The University of Texas at Austin
  • “All we have to do is never give up” – UT Hosts Africa’s Next Great Entrepreneurs

    By Jordan Schraeder, International Office
    Published: July 29

    On July 28 in Washington D.C., President Barack Obama kicked off a three-day summit for Africa’s most promising young leaders. To introduce him, the White House recruited a Longhorn: 27-year-old Faith Mangope, a South African businesswoman who recently completed the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders on the Forty Acres.

    For the past six weeks, Mangope and 24 of her colleagues have been on the University of Texas at Austin campus learning the ins and outs of business and entrepreneurship as part of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, the White House’s signature effort to invest in the next generation of African leaders. They join fellows at 19 other top U.S. universities, including Yale, Northwestern, Dartmouth, the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Virginia.

    Culled from more than 50,000 applicants, the 25 UT fellows came to Austin from 18 different Sub-Saharan countries, all with the goal of fleshing out ideas for businesses that would benefit their communities back home — from one fellow’s dream of creating sustainable furniture out of bamboo in Malawi, to another woman’s vision of providing sanitary pads to African schoolgirls to curb absenteeism in Kenya.

    After completing a rigorous program that included academic coursework, community service, networking and site visits to Austin-area businesses, the Washington Fellows are now in D.C., where they will rub shoulders with the likes of President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry before returning home to Africa.

    Below, hear from these young leaders who — with the help of The University of Texas at Austin — are working to instigate global, social change in one of the world’s fastest growing economies.

    Learn more about the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders here.



    “…We are not here because we are better than the others

    We are here because we are the first, the pioneers…”

    — An excerpt from a poem written by Anissa Issufo Arune, a Washington Fellow who is working to prevent domestic violence and abuse in Mozambique, where it’s still considered taboo for women to pursue educations or dream of running businesses. Arune hopes to leverage education, health resources and financial sustainability to encourage more women to join the workforce.

    Young African Leaders Initiative University of Texas at Austin

    UT Austin’s Washington Fellows pose in front of the Tower on their first day in Texas. Photo: JT Walford

    ***

    “A lot of solutions to Africa’s problems are residing in Africa, sort of buried, much like the natural resources below the ground. People don’t feel there’s enough freedom or democracy to activate their ideas. What each one of us being here can help do is be a little beacon of hope for how that can be done.”

    Creesen Naicker, a Washington Fellow who is working to empower villages in South Africa by partnering with them to create tourist attractions. Approximately 60 percent of Africa’s population is younger than 35 years of age — a statistic that spurred the White House to pilot the Washington Fellowship and select UT as one of 20 host universities for its inaugural year. The program, part of Obama’s broader Young African Leaders Initiative, aims to spur growth and prosperity across Africa.

    Young African Leaders Initiative University of Texas at Austin

    Fellows Jean-Patrick Ehouman (left) and Joel Tembo (center) chat with Executive Director for Development Karl Miller at the Google Keynote luncheon on June 18. Photo: Sara Combs

    ***

    “Meeting entrepreneurs in Austin and knowing they go through the same challenges we go through back in Africa is pretty encouraging. All we have to do is never give up.”

    — Washington Fellow Florence Kamaitha is the founder of the Pad Heaven Initiative, a business that is providing cheaper sanitary pads to African girls with the hope of curbing school absenteeism. In addition to winning a $25,000 grant from the U.S. African Development Foundation to expand her business, Kamaitha will also personally meet with First Lady Michelle Obama about girls’ education issues during this week’s summit.

    Young African Leaders Initiative University of Texas at Austin

    Kamaitha (right) and her classmates attend a lecture in the Bill & Melinda Gates Computer Science Complex. Photo: JT Walford

    ***

    “I believe we need to shift our paradigm to starting businesses and creating employment and wealth with a human value.”

     — According to fellow Lombola Gama Lombola, bamboo in his home country of Malawi takes about three years to regenerate, much quicker than the 10 years it takes traditional timber. That’s how he got the idea for Bamboo Express, a company that is creating eco-friendly, affordable furniture for his community. Thanks to a core curriculum developed by UT San Antonio’s Anita Leffel and UT Austin’s Dorie Gilbert, a professor in the School of Social Work, Lombola and his colleagues now have increased proficiency in writing business plans, crafting elevator pitches and networking — all skills that will help them grow their businesses back home.

