The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders is the flagship program of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). The Fellowship brings young leaders to the United States for academic coursework and leadership training and creates unique opportunities for Fellows and U.S. citizens to collaborate as they spur economic growth and prosperity, strengthen democratic governance, and enhance peace and security across Africa and the United States. The Mandela Washington Fellowship is a program of the U.S. Department of State with funding provided by the U.S. Government and administered by IREX. The Fellowship will bring up to 700 young leaders to the United States in the summer of 2024 for a comprehensive executive-style program that will build skills and empower Fellows to lead in their respective sectors and communities. The Fellowship includes:
A six-week Leadership Institute: Fellows are placed in groups of 25 at leading educational institutions across the United States—in both urban and rural areas—that represent the diversity of U.S. higher education. Institutes, which will take place from mid-June through early August 2024, will focus on skills development in one of three tracks: Leadership in Business, Leadership in Civic Engagement, or Leadership in Public Management. The intensive six-week model uses leadership development as the framework to create links between academic sessions, a strengths-based Common Leadership Curriculum, site visits, community service, and cultural activities. Fellows across all three tracks will gain theoretical knowledge and practical skills that can be applied in or adapted to African contexts. While all Institutes will include common components, each program agenda is unique and is based on the particular strengths and resources of each Institute Partner.
A Summit in Washington, D.C.: At the conclusion of the Leadership Institutes, all Fellows will participate in a high-level Summit. Through a variety of sessions, Fellows will have the opportunity to network with each other and with U.S. leaders from the public, private, and non-profit sectors. The Summit will take place in July 2024.
An optional four-week Professional Development Experience (PDE): As part of the Fellowship application, individuals may apply to participate in a Professional Development Experience (PDE) at a U.S. NGO, business, or government agency. The PDE is designed to provide Fellows with 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. Placements will relate to each Fellow’s professional sector but are typically not an exact match to their current position at home. Rather, the PDE is an opportunity to introduce Fellows to new perspectives in their fields, deepen their awareness and understanding of issues present in both their home country and the United States, and learn best practices that can be applied to their work at home. PDEs will be intensive and demanding. Up to 100 Fellows will be competitively selected for the PDE and placed independently at organizations across the United States. Selected Fellows must be available to be in the United States for a total of approximately 11 weeks (including the Leadership Institute, the Summit, and the placement with a U.S.-based organization).
The Fellowship is an unparalleled opportunity to…
- Participate in a six-week Leadership Institute at a U.S. college or university to share your experiences with and learn from U.S. citizens and other Fellows.
- Explore industries beyond your daily work and expand your expertise.
- Participate in a Summit with young African leaders.
- Meet with U.S. Government, civic, and business leaders.
- Strengthen your work through new connections, skills, and ideas.
- Join a continental and global Alumni Network to help you seek innovative solutions to common challenges.
Application and Selection Timeline
- August 15, 2023 | Application opens
- September 12, 2023 | Application deadline
- November 2023 – January 2024 | Semi-finalists interviewed by local U.S. embassies and consulates
- March 2024 | Applicants notified of their status
- May 2024 | Visa processing and Pre-Departure Orientations for Finalists
- June 2024 | Fellowship begins in the United States
Selection Process and Criteria
The Mandela Washington Fellowship selection process is a merit-based open competition. After the deadline, independent readers will review all eligible applications. Following this review, chosen semi-finalists will be interviewed by the U.S. embassies or consulates in their home countries. Selected semi-finalists will be required to participate in these in-person interviews in their home country within Africa. If advanced to the semi-finalist round, applicants must provide a copy of their international passport (if available) or other government-issued photo identification at the time of the interview. Selected Finalists are required to attend the mandatory Pre-Fellowship Orientation in their home country within Africa.
Who is eligible to apply?
Applicants will not be discriminated against on the basis of race, color, gender, religion, socioeconomic status, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity. The Mandela Washington Fellowship is open to young African leaders who meet the following criteria:
Are between the ages of 25 and 35 on or before the application deadline, although exceptional applicants ages 21-24 will be considered;
- Are not U.S. citizens or permanent residents of the United States;
- Are eligible to receive a United States J-1 visa;
- Are not employees or immediate family members of employees of the U.S. Government (including a U.S. embassy or consulate, USAID, or other U.S. Government entity);
- Are proficient in reading, writing, and speaking English (additional guidance coming for applicants who are deaf);
- Are citizens of one of the following countries: Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cabo Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Cote d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Gabon, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, or Zimbabwe;
- Are residents of one of the above countries; and
- Are not Alumni of the Mandela Washington Fellowship.
Please note that Fellows are not allowed to have dependents, including spouses and children, accompany them during the Fellowship.
Selection of finalists from all eligible countries may be subject to review in response to local, national, or global events that impact the ability to conduct program activities.
The U.S. Department of State and IREX reserve the right to verify all information included in the application. In the event of a discrepancy, or if the information is found to be false, the application will immediately be declared invalid and the applicant ineligible.
What are the criteria for selection?
The following criteria will be used to evaluate applications (not in order of importance):
- A proven record of leadership and accomplishment in business or entrepreneurship, civic engagement, and/or public/government service;
- A demonstrated commitment to public or community service, volunteerism, or mentorship;
- The ability to work cooperatively in diverse groups and to respect the opinions of others;
- Strong social and communication skills;
- An energetic, positive, and flexible attitude;
- A demonstrated knowledge of, interest in, and professional experience in the preferred sector/Fellowship track and concrete goals for applying lessons knowledge and skills gained from the Fellowship to current and/or future work; and
- A commitment to return to Sub-Saharan Africa and contribute skills and talents to build and serve their communities.
Application Deadline: 15th September 2023
Also Read: Other Opportunities to Apply