In the spring of 2014, Meridian International Center will begin the implementation of the U.S. Department of State’s Professional Fellows Program for Zambia and Zimbabwe. Beginning in May 2014, the program aims to bring 24 professionals to the U.S. from Zambia and Zimbabwe in two cohorts to introduce them to American business, entrepreneurial, and marketing practices that they can later implement in their home countries. The program incorporates a 3-week fellowship with an American business or NGO based in Denver, CO, or Charlotte, NC, as well as skills-based workshops, and culminates with a Professional Fellows Conference in Washington, DC. The participants will also benefit from a reciprocal two-week visit from eight American counterparts to Zambia and Zimbabwe in 2015.
With the unique opportunity to coordinate two conferences as part of follow-on for the President’s Young African Leaders Initiative–and hours to clock at airports and en route to Dakar, Senegal–I eagerly settled in with the search function at Amazon.com. For a while now, as part of my travel, I love nothing more than to dive into books—generally fiction—set in the place where I’m heading.
It may seem obvious that people with more opportunity are happier people. But without the right tools to take advantage of opportunity, hope funnels down to despair far too often.
Case in point, Zimbabwe. In the midst of more elections, a country that has battled itself for far too long will again go to the polls to elect a President that will promise change he’s not likely to deliver. Quite possibly, that person will remain Robert Mugabe, the man who spent the last decade promising equality and opportunity while warping his country to the brink of failed statehood. If, by some miracle, Morgan Tsvangirai is allowed to win, the bleak looks a little brighter. But it is still dim. Most would agree that the unity government created after the 2008 elections has moved the nation a long way. Hope is back, no question, but without the right infrastructure, laws, training, and leaders at all levels, translating that hope into lasting change will be elusive. And Mr. Tsvangirai, despite being a Meridian alum, will have much to prove if he is given the reigns – from personal failings to questionable judgments, his first term was not the glimmering model the world was hoping for.
In collaboration with the State Department, and as part of the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), Meridian implemented an African regional project focused on fighting wildlife crime and conservation. The project brought together thirteen park rangers and wildlife protection specialists from nine different countries in sub-Saharan Africa to participate in a range of site visits and meetings across the United States. Continue