USAID YALI Regional Leadership Centers

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YALI’s Africa-based leadership program provides transformational training to young African leaders between the ages of 18-35. There are four YALI Regional Leadership Centers (RLCs) located at African institutions of higher education, which offer in-person, online, and hybrid training. Established through public-private partnerships, the RLCs capitalize on the dynamism of the private sector and the institutional capacity of African higher education institutions. Modeled on servant leadership, the holistic curriculum offered at the RLCs develops and supports a professional network of uniquely trained, highly qualified leaders in three tracks of study: Civic Leadership, Public Management, and Business and Entrepreneurship. RLC graduates become alumni, who are motivated to be a positive force for transformational change in their communities, and committed to give back through training other leaders. YALI’s leadership training centers also offer some sector-specific training on contemporary African issues such as waste management, electrification, digital training, and education to develop young and transformative African leaders who are ready to tackle the most pressing problems on the continent.

Click here to watch a 2019 documentary from RLC East Africa that provides an overview of the Africa-based training.

"YALI guided me on my journey to address Menstrual Hygiene Management, and it also ignited my Pan-Africanism because I was exposed to all these issues that Africa was facing and wanted to do more in my country, region, and continent."
-Temwa Chirembo, Malawi

The RLCs are more than just venues for learning and collaboration, they represent an educational philosophy that incorporates three main focus areas: personal transformation, leadership transformation, and sector transformation.

“What stood out most for me is that there are very few programs that offer such a deep level of self-reflection and enable a person to identify and articulate their passion, purpose, and legacy. Beyond the practical training and networking, the YALI RLC EA experience gave a safe space to clarify who I am and what I am about.” 
-Julie Munyi Ogwapit, Kenya

Recruiting and Selecting Motivated and Talented Changemakers

To be selected for YALI’s leadership training programs offered at the RLCs, applicants must demonstrate a commitment to addressing challenges in their communities, organizations, or countries. Prior professional experience is also required. This experience can be paid or volunteer work, but must show the applicant’s inherent desire to transform their communities and the African continent.

Our programs have a well-established demand, which means admission to a YALI RLC is highly competitive. Over 2,000 individuals compete for an average 100 spots in each cohort. Cohorts are comprised of three tracks, and if selected, participants receive intensive leadership training in one of three areas:

  • Civic Leadership: Ideal for civically-engaged citizens who aspire to serve the public through non-governmental organizations, community-based organizations, or volunteerism.
  • Public Management: Ideal for young professionals who aspire to work in various levels of government including regional, national, international, or publicly-minded organizations or think tanks.
  • Business & Entrepreneurship: Ideal for aspiring or emerging entrepreneurs who take on leadership roles within the private sector or build their own business ventures on the continent.

“YALI has been a phenomenal experience in ways that I can hardly outline, let alone explain. The character, zeal, and enthusiasm exhibited by fellow participants greatly reinforced my best hopes for the future of Africa.”
-Lontum E. Nchadze, Cameroon

A map of Africa showing YALI Regional Leadership Centers in Kenya, Ghana, South Africa, and Senegal

RLC West Africa, Accra is headquartered at the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA), and the language of instruction is English. Participants may complete training in one of two ways. The online training consists of eight weeks of courses online, whereas the hybrid training involves two weeks online, followed by three weeks of in-person training in Accra. Both the online and hybrid programs are followed by eight weeks of mentoring and internships or community service, then four weeks of report writing.  The Ghana RLC has graduated over 6,900 alumni to date.


RLC West Africa, Dakar is headquartered at the Centre Africain d’Etudes Supérieures en Gestion (CESAG), and the language of instruction is French. Participants may complete training in one of two ways. The distance training consists of eight weeks of asynchronous, remote work, while the hybrid training involves two weeks online, followed by three weeks of in-person training in Dakar. This RLC serves all of the Francophone countries in sub-Saharan Africa. The Senegal RLC has graduated nearly 3,800 leaders to date. 

Twitter: @yalidakar
Instagram: @crlyalidakar 

RLC Southern Africa is headquartered at the University of South Africa’s Graduate School of Business Leadership (UNISA) in Pretoria, and the language of instruction is English. The RLC also runs Portuguese language cohorts a couple of times every year for the Lusophone community in Southern Africa. Participants may complete training in one of two ways. The distance training consists of seven weeks of fully online coursework, while the hybrid training involves two weeks online, followed by three weeks of in-person training in Pretoria. The South Africa RLC has graduated over 5,900 leaders to date.

Twitter: @YALI_SAfrica
Instagram: @yali_rlcsa

RLC East Africa is headquartered at Kenyatta University in Nairobi, Kenya, and is managed by Deloitte East Africa in conjunction with a growing number of African and international partners. Training is administered through a four-week residential program, and the language of instruction is English. The Kenya RLC has graduated over 4,300 leaders to date. 

Twitter: @YALIRLCEA 
Instagram: @yali_rlc_ea 

To apply for leadership training, visit the website of the RLC that covers your home country.

Promoting Diversity and Inclusion 

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The YALI RLCs have trained more than 20,000 young leaders across every country in sub-Saharan Africa. These young leaders represent a diversity of linguistic, cultural, and socioeconomic backgrounds. The RLCs are dedicated to maintaining diversity in cohorts and supporting vulnerable groups, including people in rural areas, women, and the LGBTQIA+ community. At least 35% of participants are from rural or peri-urban areas and 50% are women.

