From Africa to Iowa

The Mandela Washington Fellowship for African Leaders is the flagship program of President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). This program is designed to empower young people through academic coursework, leadership training, and networking. In 2016, University of Iowa became an official host of this program.

The six-week fellowship program was led by Dimy Doresca, Director of the Institute for International Business (IIB). Doresca received a $150,000 grant award from the U.S. State Department, allowing UI to host 25 fellows for six weeks. The participants in the UI fellowship program represented 18 different African countries.

A very competitive program, fellows that are selected are established leaders who are accomplished in promoting innovation and positive change in their organizations, institutions, communities, and countries. Dave Okech is just one example of how these fellows are making a difference.

Dave is the founder of Sare Millers Ltd, an animal feed manufacturing company. He has made significant strides in the chicken and animal feed industry in his home country of Kenya.

His company focuses on quality and affordability in order to overcome three major concerns in Kenya: the high cost of feeds, the low quality of feeds, and women and youth dis-empowerment.

In order to ease farmers’ burden in purchasing feed, Dave created a mobile app that allows farmers to buy directly from him, while significantly lowering the transaction costs. This project is based on human-centered design to benefit dis-empowered women.

In short, women buy chicken feed from Dave. Those chickens then produce eggs, which are given to Dave to sell. Dave then gives the profits directly back to the women, helping them generate their own income. By doing so, these women become independent and thus do not have to rely on their parents or anyone else to feed themselves. So far he has over 50 women supplying chicken eggs for his company.

Dave loved his time in Iowa City. He stated, "My favorite part about the program has been the training classes and how they are conducted. The instructors are really motivating and the lessons are practical and hands-on. I have a much deeper understanding of business operations now."