Young Leaders from Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia Selected for Inaugural USA Pavilion @ Expo 2020 Fellows Program

Sponsored by PepsiCo, The PepsiCo Foundation, the USA Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai, Observer Research Foundation America, and Observer Research Foundation, the program will empower a new network of young leaders driving global change

September 1, 2021 – Dubai, UAE – PepsiCo and its philanthropic arm, The PepsiCo Foundation, alongside the USA Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai, are proud to announce the launch of the USA Pavilion @ Expo 2020 Fellows Program. The Fellows Program is focused on empowering and educating young global leaders tackling the world’s most pressing socioeconomic issues by helping them hone their leadership and problem-solving skills.

Funded by a $500,000 (1,836,600 AED) grant from The PepsiCo Foundation, the seven-month-long program is hosted by the USA Pavilion @ Expo 2020 and brings together 40 young leaders from 20 countries across the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia (MENASA). Focused on global issues explored at Expo 2020 Dubai – including trade, sustainability, and future cities – the program aims to foster dialogue across the MENASA region, spur debate, and ultimately enable the Fellows to build communities and solutions that will respond to the contemporary challenges that confront us all.

Participants are leaders who have demonstrated an unwavering commitment to improving the lives of those around them. They were nominated by U.S. diplomatic missions from participating countries and selected through a competitive application process run by the Observer Research Foundation America (ORF America), and Observer Research Foundation (ORF). 

Eugene Willemsen, CEO of PepsiCo, Africa, Middle East, and South Asia, noted, “At PepsiCo, we are committed to raising the bar on talent and diversity. We want to inspire the next generation of leaders to help address issues of global importance and create a better future for us all. The Fellows Program will serve as a launching pad for exchanging and inspiring new perspectives and enable the next generation of leaders to achieve their full potential, enter today’s workforce and be successful.”

The four-phase program commences with virtual orientation sessions led by pavilion leaders that will introduce Fellows and lay the building blocks for their global network. Following virtual sessions, Fellows will be flown to Expo 2020 Dubai where they will meet with pavilion leaders, participate in panel discussions, and network across Expo. At Expo 2020, Fellows will also participate in hands-on instructional sessions that mirror a dynamic classroom style, and includes the development of a group project that Fellows will work on throughout the duration of the program. For those unable to travel due to the ongoing pandemic, a virtual program has been developed to ensure they receive the same benefits as others.

Following their visit to Dubai, Fellows will return home and participate in a digital bootcamp led by AstroLabs, a company committed to building capabilities and upskilling individuals across the region. Designed as a virtual bridge between in-person segments, this phase will focus on mentoring the Fellows as they complete their individual and group projects. The program culminates in a fourth phase consisting of five days of in-person development at Expo 2020 Dubai, including the presentation of group projects. It is expected that more than 2,000 people will benefit from the work carried out in this program. 

“The potential of these regional leaders knows no bounds, and with this program we will build an expansive network that will empower these young people and give them the tools and resources they need to advance their existing work,” said C.D. Glin, Vice President, The PepsiCo Foundation and Global Head of Philanthropy, PepsiCo. “Already, these leaders have proven to be catalysts of change in their home countries, and with the Expo 2020 Fellows Program, we will ensure that this incredible work can be further amplified in a way that will touch the lives of thousands. We are proud to be a founding member of this program and believe that it will serve as a global model moving forward.”

Upon completion of the program, participants will become part of the U.S. Department of State exchange program alumni network. This community will allow the Fellows to engage with others who can provide guidance as they explore ways to be agents of change in their communities. Through their involvement in this distinguished program, Fellows will be integrated into larger ORF communities, including the Raisina Young Fellows Programme, also known as the Asian Forum on Global Governance, and have the opportunity to build multiple communities in and outside of the MENASA region.

Deputy Commissioner General for the USA Pavilion, Matthew K. Asada, emphasized the opportunity for leadership development and entrepreneurial growth across the region saying, “The USA Pavilion @ Expo 2020 Fellows Program offers a unique environment for young leaders from the Middle East and South Asia for skill development. Expo 2020 Dubai is the first World Expo in the region, and we’re excited to build on the global gathering’s location as a connecting point for countries to highlight their best and brightest people, innovations, and ways of living. The USA Pavilion is proud to host this first exchange program of its kind as we tell our story of ‘Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of the Future.'”

ORF America Executive Director, Dhruva Jaishankar expressed, “ORF America is proud to be involved in this exciting new initiative in its first year of operation. The Fellows Program will help foster a dynamic network of young professionals from across a pivotal region of the world, thereby helping the understanding and appreciation of sustainability, globalization, entrepreneurship, and innovation in a world changed by COVID.”