A Life Changing Experience for Young African Leaders

Share the Story

Remember Kelvin Macharia, the man who single-handedly transformed the car and buildings security problem in Kenya? We briefly mentioned his involvement in the 2015 YALI previously.

This time, he shares his experience of the fellowship.


Macharia with fellows from right Chioma, Washikala, Joel, Bernadit

Macharia with fellows from right Chioma, Washikala, Joel, Bernadit

The Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI)

The Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) is an effort to invest in the next generation of African leaders. Nearly 1 in 3 Africans are between the ages of 10 and 24. Around 60 percent of Africa’s total population is below the age of 35.

President Obama launched YALI in 2010 to support young African leaders as they spur growth and prosperity. These leaders help strengthen democratic governance, and enhance peace and security across Africa.

It’s flagship program, The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders brings 500 dynamic young African leaders from across the continent to United States. The program is about 6 weeks long and consist of leadership training, networking, and mentoring at twenty U.S. universities and colleges. It focuses on three areas: business and entrepreneurship, civic engagement and public administration.

The fellows are young African leaders of age between 25 and 35, made up of both men and women. They have established records of accomplishment in promoting innovation and positive change in their organisations, communities, and countries.  They come from different sectors of entrepreneurship like energy, security, media, art etc.

I was privileged to be selected for YALI. It was my first experience spending that much time in the US. I met 24 other brilliant young African leaders from 17 countries across Africa. We learn, challenge and inspire each other through our business stories.


Team building and happy fun

Team building and happy fun

What We Did in YALI

June 20th, we landed in Boston, Massachusetts where we spent two days there. My group then proceeded to Dartmouth College in Hanover. We learned many things, from human-centred design thinking process, collaboration, leadership, innovation, to investor pitches. These embody the focus of Dartmouth’s Business & Entrepreneurship Institute.

Design driven entrepreneurship combines social impact and ethical best practices into innovative business planning, execution, and evaluation. There was a mix of classroom exercises with relevant business site visits. We also had special guests who shared their unique entrepreneurial journeys.

On top of that, we also attended social and cultural activities like a homestay weekend, sightseeing trips overnight trip to Dartmouth’s Ravine Lodge in the picturesque White Mountains, guided canoe trip on the Connecticut River so on so forth.

We visited Washington, D.C., for a three-day Presidential Summit and met President Obama in a town hall setup. We also took part in networking and panel discussions with U.S. leaders from the public, private, and nonprofit sectors.


Site visit at Timberland with Evans from Ghana

Site visit at Timberland with Evans from Ghana

Things To Be Learned For Young African Leaders

The experience taught me new things and enriched what I already knew. I learned a better way to address critical issues. I learned how to transform companies to grow and meet international standards. 

Sunrise Tracking have already started working on a premium innovation to transform security across Africa. We have also designed a proper CSR program that have direct impact to society in general.

Previously, we would just go to slums and orphanages to hand out donations. Now, we run entrepreneurship courses. We even offer financial support for promising African leaders in these places to start a venture.

I would definitely encourage young African leaders in the rural areas to apply for YALI 2016. The program expands perspectives on what is possible in our work. You also get to connect with some of the most innovative, and socially responsible companies and individuals in the world.

Whatever you do, so much can be learned.


Click here to learn how to apply for the YALI program.


Young African Leaders visit the Harvard University

Young African Leaders visit the Harvard University



Hai Afrika would like to congratulate Kelvin Macharia for his latest achievements after YALI: He is now recognised as the country winner, East Africa regional winner in the SME sector of CEO Global’s Titans – Building Nations 2015-2016 Awards, and received the top CIO100 Awards, a prestigious award in IT business innovation.



Kelvin and his surprise birthday!

Kelvin and his surprise birthday!