University of Iowa

Young African leaders arrive in Iowa City to learn about entrepreneurship and promote international dialogue

July 2nd, 2018

Mandela Washington Fellow Awa Thiam, of Dakar, Senegal, speaks with members of the Council for International Visitors to Iowa Cities (CIVIC) at a meet and greet reception on June 25
 

For the third consecutive year, UI’s John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center (JPEC) welcomes 25 Mandela Washington Fellows from Sub-Saharan African countries to the University of Iowa to learn about U.S. entrepreneurship and promote international dialogue.

 

"This program has had a significant impact on Iowa and Iowa City in particular in internationalizing our community and in connecting our companies with the continent of Africa," says Dimy Doresca, director of the UI Institute for International Business. "It’s so great to have the fellows coming again this summer and mingling with the Iowa City community.”

 

The fellows are among 700 individuals from sub-Saharan African countries (chosen from over 64,000 program applicants) who were selected to visit numerous colleges and universities across the United States, as part of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) sponsored by the U.S. Department of State.  

 

In a meet and greet reception, hosted last week by the Tippie College of Business, UI International Programs, JPEC, and the Council for International Visitors to Iowa Cities (CIVIC), the fellows were welcomed to the Iowa City community and had an opportunity to interact with CIVIC volunteers and local community members they'll be meeting throughout their stay. "CIVIC is delighted to help host the Mandela Washington Fellows again this year," says Jo Butterfield, executive director of CIVIC. "We feel so fortunate to have the chance to get to know them over the course of their program--they are a remarkable group of leaders."  

 

During their six weeks in Iowa, the fellows will network, tour the state, and participate in entrepreneurial education programs on the UI campus. But the fellows will not only learn about business strategies in the United States--information that will assist them in business ventures in their home countries--they will also forge long-lasting friendships and important connections.

 

“I would say that connections with sub-Saharan Africa will be increasingly important in the coming years,” says Downing Thomas, associate provost and dean of UI International Programs.The Mandela-Washington Fellowship program positions us very well by creating a foundation for relationships to the next generation of successful players in the economies of many African countries.”

 

From tackling issues such as poverty, unemployment, or human rights, many of the fellow’s entrepreneurial dreams are about looking for positive strategies to transform their country.

 

For Mandela Washington Fellow Wilheim Napsy Okoko, it’s about addressing food security and community empowerment in the Republic of Congo and looking for inspiration in Iowa's private sector.

 

“I want to know how businesses [in Iowa] are working with the community for sustainable projects, not only in agriculture, in every kind of sector. I’m ready to discover what is happening, to get inspired, and see what I can take back.”