The RLCs also work toward promoting diversity and inclusion by recruiting persons with disabilities. The RLCs partner with various organizations that support individuals with disabilities to facilitate reasonable accommodation of youth with disabilities during the recruitment, application process, and on-site training. The RLCs frequently contract services to provide personal assistance as well as sign language interpretation for on-site training. Elevators, ramps, and handrails have been installed in the RLCs to make them wheelchair accessible. Additionally, the RLCs work side-by-side with alumni-led organizations reaching marginalized youth in their communities, including alumni-led disability organizations to promote recruitment of youth with disabilities.

“One of the things that really struck me during the program was the positive reception and questions that people came to me with as a transman. It was my first non-judgemental experience.”
-Kim Malcolm, Tanzania

Empowering Across Sectors Through Carefully Crafted Curriculum

Each YALI leadership training program offers different time commitments, ranging from 4-12 weeks, and a variety of learning formats, including online, hybrid, and in-person. Participants from all three tracks - Civic Leadership, Public Management, or Business & Entrepreneurship - convene in one cohort, and attend the standard core competency courses in leadership, ethics, African and regional development issues, and gender and diversity. After completing these core competencies, they are divided into the specialized tracks, for which they were selected. During this period, they build on the technical skills they already possess, and engage further in intensive modules pairing theory with practice. After the specialized training concludes, participants convene again as a cohort to complete a group project involving the design of an innovative solution to a specific problem.

Our approach is inherently systemic and interdisciplinary, recognizing the value of all three tracks of study. We recognize all disciplines have a strong need for leadership, but also that in bringing these sectors together, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The curriculum combines field and forum, which prepares young leaders for ethical leadership in their spheres of influence.

Combating Climate Change

Climate change poses a serious threat to the African continent. According to the United Nations, the rise in temperatures and sea levels; changes in precipitation levels; and unpredictable, extreme weather are threatening populations’ health, safety, and food security, which hinders the continent’s ability to move forward on its path to development. Through the leadership skills and connections gained at the RLCs, YALI alumni are designing and instigating innovative solutions to address climate change across sub-Saharan Africa. Alumni use their voices, leadership, and their businesses to address climate change challenges such as sanitation, waste management, sustainable energy, and natural resource management. YALI alumni are focusing particularly on women, who disproportionately experience adverse effects of climate change.  For example, women are less likely to have rights, such as the ability to acquire and own land, and more frequently suffer from violence as law and order breakdown.  Alumni are working to integrate women as participants and partners in solutions that mitigate the consequences of climate change in their communities.  

Through a collaborative partnership with Dow, the RLCs have trained young leaders on the Circular Economy, an economic system aimed at eliminating waste and the continual use of resources. Dow is also conducting a Sustainable Design Challenge for YALI alumni. The Design Challenge aims to harness youth expertise to propose and implement cutting-edge solutions to Africa’s environmental issues. The Design Challenge begins with a three-week intensive training on sustainability, the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, and the circular economy. This initial training is followed by a nine-week design phase, in which alumni are divided into groups of four to propose an innovative solution to the issue of sustainable waste management.

“The clock to protect our communities against climate change is fast, and for vulnerable countries such as states in Africa, the clock is faster! Africa’s population is youthful, and we, the youth, see the opportunity and the need to achieve sustainable development through a green economy that considers the safety of the environment.”
-Ineza Grace, Rwanda

Advancing Democracy and Peace

A woman speaking to a large audience

YALI cultivates leaders who advocate for democracy, good governance, and peace based on the American values of transparency and accountability. Our training encourages young people to find their voice, be a collective voice for change, and strengthen democracy in sub-Saharan African nations. These combined efforts promote human rights and democracy in support of USAID’s Democracy, Human Rights and Governance strategy.

An example of a young African leader using her voice to advocate for democracy is Flavia Kalule. Flavia spent her early career working with organizations across her home country of Uganda to empower young women and champion human rights. She is an alumna of both RLC and MWF programs. In 2021, Flavia was elected as a Member of Parliament in Uganda, when at the time, less than 30% of parliament members were women. She says her dream is to see an increased number of women in politics. Flavia sees youth activism as a means to correcting long-standing issues, and calls on her peers to voice their concerns and their solutions.

Another example of a RLC alumna promoting good governance is Patience Masua, an RLC South Africa alumna who was just 22 years when appointed to the Namibian parliament - the youngest in Namibian history. She believes in democratically responsive and accountable governance, predicated specifically on youth empowerment and social justice. She also writes articles expressing views and ideas which seek to broaden the understanding and spark debates around issues of empowerment, and plans to publish a book on the power of youth who deliberately drive substantive, positive change.

“Participating in YALI enabled me to increase my activism and advocacy work in the community, empowered me to be a young woman of influence and made me believe that I am the one to bring positive change to this world.”
-Reekelitsoe Molapo, Lesotho

Fostering Economic Engagement Between Africa and the United States

The training that participants receive through the YALI RLCs prepares them to be leaders within the business sphere, start or improve their own businesses, create jobs for other young Africans, and establish and strengthen economic ties between the United States and Africa. According to recent surveys, an estimated sixty percent of alumni report owning a business following their YALI training, creating an average of 2.75 jobs each. Among women, these statistics are even higher. Alumni are also working with and for American companies. These young leaders, equipped with both local knowledge and broad market perspective, are a significant reason for increased trade between the United States and Africa over the recent years.

Last updated: July 20, 2021

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