Economic Development

Connecting the Next Generation of African Leaders

At age 31, she’s the President of an international IT strategy and consulting firm, an alumna of the Bill & Melinda Gates and Ford foundations, and founder of “Women in Tech” – a networking group for Ghanaian women in IT. Along the way, Ethel Cofie has applied her expertise to such projects as developing a mobile application to connect expectant mothers to timely health advice. She’s also a member of the inaugural class of President Barack Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI).


Launched to help spread the influence of emerging African leaders, YALI is the first program of its kind. The program gathers 500 business leaders between the ages of 25 and 35 (selected from more than 50,000 candidates) for six weeks of immersive professional development training and mentoring at top U.S. universities. Its goals are to connect the next generation of African leaders to each other and to U.S. government resources, and to help them develop the skills and networks they’ll need to improve the quality of life in their home communities.

As a lead partner with the YALI Network, IBM works closely with this year’s host universities Notre Dame and Yale, where IBM Fellows are engaging YALI participants on topics ranging from creativity and leadership, to business strategy, social technologies and financing. As part of this process, each IBM Fellow shares her unique perspective on IBM’s contribution to Africa’s economic development.

We’ve had a chance to participate in several of the YALI sessions, and have been gratified to see how quickly friendships and networks are developing among the young leaders. The collective energy and talent of sub-Saharan African nations is transforming the continent into a major commercial market and a global source of innovation. Capitalizing on opportunities for growth will require tenacity, skill and the types of partnerships that IBM is helping to incubate at YALI. As Africa’s economy continues to grow, we’re looking forward to continuing relationships with the continent’s next generation of leaders.

Jen Crozier is Vice President of Global Citizenship Initiatives at IBM.

Related Resources:

WSHU Radio: Twenty-five of President Obama’s Young African Leaders
Study at Yale This Summer

Ethel Cofie Gives Insights on YALI

IBM in Africa

IBM Corporate Citizenship in Sub-Saharan Africa

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