WASHINGTON – A Mali native visited the nation’s capital on a mission to help African children through the Young African Leaders Initiative(YALI) program started by President Barack Obama.

“If I had given up, I would not be in (the) U.S. today,” said Alfousseni Sidibe, CEO and founder of “Live Your Dream,” an organization in Mali working to help students develop leadership and public speaking skills.

After getting rejected two years in a row, Sidibe was selected as one of the 1,000 YALI Mandela Washington fellows, who represent nearly 50 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.

“I’ve always believed that one person can be a force for positive change” President Obama said while addressing the room full of African fellows at the 2016 Presidential Summit in Washington.

President Obama at YALI summit

Photo above: President Obama addresses the 2016 Presidential Summit of the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders in August. (Hannah Gebresilassie/Medill News Service)

The fellowship is the flagship program of YALI working to empower young African leaders by pairing up the fellows with American universities to gain academic coursework and leadership training. Sidibe worked with Arizona State University during the six-week fellowship.

The 29-year-old started his organization in his hometown, Bandiala, Mali. In 2016, the first class of 40 students earned “Live Your Dream” leadership certificates, inspired by Toastmasters International. Sidibe’s goal is to make the educational opportunity more accessible in Mali by providing free training to university students.

“Never sit down and say I don’t have something to do,” Sidibe said. “In Africa, we have a lot to be done.”