    Young African Leaders Initiative University of Texas at Austin

    On their quest to learn more about Austin’s entrepreneurial scene, the 25 Washington Fellows toured Google’s offices on June 23. Photo: JT Walford

    ***

    “The amazing thing is the actual mantra of The University of Texas at Austin, which is ‘What starts here changes the world.’ That’s so true. If you allow yourself — whatever situation you’re in — to be present within that situation, you really can change the world.”

    — Faith Mangope, the UT Austin fellow who was selected from 500 fellows nationwide to introduce President Obama and moderate a Town Hall meeting in Washington, D.C. Mangope is the founder of New G Business Forums, which offers three-day programs to young adults preparing for employment in South Africa. Watch the live stream of the Young African Leaders Presidential Summit here through July 30.

    Young African Leaders Initiative University of Texas at Austin

    Mangope presents her business idea to a panel of Austin entrepreneurs at the final pitch competition on July 24. Photo: Sara Combs
    • Quote 2
      M Barber said on Aug. 7 at 6:25 p.m.
      I attended several of the events and hosted one of the Fellows for a weekend. This type of exchange program is invaluable to all countries involved, including ours! It spurs good ideas and cultural understanding. Thank you UT, YALI and the International Office!
    • Quote 2
      Mirac said on Aug. 6 at 1:40 a.m.
      good to see so many african entrepreneur. I am happy for them
    • Quote 2
      LONGTIMELONGHORN said on Aug. 4 at 11:57 a.m.
      SO EXCITED THAT MY BROTHERS AND SISTERS FROM AFRICA WERE ABLE TO COME TO AMERICA AND SHARE IN THIS AMAZING RICH LEARNING EXPERIENCE AND WONDERFUL OPPORTUNITY!!! THERE COUNTRIES FACE MANY DIFFICULT AND UP COMING CHALLENGES, BUT WHAT A GREAT THING TO HAVE SUCH AN AWESOME MEETING OF THE MINDS AND CULTURES AND DREAMS AND ASPIRATIONS FOR OUR FUTURE LEADERS. I HOPE THEY WILL CONTINUE TO KEEP IN CONTACT WITH ONE ANOTHER AND GROW AND SHARE IN THEIR LEARN AND CREATE EXPERIENCES FOR OTHERS FROM THEIR COUNTRIES TO FOLLOW IN THEIR FOOTSTEPS. ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS IS TO SHARE AND EMBRACE THEIR THOUGHTS WITH SCHOOL AND COLLEGE STUDENTS TO HELP THEM GET THEIR CREATIVE AND INNOVATIVE THOUGHTS DEVELOPED AND ESTABLISH GOALS AND IDEAS FOR MANY FUTURE GENERATIONS TO COME AND LEAVE A GREAT LEGACY FOR THEIR FAMILIES AND COUNTRY. THIS IS ONLY THE BEGINNING, GOD SPEED AND BLESSINGS TO EACH OF YOU AS YOU IMPART OR ENHANCE YOUR COUNTRY AND PERSONAL LIVES FUTURE. IT STARTS WITH ONE WILLING HEART TO LEADING THE WAY AND BRING OTHER ALONG ON OUR LIFE'S JOURNEY! MAYBE NEXT YEAR THE PROGRAM BE INCLUSIVE TO ALLOW OTHERS TO SIT IN TO OBSERVE THIS CREATIVE PART HISTORY. MY LAST THOUGHT IS I WISH TO HEAR FROM THE PARTICIPANTS ABOUT THEIR EXPERIENCES AT UT AND WHAT CHANGES THEY MIGHT EXPLORE AS A RESULT OF THIS OPPORTUNITY. SHARE KNOWLEDGE IS MORE POWERFUL THAT YOU CAN EVEN CONCEIVE AND ITS AMAZING RIPPLING AND DOMINO EFFECTS IS WHAT ENCOURAGE US TO GROW AND DEVELOPED AND CHASE OUR ASPIRATIONS AND CONQUERS OF OUR DREAMS AND DESTINATIONS. TRUST AND PUT GOD FIRST IN ALL THAT YOU DO AND REACH AND CLAIMS ALL THAT IS HIS DESIRE AND WILL TO GIVE TO EACH OF YOU!!! NOW GO GET THAT BLESSED BEYOND MEASURED GIFTS WAITING FOR YOU, BUT REMEMBER TO WHOM MUCH IS GIVEN MUCH IS REQUIRED. LEARN THE VALUE AND MEANING OF THIS AND USE IT WELL AND YOU WILL APPRECIATE YOUR BLESSINGS THAT ARE POURED OUT ON YOU, YOUR CUP WILL OVERFLOW!!!
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