The United States today committed nearly US$70 million to help young entrepreneurs in Latin America and the Caribbean develop their businesses through fellowships and incubators in the US.
The programme is called Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI).
President Barack Obama made the announcement at the youth forum at the Assembly Hall of the University of the West Indies, Mona.
Building on the success of the president’s young leader initiatives in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia, YLAI is expected to incubate and accelerate the work of young business and civil society leaders from Latin America, the Caribbean and the United States.
The YLAI will provide 250 fellowships each year to enable participants from the United States and the region to develop joint business and civil society initiatives.
The preponderance of the fellowships will take place at universities, incubators, and non-governmental organisations across the United States, while follow-on exchanges will send Americans to Latin America and the Caribbean to continue the collaboration.
The YLAI fellows will receive ongoing support through a continuum of networking, mentorship and investment opportunities.
Obama engaged the students and youth leaders at the forum in a question and answer session which saw him fielding questions from the more than 300-strong audience.
“I want to use this opportunity to hear from you the youth and leaders of tomorrow,” President Obama said, as he took off his jacket and rolled up his shirt sleeves to hear from those gathered.
The visit to the university came on the second day of his trip, after arriving in the island last night.
The president fielded questions alternatively from males and females on a range of issues, including the legalisation/decriminalisation of marijuana, immigration, China’s rise in power and its territorial war with Vietnam over the south China Sea, and violence among young black men.