By Jim Fisher-Thompson
Washington - Dede Marthe Woamede from Togo will attend the President's Forum with Young African Leaders, hosted by President Obama at the White House August 3-5, and says she hopes to gauge his vision for Africa, the continent the president has ties to because of his Kenyan father.
The first-ever such forum at the White House will bring together 120 young leaders from 17 African nations to discuss ways political and economic development can be furthered on the continent. A highlight of the gathering will be a town hall meeting with President Obama on August 3.
"By listening to President Obama face to face, I will have a deeper understanding of his vision for Africa and realize how best I and my colleagues from Togo, and in my NGO [nongovernmental organization], can work as partners to help make a better Africa," Woamede told America.gov.
She added: "I personally see this as a dream come true because, as a young leader in my community, I have read, heard and learned a lot about the American way of life and winning spirit. These will be my very first steps on American soil and I will definitely take advantage in it to empower myself and be more influential in my community as a leader."
Woamede, known as "Mimi," has a master's degree from the University of Lomé and works at AfricSearch, the Togolese branch of Afrique Audit & Consulting, a firm that focuses on human resources management within a regional and local context. She is also a member of the board of the Alternative Leadership Group, an NGO that works with youths on leadership issues, and is a deputy coordinator of the Human Rights in Three Dimensions project, which involves human rights education for youth.
Echoing Obama's call for African self-reliance and anti-corruption measures in a speech he gave in Ghana in 2009, Woamede said she and her young colleagues "look as much as possible to identify African solutions for endemic issues such as poverty alleviation, support for education and development of leadership."
Most importantly, Woamede said, "I hope that the direct contact with President Obama and his administration will offer an opportunity to meet decisionmakers in the United States that will empower us and help us to implement our programs to the benefit of our populations on the ground."
"By inviting members of the next generation of decision makers in Africa to Washington, President Obama clearly demonstrates his commitment to African solutions to African problems," U.S. Ambassador to Togo Patricia Hawkins told America.gov. "In too many countries we still see the same names and faces that have dominated governments for so long, pursuing the same tired policies that no longer work. It is truly time for those respected but 'old' leaders to recognize that the youth of their nations have important contributions to make and that they must be given the opportunity to participate in the political, social and economic activities of their individual nations and for the continent as a whole."