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Leaders alumni and Mrs. Obama reconnect in Africa

Michelle Obama sits in a circle with women with a range of light to deep skin tones and Michael Strautmanis. Mrs. Obama is wearing a multicolored dress and sits with her legs crossed. A sign in the background reads, “Obama Leadership Network.”

Mrs. Obama meeting with the Obama Leadership Network in Cape Town last November.

To mark the fifth anniversary of our leadership programming, at the end of 2023 we hosted the first-ever regional reunion for the Obama Leadership Network, starting in Africa, the region where we launched our Leaders program and which now has the highest concentration of our program alumni. 

We were thrilled that 25 alumni came together, representing Leaders Africa cohorts from 2018 to 2023 and more than a dozen countries across the continent, for an inspiring three-day gathering in Mauritius. 

The reunion was an opportunity for alumni to engage in a rich community of peer support, vibrant cultural exchanges, and opportunities to discover promising areas for immediate and longer-term collaborations. 

A woman with medium dark skin tone wears a blue and white patterned jacket and is seated on a chair looking directly at the camera.

“I am glad I have decided to be part of it during such a busy work time,” shared Lalaina Randriarimanana, a 2019 Africa Leader from Madagascar and the co-founder of Liberty 32, a volunteer-based organization that helps young people across the country become empowered citizens. “It was a great space not only to reflect but also to get emotional and somehow spiritual tools related to leadership. This has made me stronger. I am grateful.”

The changemakers in our programs are working on immense challenges in often difficult environments, and they shared that they felt supported by deepening existing relationships within their cohorts and forging new ones. For example, one leader was leading youth civic engagement efforts in the midst of a very tumultuous election season in her home country, and another was facing active risks for her work as a human rights defender. 

A group of people with a range of medium and deep skin tones place stickers on post it notes on a wall in a room. Their backs are to the camera. The post it notes read, “disability inclusion” and “decolonisation.”

"When one of us wins, we all win,” Nassima Sadar-Gravier, a 2023 Africa Leader from Mauritius reflected. “Any ripples of progress made will be thanks to this collective effort to lift each other up.” Nassima is currently working with fellow 2023 Leaders Africa alum Joseph Nguthiru to launch AfroClimate, an initiative to support African entrepreneurs in developing scalable climate solutions across the continent. 

During this trip, we also hosted an inspiring roundtable with program alumni in South Africa and Mrs. Obama about resilience and sustainability for lifelong changemakers. 

We were thrilled to offer our Obama Leadership Network alumni these opportunities to reconnect with their core leadership values, and do so in a community that can actively support their changemaking. They walked away with an eagerness to continue connecting with their fellow Obama Leaders across the continent, renewed motivation for their work, and energized with new supportive relationships with fellow Leaders to help them continue bringing change home to their own communities for years to come.

While you’re here, make a difference for the next generation.

Help us bring the Obama Presidential Center to life.

The Barack Obama Foundation is registered as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization (EIN 46-4950751).

Find more inspiration:

Meet the leaders who joined President Obama in Berlin to discuss democracy

Meet the leaders