The participants, between ages 18 and 35 were drawn from Ghana, Nigeria, Liberia, Togo, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone,The Gambia, Burkina Faso and Cameroon, were selected through a highly transparent and competitive process.
They would undergo five-week residential innovative leadership training across three tracks of study namely: Business and Entrepreneurship, Civil Society Leadership, and Public Management.
The training would be followed by a 12-week Mentoring and Internships in their various countries.
Dr Shola Safo-Duodu, Director of YALI West Africa, said: “It is a great pleasure to welcome young leaders from nine West African countries after months of recruitment and careful planning.”
“I am pleased that we are working hard to make the RLC, a world-class leadership training institute,” she added.
Dr Safo-Duodu thanked partners namely: USAID, the MasterCard Foundation, The Private Enterprise Foundation, Africa 2.0., Microsoft, the DOW Chemical Company, the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA) and other potential supporters such as Care International, YNG interns Africa, TY Danjuma Foudnation, GLOBACOM, Guinness, Integriti PR and Impact Hub.
She announced on-going efforts at enacting global networking opportunities between YALI West Africa and institutions such as the Harvard Business School and the Saginaw Valley State University.
Mr Pape Sow, USAID YALI Regional Coordinator, said leadership played a very critical role in the transformation of nations.
He bemoaned the famine in Somalia, and Africa’s infrastructural and technological gaps.
He, therefore, urged the African Union to put in place a policy to address situations such as famine and pandemics; adding that Africa’s development gap was due to poor leadership.
He said the continent needed competent, visionary and forward looking leaders.
“The person who has the courage is the majority. So be bold and courageous,” Mr Sow advised the participants.
Mr Julius Atikpui, the Acting Registrar, GIMPA, said leadership was not about money, but the ability to be innovative.
He further cautioned young Africans against the tendency to get rich quickly through illegal means such as cybercrimes or sakawa.
Ms Isata Esther Sesay, a participant from Sierra Leone, speaking to the Ghana News Agency on the sideline of the opening ceremony, expressed gratitude to the United States government for organising the YALI to empower young Africans.
Ms Sesay said she was very hopeful that at the end of the five weeks leadership training, she would improve upon her leadership and networking skills.
YALI was launched by President Barack Obama as a signature effort to invest in the next generation of African leaders.
So far, out of 22,000 applicants, about 300 young African leaders from West Africa have been trained at the RLC and are currently influencing their societies positively with several projects and initiatives.