This past weekend, President Obama joined Graça Machel for a conversation on Nelson Mandela’s legacy and the future of Africa as a part of the Mandela 100 Legacy celebration dinner at the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Watch highlights from the conversation moderated by 2018 Obama Foundation Africa Leader Lesley Williams, then learn more about the event and the Leaders: Africa program.
"We will never see the likes of Nelson Mandela again. But let me say to the young people of Africa and the young people around the world—you, too, can make his life’s work your own." —President Obama eulogizes Nelson Mandela, December 10, 2013
One hundred years ago, a man who championed change and altered a nation’s course was born in the South African village of Mvezo. A century later, 200 leaders from across the African continent came together in Johannesburg to continue in his quest for justice, equality, and a better future for people in Africa and around the world.
Nelson Mandela believed that young people have the power and spirit to create change, and that’s one of the reasons we created the Obama Foundation Leaders: Africa program. From building a global network of changemakers to empowering leaders with new skills and tools to expand their work, seeing hundreds of them in action in Johannesburg last summer was deeply inspiring.
The cohort exchanged ideas and explored new solutions to shared challenges through immersive workshops and hands-on sessions, and they participated in a Mandela Day service project at Far North Secondary School with President Obama. They painted murals, built benches for students, cleaned windows, and beautified the grounds—reminding us all to embrace Madiba’s belief that part of responsible leadership is service to others.
We’re thrilled to continue celebrating the centenary of Madiba’s birth by lifting up a few of our African Leaders who are taking up his baton and standing on the shoulders of those who came before them. People like Lesley Williams, who will be moderating a conversation between President Obama and Graça Machel as part of the Mandela 100 USA Celebration Gala on Saturday, April 27, 2019 in Washington, DC, about the power of young people to carry forward Mandela’s legacy.
Lesley leads a digital innovation hub in Johannesburg and focuses on creating solutions alongside her community. Like Lesley, so many of our Leaders embody the commitment to service that Nelson Mandela devoted his life to.
For example, Kiyingi Amos spearheads a youth-led movement that inspires and connects young people from different religious and ethnic backgrounds across Uganda. He helps them become agents of change in their communities by providing peacebuilding and leadership development skills.
Venoranda Rebecca Kuboka leads Youth Changers Kenya. The organization is working to promote sexual and reproductive health among young people with a focus on adolescent girls and young women from rural communities.
Even though leaders like Lesley, Kiyingi, and Venoranda are working in different fields with different goals, they are united by a common purpose to create tangible solutions to the issues they see in their communities. As our international programming around the world continues, we’re excited to welcome our second cohort of emerging African Leaders to Johannesburg on July 10-15 for another convening where changemakers will learn from one another and form new connections.
Bernadette Meehan is the Chief International Officer at the Obama Foundation.
You can learn more about the Leaders: Africa program here.