This week, 25 students from across Africa begin six weeks of training in business and entrepreneurship on the Notre Dame campus as part of the Washington Fellowship, the flagship program of President Obama's Young African Leaders Initiative.

The University of Notre Dame was selected as one of the Washington Fellowship's host institutions after partnering with the IBM Corporation to expand a 2012 Notre Dame pilot program to provide training to young African leaders.

This summer, IBM experts and Notre Dame faculty and staff have designed courses specifically for these aspiring young entrepreneurs, who hope to assume leadership roles or start their own business ventures in Africa.

The training program will be led by faculty and staff from the Mendoza College of Business Nonprofit Executive Education Program, supported by the Notre Dame Initiative for Global Development (NDIGD), the Kellogg Institute's Ford Family Program in Human Development and Solidarity, and the University's Engineering, Science, Technology and Entrepreneurship Master's (ESTEEM) program.

Ford Program Director Rev. Robert Dowd, CSC, a political scientist and Africa expert, is teaming up with two other members of the Kellogg community with experience in Africa—Kellogg Guest Scholar Peter John Opio, the academic director of the summer institute, and Ford Program Associate Director Dennis Haraszko—to coteach an integration seminar that will help the students strategize about how to take their new knowledge back to their home countries.

"We're thrilled to partner with the next generation of business, community, and political leaders and help furnish them with the skills, tools and perspective they need make a positive difference within their communities back home," says Dowd.  

Notre Dame has received $100,000 from the US Department of State to facilitate the program. The IBM Corporation and the Coca-Cola Foundation have committed additional funding and training support. In addition, IBM will provide follow-up internship opportunities.

In 2012, the University hosted six young African leaders for a seven-week training program led by Fr. Dowd and facilitated by Mendoza College of Business faculty and IBM representatives.

The "Leadership for Excellence and Africa's Development" (LEAD) student participants were integrated into the Notre Dame MBA curriculum, while also participating in seminars designed for them by the Ford and ESTEEMprograms. IBM representatives taught once per week, and the students attended a weeklong seminar atIBMbefore returning to East Africa.

The 2014 Washington Fellowship program will provide 500 African fellows with a US experience that includes a six-week academic institute at 20 host institutions around the country and a three-day summit in Washington, DC. Up to 100 participants will receive an eight-week follow-on internship with an American NGO or business.

The summer training is only the beginning of a long-term investment in these young leaders. Upon their return to Africa, the United States will provide opportunities for networking, ongoing professional development, seed funding for entrepreneurs, and community service. Fellows will have access to enrichment seminars, local and regional networking events, and an innovative on-line platform.

Contact: Joya Helmuth, Outreach Associate, Notre Dame Initiative for Global Development,