Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI)

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Under the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), four Regional Leadership Centers (RLCs) in South Africa, Ghana, Kenya and Senegal serve as regional hubs across the continent to encourage transformational learning and enhanced leadership skills. The Centers seek to develop individual leadership skills; foster innovation and entrepreneurship driven by young leaders; create spaces for regional collaboration and networking; provide a platform for young female and male leaders to influence and shape the debate on the role of young leaders in driving progress across the region; and take a cross-sectoral and cross-country approach to build networks among emerging young leaders from various disciplines and across countries.

The Centers are funded by USAID, together with the MasterCard Foundation. Other Private sector partners who have contributed to the RLCs include Dow Chemicals, Microsoft, McKinsey, Proctor and Gamble, and Cisco.



The YALI RLC for Southern Africa (RLC SA) is located at the University of South Africa (UNISA) Graduate School of Business Leadership in Midrand, South Africa. The RLC SA serves 14 Southern African countries and offers training in English and Portuguese. Selected participants between the ages of 18 and 35 years receive training in one of three main areas:

  • Business and Entrepreneurship Development;
  • Public Management and Governance; and
  • Civic Leadership.

Additional sector specific leadership training targeting special interest groups in the following areas:

  • The Women in African Power in partnership with Power Africa;
  • The Education Changemakers in partnership with the Trveor Noah Foundation.

RLC SA provides an in-person program over four weeks to 750 participants per year and the online version is spread over 7 weeks, with a target to reach on average, 1,000 participants per year.



The RLC SA offers mentorship opportunities to selected participants, with a special focus on alumni of the in-person program. Most of the mentoring currently in progress is peer to peer mentoring, with Mandela Washington Fellows acting as peer mentors for RLC SA alumni. The RLC is in the process of growing the mentoring model to include identifying mentors from more experienced professionals in the different sectors.



The RLC SA has established alumni chapters to provide opportunities to network across training cohorts. The chapters are run by alumni who volunteer to coordinate activities for the alumni in that country, in collaboration with RLC staff. At the regional level, an alumni conference is held every second year to bring together alumni representatives from all the 14 countries. The conferences provide opportunities for alumni to share their experiences and network with stakeholders from the public and private sectors, as well as learn about new mentoring and coaching resources and opportunities.


Through a virtual networking platform, participants, and alumni of the RLC are able to interact, access resources, and opportunities posted on the platform. The RLC SA hosts virtual discussion forums in the form of Communities of Practice that bring together alumni with common interests.


The RLC SA also offers limited internship opportunities to alumni post training. Alumni have been placed with local NGOs and in the private sector in Zambia, Malawi and Madagascar. Typically, these internships are six weeks long.



The RLC SA offers a limited number of small grants to support alumni initiatives across the region. These small grants of up to $3,000 have been funded by private sector partners over the years and include the following: • Dow small grants to support alumni initiatives with potential to create employment opportunities. • Mastercard Foundation small grants to support initiatives that have potential to scale and create employment opportunities. • Trevor Noah Foundation small grants to alumni of the Education Changemakers program to support alumni initiatives that address critical challenges in the education sector.


Harry Ntombela, Acting Chief of Party,

Aleta Musvoto, USAID,

Last updated: August 02, 2022

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