Inspired by the Next Generation of African Leaders

Yesterday, the Digital Impact Alliance (DIAL) participated in the Partnership Expo at the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders. This fellowship is part of an initiative launched by President Obama in 2010 to support the next generation of African Leaders.

The Mandela Washington Fellowship brought together hundreds of young African professionals, age 18-35 years, representing all regions of the continent, from Mauritius to Burkina Faso. The summit was part of a six-month long program that involved meeting U.S. government officials and leaders from prominent non-profits, business and learning institutions in the U.S. As an organization working in the global digital space, DIAL was invited to join a host of other organizations showcasing their work.

I was inspired by the stories of the young leaders I met. Participants were outgoing and driven, and it wasn’t hard to see their leadership skills and entrepreneurial spirit on display.

“I am a serial entrepreneur and I wear many hats. I run a business incubator and work with a car sharing service in Djibouti” said one participant. “We call it ‘Djuber,’” he added in reference to the American ride-sharing company, Uber.

DIAL’s Sarah Siguenza speaks with one of the young entrepreneurs at YALI 2017.

As emerging entrepreneurs, many of the participants were interested in learning more about opportunities for partnership, funding and training to help their individual initiatives. For example, one participant had started a computer literacy training center and was looking for efficient ways to find partners and donors to help the project scale. At the DIAL booth, the fellows were incredibly interested in the Principles for Digital Development, our data for development work and ICT literacy resources that could help others became more proficient on how to use digital technology and tools to solve information problems.

“I run a honey processing company in Nigeria, and we are trying to train women in basic business practices. I am looking for opportunities for partnership,” said another female entrepreneur from Nigeria.

DIAL Fellow Maurice Sayinzoga takes a selfie with a software engineer from Malawi at YALI 2017.

The conference was not only a showcase of entrepreneurs but also of the cultural diversity of the African continent expressed through eccentric couture. One of those young leaders was a software engineer from Malawi, who arguably had the most unique outfit.

The gentleman discussed how it’s hard to start an e-business company in his home country and how it takes more than one initiative to bring about a more inclusive digital society. At DIAL, we understand this challenge and are constantly trying to identify and promote best practices for partnerships among public and private sector organizations.

The Partnership Expo was a good reflection of this synergy among different actors that needs to happen to drive more positive change in Africa, particularly sub-Saharan Africa. DIAL is proud to participate in such events that bring together a community of young African leaders working at the forefront of some of the continent’s most pressing challenges, particularly in the digital space.


Maurice Sayinzoga joined the Digital Impact Alliance as a fellow with the Insights and Impact team for the summer of 2017. He has a Master’s degree in Global Human Development from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and has worked in Rwanda with the Education Development Center on a youth livelihoods development project. Sayinzoga has also worked with the Boston-based non-profit Partners in Health (PIH).