Young African Leaders Create Innovative Business Ideas for Obama Fellowship

Clark Atlanta University hosted 25 young leaders for a business institute.

Posted: 07/28/2014 12:00 PM EDT

Twenty-five young African leaders participating in Obama's Washington Fellowship at Clark Atlanta University, visit Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta. (Photo: Courtesy of Clark Atlanta University)

The future of Africa's economy will be in the hands of its young people. Historically Black colleges continue to play a role in providing professional development spaces to prepare the continent's emerging innovators for leadership in the years to come. 

This past six weeks, 25 African leaders, ages 25 to 35, studied at Clark Atlanta University and developed innovative business plans in the sustainability, travel, art and agriculture industries that will fuel Africa's economies. The leaders, representing more than a dozen countries including Ethiopia, Mali and Nigeria, presented their plans last week.

The group was part of a larger cohort of 500 young talented individuals in President Obama's Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders

The Clark Atlanta University president, Dr. Carlton E. Brown, told BET.com his faculty and students were "pleased and honored" to serve as a Business and Entrepreneurship Institute host. "Hopefully we have the opportunity to bring in more groups in the future,” Brown added.

During the program, the 25 students divided up into five groups to create business plans. One idea called the Dream Green Africa Fund, focused on providing capital to small businesses in the green sector. Plascon, another plan, recycles waste into useful products. The third pitch, NGOMA, provides a digital marketplace for artisans in Africa to showcase their products online.

Another group came up with eFarm, a virtual platform that allows local farmers to market their products to customers and consumers. Lastly was Tafiya, a holiday travel program for tourists age 18 to 35, which gives them an authentic "locals only" experience in several African countries. 

"I expect them to actually launch those businesses when they get back home," said Dr. Edward L. Davis to BET.com. Davis is a professor at the School of Business and program director for the Washington Fellowship at Clark Atlanta.

Participants meet with former President Jimmy Carter. (Photo:Kent Johnson, AJC) 

The participants also met with former President Jimmy Carter, Mayor Kasim Reed and top corporate executives at Coco-Cola and other businesses during the program.

"So they got some skills, they got access to people to develop a network and they created their own network within the African countries, so I just think that it was a tremendously successful program," he continued.

The Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) was piloted by President Obama in 2010. Fellows of the Washington Fellowship studied at entrepreneurship, civic leadership and public management institutes from June 14, 2014, to July 24, 2014, at U.S. colleges and universities. 

Clark Atlanta University was one of three historically Black colleges and universities that were selected as hosts for the program. Howard University and Morgan State University also hosted fellows this summer.

This week, fellows will attend the Presidential Summit for Washington Fellows and meet with President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry and other leaders in the private and public sectors.

Follow Natelege Whaley on Twitter: @Natelege_

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