African leaders learn business, entrepreneurship at Notre Dame


June 15 marked the arrival of 25 young African leaders from 17 countries to the University of Notre Dame, where they are training for six weeks in business and entrepreneurship as part of the Obama administration’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI).

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

Notre Dame is among an elite group of colleges and universities chosen by the U.S. Department of State as a host institution for the Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders program. The new flagship program will bring 500 students to the U.S. each year for leadership training, academic coursework and mentoring, and will create unique opportunities in Africa to put those new skills to practical use.

“These participants are exceptional leaders who will return to Africa with new ideas to help take their respective country’s future to a new and higher level,” said Marc Hardy, director of Nonprofit Executive Programs at Notre Dame. “This is an extremely engaged group of successful entrepreneurs in many different areas. They are absorbing what we are teaching in the areas of innovation, business and leadership. It is an honor for the Mendoza College of Business at Notre Dame to host such a motivated and distinguished cohort of Washington Fellows.”

The African fellows’ U.S. experience begins with the six-week academic course at university campuses across the country. A three-day summit in Washington, D.C., will immediately follow the institute program, and as many as 100 selected participants will receive an eight-week internship with an American nongovernmental organization or business.

In addition to their coursework, the Notre Dame fellows are visiting businesses in the South Bend area, including Better World Books, an internationally acclaimed social enterprise started at Notre Dame, and Union Station Technologies, one of the leading data centers in the Midwest. In Chicago, the IBM Innovation Center, Capsim, PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Chicago Cubs served as enthusiastic hosts for Notre Dame’s Washington Fellows.

Also focusing heavily on community service, the fellows have been working with the Boys and Girls Club, Habitat for Humanity, Unity Gardens and the Center for Hospice. “YALI offers a unique opportunity for Notre Dame to enact the global dimension of its mission by reaching out to Africa’s brilliant and promising young entrepreneurs and leaders,” said Peter John Opio, academic director of the YALI Institute at Notre Dame. “The Washington Fellowship at Notre Dame is a vital aspect of the University’s global gateway into a continent that faces great challenges but presents vital opportunities. It’s an opportunity for Notre Dame to become an effective partner toward the socio-economic transformation of Africa in a more concrete way.”

As part of the Notre Dame Initiative for Global Development, the University’s six-week institute is supported by a $100,000 grant from the U.S. Department of State. Courses are led by the University’s Mendoza College of Business faculty, with additional support from the Kellogg Institute’s Ford Family Program in Human Development Studies and Solidarity, the University’s Engineering, Science, Technology and Entrepreneurship Excellence Masters (ESTEEM) program, the IBM Corp. and Coca-Cola Foundation’s 5by20 program, focused on female entrepreneurs.

Contact: Joya Helmuth, NDIGD Outreach Associate, 574-631-2940,

Originally published by Shannon Chapla at on July 10, 2014.