Mandela Washington Fellowship

Mandela Washington Fellowship


The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders

2015 Mandela Washington Fellows during the Summit with Former President Obama

2015 Mandela Washington Fellows during the Summit

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 2017, the Fellowship will provide up to 1,000 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 2016, Fellows represented all 49 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. They also represent diversity across the continent as 66 Fellows identified as having a disability, thirty percent came from rural areas or towns of fewer than 100,000 people, and fifty percent of Fellows were women.

U.S.-based activities

Academic and Leadership Institutes: Each Mandela Washington Fellow takes part in a six-week Academic and Leadership Institute at a U.S. college or university in one of three tracks: Business and Entrepreneurship, Civic Leadership, or Public Management.

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: 100 selected Fellows remain in the United States to participate in a six-week Professional Development Experience with U.S. non-governmental organizations, private companies, and governmental agencies that relate to their professional interests and goals.

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, four Regional Leadership Centers, the YALI Network, and customized programming from USAID, the Department of State, and affiliated partners. Through these experiences, select Mandela Washington Fellows have access to ongoing professional development opportunities, mentoring, networking and training, and 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 new Reciprocal Exchange component.

Welcoming Promising Young Leaders to the United States

Since 2014, two thousand young African leaders from every country in Sub Saharan Africa have participated as Fellows in the Mandela Washington Fellowship.  Selected from 120,000 applications over the course of three years, the Mandela Washington Fellows represent the extraordinary promise of an emerging generation of entrepreneurs, activists, and public officials.  Mandela Washington Fellows have proven track records of leadership and demonstrate a strong commitment to contributing their skills and talents to strengthening and serving their communities.  Each year’s cohorts represented all 49 countries in sub-Saharan Africa and included equal numbers of men and women.

The 2016 Mandela Washington Fellows represent a diverse group of young leaders from across the continent.  Sixty six of the Fellows identified as having a disability.  Almost 30% of the Fellows are from rural areas or towns of fewer than 100,000 people. Non-profit organizations headed by Fellows reached over 10 million beneficiaries last year alone.  Over 85% of Fellows conducted community service in the 12 months prior to the fellowship.  Almost half of Fellows had never participated in a leadership program prior to the Fellowship.

To learn more about past Mandela Washington Fellows, please visit: