Exchange Program Builds Ties Between US, Africa

The United States is working with a non-profit group to send 26 Americans to Africa to teach and connect with people there.

The U.S. State Department’s Reciprocal Exchange program is part of the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders. It was started in 2014 by then President Barack Obama as part of his Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI).

YALI will send 1,000 young people from African countries south of the Sahara Desert to the United States. They will spend six weeks this summer at a U.S. college or university.

The Mandela Washington Fellowship is the main program of YALI. It is based on the idea that exchanges of people and knowledge are needed to build ties between the United States and young Africans.

The State Department has partnered with IREX, a non-profit group, to help support cooperation between 27 Mandela fellows and 26 American professionals. The program will take the U.S. citizens to a total of 17 countries in sub-Saharan Africa this month.

One of those Americans is Brian MacHarg. He is director of academic civic engagement at Appalachian State University in North Carolina.

Twenty-five young African leaders visited Appalachian State in 2016. Now, MacHarg has been invited by two of those young leaders to travel to Niger and Benin to take part in workshops.

“We had spent six weeks talking about the connection to the community so this is an opportunity for those fellows to share with their communities,” MacHarg said.

In northeast Benin, he will join Abiona Jean Bamigbade, a Mandela Washington Fellow. Bamigbade started Education for Development, an organization that supports girls’ education.

MacHarg’s specialty is helping professors use experience-based learning in their teaching plans and building connections with the communities in which they teach.

He hopes to meet with community leaders during his Africa visit. One of his goals is to work with heads of non-governmental organizations to increase communication about…

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