Caterpillar’s Africa Business Resource Group Hosts Young African Leaders

July 25, 2016

A peanut butter manufacturer. A software company founder. A chef who teaches girls how to cook. A makeup line creator. A professor. A financial analyst. An e-commerce entrepreneur. An employer of single mothers.

These are just a few of the 25 young leaders Caterpillar’s Africa Business Resource Group (ABRG) hosted on Friday afternoon as part of the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders. Begun in 2014, the flagship program of President Barack Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) empowers African entrepreneurs, ages 25 to 35, through six weeks of intensive academic coursework, leadership training and networking in the United States.

In 2016, the Fellowship will provide 1,000 outstanding young leaders from Sub-Saharan Africa the opportunity to hone their skills at American colleges and companies.

Caterpillar partnered with Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, to host and teach a group of 25 Fellows studying business and entrepreneurship. 

Ben Hafele, an engineering tech team lead at Caterpillar and president of ABRG, will judge the Fellows’ business plan competition. He said each of the Fellows has an established records of accomplishment in promoting innovation and positive change in their organizations, institutions, communities and countries.

“This program is more competitive than Stanford,” he said. “Tens of thousands apply, and only a select group is chosen for this opportunity.”

As part of their visit to Caterpillar, the Fellows heard an overview of the company from Senior Vice President Dave Bozeman and participated in a Q&A session with him, asking about everything from company bureaucracy to supply chain to Caterpillar’s long-term strategy in Africa.

Bozeman complimented the Fellows on their challenging questions and congratulated them on being chosen for the experience.

“You’re probably running so hard that you don’t realize your own successes,” he said. “Caterpillar prides itself on partnering with top-notch universities and talented people like you. There are a lot of people who are not in this room, and you are. That’s not by chance. It’s because of your accomplishments and what you continue to do as businesspeople and entrepreneurs.”

Following their stay at Caterpillar and Northwestern, the Fellows will travel to Washington, D.C., for a Presidential Summit. During the three-day event, the Fellows will take part in networking and panel discussions with U.S. leaders from the public, private and nonprofit sectors, including a town hall with President Obama himself.

For 30-year-old Tigist Araya of Ethiopia, the opportunity to learn in the United States will help her grow her foreign investment advisory firm when she returns home. She said she’s learned here to trust her instincts and take more chances. Many business decisions in Africa come only after careful analysis, she said, and taking risks is somewhat uncommon.

“The American way of doing business is impressive,” Araya said. “It’s about action and execution. You have an idea? Go there. Do it.”

For more information about ABRG and Caterpillar’s other employee resource groups, click here

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