On December 7, 2017, Covington’s Africa practice welcomed Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for a roundtable discussion on how to expand the training and support of civil service leaders in Africa through Emerging Public Leaders (“EPL”).

Witney Schneidman, President Sirleaf, and Betsy Williams

President Sirleaf was the first woman to be inaugurated as president of an African nation in 2006. President Sirleaf explained one of the greatest challenges she faced was rebuilding Liberia’s civil service and encouraging young people to be apart of it after inheriting a nation torn apart by twenty years of civil war.

Around the same time President Sirleaf was entering office, Betsy Williams was managing the Scott Fellows program in Liberia, an effort to recruit expats and diaspora to Liberia to support various cabinet ministries. After serving as an assistant in the Ministry of Health, Ms. Williams saw first-hand the needs of the Liberian civil service and developed the concept of EPL, a non-profit designed to attract and train high-achieving young Africans to bridge the capacity gap in civil service in Africa. EPL’s flagship program, the President’s Young Professionals Program (PYPP), was launched in Liberia in 2009. PYPP has trained over 120 fellows, the majority of whom continue to serve in the Liberian government.

Michael Labson (Member of Covington’s Management Committee) and Witney Schneidman (Chair of Covington’s Africa Practice) greeting President Sirleaf

Covington gathered other non-profit experts focused on leadership development to discuss the expansion of EPL’s model throughout the African continent, including Ghana. President Sirleaf reflected on her experience with PYPP in Liberia and participants engaged in a lively discussion with her about the EPL model, her vision for the future of development in Africa, the importance of investing in African governments, and her reflections on Liberia’s handling of the Ebola crisis.

Covington represents EPL on a pro bono basis.