Young leaders from 18 countries throughout sub-Saharan Africa conclude a six-week fellowship at the University of Maine Friday. Among them is Obakeng Sethamo, the founder and director of Climate Exploration Hub in Botswana.
“The biggest population in Africa is of young people, which means the continent is growing, and with that level of growth in terms of access to energy, that is the biggest thing for young people and that is the biggest opportunity right there,” he says.
Kossiwa Tsipoaka from Togo, CEO of African Rural Water Pro, says Maine and the rest of the U.S. should recognize the growth potential in Africa and make connections with young business leaders.
“The next generation you have in Africa is us, so if the United States stops talking to us you will miss something, and the U.S. is not there to miss opportunities,” she says.
Dr. Carol Kim, association vice chancellor for academic innovation and partnership at UMaine, says the demographics of Africa point to future growth.
“I find this a fascinating fact, that 60 percent of the age range is less than 39, so 1 in 3 is between 10 and 24 years of age — really young, and super rich in natural resources,” she says.
UMaine hosted 25 Mandela Washington fellows, who toured the state, met the governor and made business and personal connections. They will now head to Washington, D.C., to attend a conference of all 1,000 fellows visiting the U.S. this year.