Friday, July 22, 2022

Unisa, Pretoria

[Remarks as Prepared]



Andy Karas, Mission Director USAID Southern Africa delivers remarks at YALI Education Changemakers Cohort 2 Graduation

Thank you very much for the very kind introduction.

Professor LenkaBula (Lenca-boo-lah);

Representatives of the Trevor Noah Foundation;

Invited Guests; 

Graduates of the YALI Education Change-Makers Cohort 2;

Good Evening, Everyone!

Congratulations, Education Changemakers Cohort 2 class! 

Let me hear some applause please!!!

Well done to you all for working so hard over these past four weeks to successfully complete the requirements of your training. On behalf of the USAID/Southern Africa Regional Mission…it is indeed a great pleasure for me to join you the new graduates of the YALI Regional Leadership Center for Southern Africa.  

This is my first time attending a YALI graduation here in South Africa. I had the great pleasure of attending graduations at the YALI Regional Leadership Center in Accra, Ghana…where I served with USAID about 10 years back.


YALI RLC Graduation

And I must say, the great energy in the YALI graduation hall remains the same. I haven’t decided yet whether the Ghana crowd beats you…or you beat them!

But what fills me with joy and hope…is the fact that all of you…whether here in South Africa…or in Nairobi…or Accra…or Dakar…That you are all incredibly talented, powerful young people…who are so determined to see this resilient, inspiring continent prosper.

I first came to the continent in 1983…as a university student…for an exchange program with Nairobi University in Kenya. The memories from that time live with me every day since. Indeed, it was that time of student exchange and collaborative learning…that inspired me to pursue a career in international development. From the very start, it was that student exchange…that truly inspired my life’s journey.

When I was told that a new cohort was in- session…and that it was an education-focused cohort. I was especially excited for the opportunity to celebrate with you.

Based on my experience living and working in east, central, west, and now southern Africa over several decades…I have seen the foundation value and impact of access to quality education across the board…from improved health outcomes…to increased household income…to strengthened governance…to civic leadership.

And especially, I should emphasize…the importance of investments in girls education where impact is greatest…and taken to scale.

We all must do everything we can to invest in education…and build human capital.


YALI RLC Graduation

RLC Graduation

USAID is grateful for the opportunity…to partner with Unisa……the Trevor Noah Foundation…and yourselves…the YALI Education Change-Makers Cohort 2…to advance opportunities in education…in leadership…and a better tomorrow.

You, the young people of the southern Africa region…are the most important stakeholders among us…because you are in the communities and the schools.

You are building the knowledge…the skills…and the networks…to forge a better future. 

Please know you have all of us behind you…beside you…and cheering you on.

We are all in this together.

In Zulu, as you know, there is a word that captures this orientation: Ubuntu. In the words of the late, great Archbishop Desmond Tutu, ubuntu translates, and I quote:

“My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.” End quote.

That at our best…we bring out the best in one another. That is what YALI does…and has been doing over the years.

Ambitious young people like yourselves…… coming together…to share…to learn…to build lifelong networks…and friendships…and a stadium-full of supporters. 

Martela Vânia Uetela…is one…an alumna of this Center…who graduated in 2018. Martela…who is an Engineer by profession…founded BioMec in 2020…a company that manufactures prosthetic limbs from recycled plastic. 

She founded this company as a response to a personal tragedy…when a friend of hers lost a leg in a car accident. Vânia uses plastic that is washed onto the beaches of the Mozambique coast…to manufacture these prosthetic limbs.

She has managed to reduce the cost of a prosthetic limb from hundreds of dollars to $45…making them affordable to many people… who would not have been able to afford them.

Not only is she providing a new lease on life to many people… she is also cleaning up the plastic from the beaches of Mozambique…that has become a major threat to marine life.

Vânia works in partnership with other alumni in Mozambique and Angola. Partnerships that are truly life-changing.

We need more leaders like Vânia…who are leading with empathy, purpose, and innovation…and ensuring that no one gets left behind.

This is particularly important for those of you who are educators. Touching the lives of young children…requires both passion and empathy. 

As you return home…back to your classrooms…enterprises…offices…continue to lead with purpose and empathy.

Continue to collaborate with one another.

Continue to nurture the linkages you have created with your peers…your facilitators…and your mentors.

Continue to support one another.

You are all champions of the greatest gift of all: Education.

President Nelson Mandela once said: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

Madiba also said…“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived…It is what difference we have made in the lives of others… that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”

Together with everyone who has supported you throughout this journey thus far…I look forward to seeing all that you accomplish…as the next generation of global education leaders.

The Graduates of the YALI Education Change-Makers Cohort 2…the next generation of global change - makers.

That is a very big calling… and a very big responsibility indeed: Change-Maker.

Too close, that calling, Change-Maker, reminds me of the powerful words of the young US poet Amanda Gorman…who presided so courageously at the US Presidential inauguration in 2021…and her poem The Hill We Climb…and I quote “...there is always light…if only we’re brave enough to see it……If only we’re brave enough to be it.”

I salute each and every one of you…for being the light… for being the change this world needs.

On behalf of USAID, I thank you all for the opportunity to partner…and to support your every success ahead.

Thank you.and Congratulations!


Issuing Country 
Southern Africa Regional

yali Andy Karas
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