Emmanuel Odama, a research officer with Uganda's National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO), on August 3 had the honour of introducing US President Barack Obama on the final day of the 2016 Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) summit in Washington, DC.
The White House selected Odama to represent the 1,000 young African leaders present at the summit because of his dedication to improve livelihoods throughout Uganda, as well as his passion to share his knowledge and skills with those in his home community of Arua.
Introducing President Obama at the YALI summit, Odama spoke of the necessity for youth throughout Africa to become leaders in their communities, and for current leaders to inspire their own youth populations.
"The African continent is not only in need of transformational leaders, but the African continent is looking for leaders who will make the deliberate effort to inspire those they lead to take up the mantle - especially the young people, who are looking for role models to emulate. And I am very glad these people are right here in this room," he said.
Speaking to the assembled YALI participants, President Obama noted the rising influence and growth of the continent, saying, "Africa is a place of unprecedented prosperity and opportunity."
He also praised the contributions and initiatives of these young leaders in their own communities, and pledged that the United States remained committed to helping them succeed.
"You should know that you'll always have a partner and friend in the United States of America. I could not be prouder of all of you and the great work that you've done," said Obama.
YALI is a signature effort by the United States to invest in the next generation of African leaders. President Obama launched YALI in 2010 to support young African leaders as they spur growth and prosperity, strengthen democratic governance, and enhance peace and security across Africa.
The YALI Mandela Washington Fellowship brings these dynamic young leaders to the United States for six weeks of leadership training and mentoring at more than 20 U.S. universities and colleges in the areas of business and entrepreneurship, civic engagement, and public administration.
Some 2,000 young Africans have participated in the program during the last three years, including 69 from Uganda. Nearly 120,000 have applied for the prestigious fellowship since its inception.
Odama, a research offer at Abi Zonal Agricultural Research and Development Institute under NARO, was one of 31 Ugandans to participate in this year's class of Mandela Washington Fellowship participants.
With more than seven years of experience in agricultural research, development, and administration, Odama helps train farmers on soil and water conservation, crop agronomy, and post-harvest handling. He also volunteers as an associate pastor in his local church.
Upon his return from the Fellowship, Odama plans to promote sustainable climate-smart agricultural production in his community.