JULY 23, 2013
With U.S. unemployment rates at historical highs and the nation’s debt a mind-boggling $16.8 trillion, the Obama administration has nevertheless made sure that an African youth empowerment initiative in Uganda gets millions from American taxpayers.
The cash is being distributed via the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) even as the nation that should be the agency’s priority finds itself suffering through a painfully high 7.6% unemployment rate. This month the DOL announced that it is dedicating $3 million to help Ugandan youth develop marketable skills to secure decent work and to serve as civic leaders in their respective communities. It’s difficult to imagine that this is a priority for the American taxpayers funding this venture.
This might lead to the following question; why spend millions on this African Youth Empowerment and Development Initiative thousands of miles away? Because it’s part of President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), a special program created by the commander-in-chief and his wife to invest in the “next generation of African leaders” and to strengthen “partnerships between the United States and Africa.”
YALI is a long-term and wide-ranging effort led by the Obama White House and State Department to strengthen democratic institutions in Africa and spur economic growth. First Lady Michelle Obama is also heavily involved and has promoted the initiative by hosting “high-profile forums” in Africa. Among the better known events is the First Lady’s Young African Women Leaders Forum during a 2011 trip to Africa.
“As my husband has said, Africa is a fundamental part of our interconnected world,” Michelle Obama told attendees during the forum at the Regina Mundi Church in Soweto, South Africa. “And when it comes to the defining challenges of our times—creating jobs in our global economy, promoting democracy and development, confronting climate change, extremism, poverty and disease—for all this, the world is looking to Africa as a vital partner.”
The First Lady continued: “That is why my husband’s administration is not simply focused on extending a helping hand to Africa, but focusing on partnering with Africans who will shape their future by combating corruption, and building strong democratic institutions, by growing new crops, caring for the sick. And more than ever before, we will be looking to all of you, our young people, to lead the way.”
This new African partnership will undoubtedly cost American taxpayers a chunk of change, though the White House assures the investment is well worth it. In fact, the Obama administration reveals that young leaders in sub-Saharan Africa are responding to U.S. efforts to empower youth, convene dialogues and foster networks by taking advantage of these opportunities to establish their own platforms to impact their communities. Americans will surely sleep better knowing their multi-million-dollar investment didn’t go to waste.
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