Foreign Policy Blogs

President Obama Engages Young African Leaders, But are Rural Youth at the Table?

President Barack Obama and the Department of State are hosting 115 young African leaders from 46 sub-Saharan African nations at the President’s Forum with Young African Leaders underway in Washington, DC. The forum, which started on Tuesday, August 3-5, aims to broaden and deepen the U.S. Government’s understanding of Africa as well as to reflect on how Africa’s next generation are engaging and transforming their respective nations throughout the continent.  Both President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton were scheduled to address participants yesterday, August 3, 2010.

This is not the first time President Obama wanting to engage Africa’s young mind. In 2008, before his Africa visit to Ghana, he asked young people across the continent to interact with him through MXit, the vastly popular mobile social network and instant messenger. I am not sure how successful the MXit experiment was, and what transpired from it, but this follow-up with a leadership forum would actually do President Obama good because the initial move to engage young African’s mind through MXit offended some people in some quarters of the continent.

Although details are sketchy as to how the participants were selected, the young leaders are believed to represent all walks of African life, ranging from journalism, academia, public policy and Civic groups.  However, I will not be surprised if most of those in attendance at this forum are thriving African youth, mostly from urban centers of Africa. Why, you may ask?

I am not opposed to any urban-youth participating, but merely stating the need to help Africa’s marginalized rural-young people be heard at national and international policy-making tables. Urban agenda seems to dominating Africa’s political and policy-making process, neglecting the reality that rural-Africa has a different and unique set of needs, concerns, and priorities.

There are many reasons why rural young people may not  have been involved or invited: They are uneducated or undereducated, they are not fluent in Africa’s main official languages (English/French/Portuguese), they are poor and not visible to an untrained eye, and they lack access to information and resources.



Ndumba J. Kamwanyah

Ndumba Jonnah Kamwanyah, a native of Namibia in Southern Africa, is an independent consultant providing trusted advice and capacity building through training, research, and social impact analysis to customers around the world. Mos recently Ndumba returned from a consulting assignment in Liberia in support of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL).
In his recent previous life Ndumba taught (as an Adjunct Professor) traditional justice and indigenous African political institutions in sub-Saharan Africa at the Rhode Island College-Anthropology Department.

He is very passionate about democracy development and peace-building, and considers himself as a street researcher interested in the politics of everyday life.
Twitter: NdumbaKamwanyah