For the past six weeks, Purdue University has been hosting two dozen young African leaders, entrepreneurs, and innovators as part of The Mandela Washington Fellowship. The cohort has undergone an intensive, executive-style leadership training program with an emphasis on engineering and agriculture-related businesses.
“I started realizing the challenges that exist in my country and in the food industry. And it changed my mindset [in college],” said Molly Abende, a food technologist from Kenya. “I started paying attention to those challenges and how I can use my skill sets and knowledge to address them.”
The Mandela Washington Fellowship stems from the Young African Leaders Initiative created in 2010 by President Barack Obama. It supports young Africans as they spur economic growth and prosperity, strengthen democratic governance, and enhance peace and security across the African continent.
The students are expected to take what they learned from the program and how they plan to enact change at home once they return.
“I’m really, really excited to just go back to my work and continue to help farmers get market for their fruits and vegetable back in Kenya,” said Abende.
Abende is joined by fellow cohort member Boaz Berhanu, a professor from the University of Ethiopia, who teaches young entrepreneurs to realize the potential through their business ideas.
“This is innovation by Africans for African problems, so unique solutions are possible,” said Berhanu.