Investing in Africa’s Future Leaders

October 2, 2015 By David Stein

Godfrey Nyombi is the kind of young leader that represents Africa’s enormous potential.

For the past seven years, he has served as the Regional Health Secretary in the remote region of Mtwara, Tanzania, where he works to expand access to quality health care by coordinating the efforts of local authorities with U.S. government agencies, universities, and NGOs.

Through his office, he has partnered with USAID, Johns Hopkins University, and American NGOs like Jhpiego, EngenderHealth, IntraHealth, and the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation to strengthen the health infrastructure of the region’s least developed areas. He also recently partnered with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Atlanta-based NGO Public Health Informatics Institute on a project to ensure the optimal allocation of health care workers in the country. Last year’s outbreak of Ebola in three countries where basic health infrastructure was essentially absent provided a grave reminder of the importance of Godfrey’s work.

When the U.S. government launched the Mandela Washington Fellowship in 2014 as part of its Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), Godfrey was one of only 500 – out of nearly 50,000 applications – selected to join the inaugural class.


At Morgan State University in Baltimore, where he began his YALI Fellowship, he received training in data-driven decision-making to achieve development goals. He then traveled to Atlanta, where he received hands-on training in the subject through an internship with the Public Health Informatics Institute – the same NGO he now partners with in Tanzania.

Regional Health Secretary in Mtwara is actually only one of many hats he wears. Godfrey is also a co-founder of the Tanzania Bora Initiative, which works to strengthen democracy, government accountability, and human rights by, among other things, engaging young Tanzanians in the political process through a brand new multimedia campaign. Supporting them in this effort is the International Republican Institute, an American non-profit which promotes democracy and good governance around the world.

As if that wasn’t enough, Godfrey also co-founded SHE Codes for Change, which has worked with Microsoft, the State Department, and the Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology to implement an eight-week training course for girls in six Tanzanian high schools, focused on computer programing and social media to help bridge the gender gap in the technology sector.

Godfrey and all of the YALI Fellows not only embody Africa’s enormous potential, but also represent an enormous opportunity for America. With six of the top twelve fastest growing economies in the world located in Africa and 60 percent of the continent’s population below the age of 35, the United States cannot afford not to invest in this next generation of leaders.

Obama photo

As retired-U.S. Ambassador Robert Pearson said, “Young leaders across Africa can make quite a difference, and now their dreams are our responsibility as a nation. Africa is rising faster than ever before; this initiative is a call for a partnership that quickens that progress for the good of all.”

Header Photo: President Barack Obama at the 2016 Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) Summit. Source: State Department Photo by Tim Brown / CC