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Mandela Washington Fellowship

The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, begun in 2014, is the flagship program of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) that empowers young people through academic coursework, leadership training, and networking. In 2019, the Fellowship will provide 700 outstanding young leaders from Sub-Saharan Africa with the opportunity to hone their skills at a U.S. college or university with support for professional development after they return home.

The Fellows, who are between the ages of 25 and 35, have established records of accomplishment in promoting innovation and positive impact in their organizations, institutions, communities, and countries. In 2018, Fellows represented a diverse group of leaders from 48 countries across Sub-Saharan Africa. Twenty-five Fellows identified as having a disability, and 51 percent of Fellows were women.

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About the Fellowship

U.S.-based activities

Leadership Institutes: Each Mandela Washington Fellow takes part in a six-week Leadership Institute at a U.S. college or university in one of three tracks: Business, Civic Engagement, or Public Management. The intensive model includes linkages between academic sessions, site visits, professional networking opportunities, leadership training, community service, and organized cultural activities.

Mandela Washington Fellowship Summit: Following the academic component of the Fellowship, the Fellows visit Washington, D.C., for a Summit featuring networking and panel discussions with U.S. leaders from the public, private, and non-profit sectors.

Professional Development Experience: Seventy selected Fellows remain in the United States to participate in a four-week Professional Development Experience with U.S. non-governmental organizations, private companies, and governmental agencies that relate to their professional interests and goals. The PDE is designed to give Fellows practical training and the opportunity to learn transferable skills, expand their professional networks, and apply concepts learned at their Institutes to real-world situations in the U.S. context.

Africa-based activities

Upon returning to their home countries, Fellows continue to build the skills they have developed during their time in the United States through support from U.S. embassies, the YALI Network, USAID, the Department of State, and affiliated partners. Through these experiences, select Mandela Washington Fellows have access to ongoing professional development and networking opportunities, as well as support for their ideas, businesses, and organizations. Fellows may also apply for their American partners to travel to Africa to continue project-based collaboration through the Reciprocal Exchange Component.

Partner with the next generation of African leaders

Invest in today’s ambitious young leaders by becoming a Mandela Washington Fellowship partner. Individuals, organizations, and academic institutions in the United States can take advantage of partnership opportunities with the program.