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US President Obama engages with African youth leaders at UJ’s Soweto Campus

On Saturday, 29 June 2013, US President Barack Obama, after meeting briefly with the University of Johannesburg (UJ)’s Chancellor, Prof Njabulo Ndebele; Chair of Council, Prof Roy Marcus; and Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Prof Ihron Rensburg, walked onto the stage to the thunderous sound of ‘Shosholoza’, at UJ’s Soweto Campus.
2013/07/01 06:00 PM
He visited UJ’s Soweto Campus for a town hall event, which also crossed over via video link to several other African nations, to engage young people in South Africa and across the African continent.
US President Obama spoke on a number of topics, praising the future of Africa’s relationship with the US and discussing his current foreign policy. He also announced that the US government will be granting 100 scholarships to youth leaders from the continent, to study in the United States as part of the president’s youth initiatives in Africa. This announcement embodies UJ’s drive to elevate internationalisation by making it one of its flagship portfolios.
“The future of this continent is in your hands. If you keep your head pointed toward the sun, and you keep your feet moving forward, I promise you, you will have no better friend and partner than the United States of America”.
Prof Rensburg remarked on President Obama’s vision for Africa, which also represent the guiding values of the University, namely conversation, imagination, regeneration and ethical foundation. “The President’s passion for youth development and his conversational stance towards young people resonates with UJ’s own approach,” said Prof Rensburg.


Young African Leaders engage with Obama at UJ
US President Barack Obama visited the University of Johannesburg (UJ) Soweto Campus for a Young African Leaders Initiative town hall meeting on Saturday, 29 June 2013, to share his words of wisdom with young people from South Africa and other African countries, including Kenya, Nigeria and Uganda.
During the meeting questions were taken from other countries via video link and young leaders posed questions to President Obama relating to terrorism, the US foreign policy, as well as trade and investment in Africa.
After the meeting, UJ spoke to some of the young African leaders who were invited to this momentous occasion. This is what they had to say about the event:
Vuyo Nkosi, Kingsmead College
“It was an amazing experience. The man has a wealth of knowledge encompassed in him, and I literally just sucked in every single word that he was saying. While he was talking to us I was thinking about my future, and the relationship between African and the United States, and how we are finally taking steps towards bridging the gap that exists between the two.”
Jason Naidoo, St Stithians College
“I found the meeting very interesting, and to hear that a country like the United States is assisting Africa is very motivating. In particular, the fact that he came all the way to South Africa and interacted with other African countries as well during this meeting was quite amazing.”
Bohlale Mbete, former Exchange Student with the US Embassy
“It was very exciting. I was glad we had an opportunity to ask questions and engage with him about our economy, not just in South Africa but the whole African continent. The meeting opened my eyes and I could envision us as Africa, and not just one country. I’m happy to be in Africa.”
Julia Palolo, former learner at African Leadership Academy in Johannesburg
“It was incredible! I feel very honoured to have been invited to the event, and it is because I was with this organisation, the African Leadership Academy. So I was with a group of young people, young African leaders – basically the definition of who they wanted here today. So it’s really special to be able to sit next to my peers who are young and setting their eyes to the future and getting themselves into that entrepreneurial mindset, hearing their reactions and bouncing ideas off of them as we were listening to the speech. That was really special.”
Carl Alexander, Grassroots Soccer (HIV Prevention Organisation)
“This is an amazing opportunity because the US Embassy invited 30 of our volunteer staff to come and attend the meeting. Actually 20 of us are from Soweto, with a few Americans in between. So it was really an incredible opportunity.”
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