigns to keep their communities informed on the symptoms of the virus as well as how to prevent transmission.  Learn more about their work + (Opens in a new tab)

Liberian Leader talks to community about COVID-19 prevention

Meet the Leaders: Goto Cooper

Liberian Leader Goto Cooper collaborated with seven emerging community organizations to create the COVID-19 Partnership Network. The network is educating rural communities about the symptoms of the virus and how to prevent its spread in coordination with the Liberian government and the World Health Organization’s efforts to curtail the outbreak.

A group of people with a variety of skin tones stand behind a white string attached to two poles with white balloons on the as if they are getting ready to cut the ribbon for a grand opening. There are huts and trees in the background.

Meet the Leaders: Kwame Andrews Daklo

Ghanaian Leader and albinism rights activist Kwame Andrews Daklo serves as President of the  Tsiyinu Students Union (Opens in a new tab), an organization that helps students in his community improve their academic performance.  Thanks to a program facilitator Kwame met during the Leaders convening, his organization was able to open a community library. In Kwame’s own words, “This library is a game changer, for it promotes reading among both the young and the elderly, and it will help teachers better prepare for their lessons.  Learn more about Kwame and his work + (Opens in a new tab)