Six Basotho are set to leave for the United States on 15 June to join 490 fellow young African leaders for a six-week programme at leading American universities under the Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders.
The visit would culminate in a summit convened by President Barack Obama in Washington DC.
The Chargé d’Affaires at the United States Embassy in Maseru, Carl Fox, revealed the six emerging Basotho leaders a fortnight ago, who are: Moratuoa Hlongoa (an accountant who co-founded New Dawn Accountants), Ntsane Lepholisa (who has extensive experience in marketing and graphics and is operating his own agency, Shield Media Advertising), ‘Mantoa Moiloa (a ranger with the Lesotho Northern Parks at the Liphofung Caves), Khaliso Khama (an award-winning social entrepreneur who founded the Dream Lesotho Education Foundation which connects Basotho with educational opportunities), Tampose Mothopeng (a tireless advocate for the rights of gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender-people in Lesotho and president of the Matrix Support Group) and Nthabiseng ‘Monahali (a medical doctor at the Baylor University Paediatric HIV initiative in Lesotho).
Mr Fox said the six emerging entrepreneurs were selected from among hundreds of applicants, who wanted to be part of Mr Obama’s flagship Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI).
According to Mr Fox, the Washington Fellowship would empower young Africans through academic coursework, leadership-training and networking.
“Thousands of young people from across the continent applied for the fellowship, but only five-hundred were selected, including the six young Basotho.
“The Fellows will participate in a six-week programme at a US university, with a focus on one of three programme-areas of civic leadership, public management or business and entrepreneurship,” Mr Fox said.
“Following their academic programmes, the Fellows will attend a summit with President Obama in Washington DC where a select-group, including one of our Lesotho participants, Lepholisa, will complete internships in the United States.”
Mr Fox further said he was confident the young Basotho would take full advantage of the Fellowship and return to Lesotho empowered to start new enterprises.
“I’m confident these remarkable young leaders will take full advantage of the Washington Fellowship and return to Lesotho empowered to start new enterprises, improve the transparency and functioning of government, as well as strengthening local civil society organisations.”
The young leaders, Mr Fox added, would be linked into the Africa-wide Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) Alumni Network, as well as to the Embassy’s Alumni Association.
“The Washington Fellowship is one of many Embassy programmes to engage Lesotho’s young leaders. Every year, we send smart, capable young Basotho to study in the US through our Fulbright and Humphrey Programmes.
“By empowering these six young leaders, we are investing in the future of the partnership between the US and Lesotho and between Americans and Basotho”.
Speaking on behalf of the Fellows, Ms Hlongoa expressed gratitude for the opportunity to embark on such a mission.
“We feel honoured to go and represent Basotho in the US, and thank President Obama for the opportunity he opened for us.
“On our return, we hope to share the knowledge we would have acquired with Basotho and we promise to fly the Lesotho flag high while in America.”
Launched in 2010 by Mr Obama — the 44th president of the United States, and first African-American to hold the office on his election on January 20, 2009 — the YALI programme seeks to support young African leaders in their efforts to stimulate economic growth, strengthen democratic governance and enhance peace and security in their respective countries.