The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders is the flagship program of the U.S. government’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). Since 2014, the Fellowship has welcomed almost 5,800 young leaders from each nation in sub-Saharan Africa. The Fellows, who range in age from 25 to 35, are outstanding leaders with a track record of encouraging innovation and making a good difference in their communities and countries.
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Benefits of The Mandela Washington Fellowship.
- Participation in six-week Leadership Institutes that are held by American colleges or
universities and cover topics like business, civic engagement, or public management.
- Mandela Fellowship summit: Following the institutes, fellows gather for a summit where they
network with American leaders from the public, business, and nonprofit sectors and lay the
groundwork for sustained engagement between the US and Africa.
- Professional development experience (PDEs): Fellows are eligible to apply for the chance to
work for up to six weeks with for-profit, public, and private organisations, either immediately
following the Summit while they are fellows or as alumni.
- Reciprocal Exchange: In order to continue their collaborative work with Fellows Alumni on the
continent, U.S. citizens have the opportunity to apply to undertake projects in sub-Saharan
- Opportunities for Alumni: Through access to continued professional development, networking,
and cooperation opportunities, Fellowship Alumni continue to develop the skills and
connections made throughout the programme with assistance from the U.S. Department of
State and connected partners.
- Virtual Programming: To assist the Fellowship Network’s continuous leadership development
and to increase their access to networks and resources, the Fellowship draws on the
experience of stakeholder groups to present a variety of virtual programming.
Application and Eligibility
Selection Process and Criteria.
An open competition based on merit is used to choose recipients of the Mandela Washington
Fellowship. All legitimate applications will be examined by impartial readers after the deadline. After
this examination, selected semi-finalists will be contacted for an interview by the American embassies
or consulates in their home nations.These in-person interviews will be held in the home nations of the
chosen semifinalists in Africa. If they advance to the semi-finalist round, candidates must show a copy
of their foreign passport (if available) or other government-issued photo identification at the time of the
interview. Finalists who have been chosen must travel to their home country in Africa to participate in
the requisite Pre-Departure Orientation.
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 as of the application deadline, while exceptional
candidates between the ages of 21 and 24 will also be taken into consideration.
- Are not U.S. citizens or permanent residents of the United States.
- Are eligible to receive a U.S. J-1 visa.
- Are not U.S. government workers or members of their close family (including a U.S. embassy
or consulate, USAID, or other U.S. government entity).
- Are capable of speaking, reading, and writing in 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 citizens of one of the nations listed above, and
- Are not alumni of the Mandela Washington Fellowship.
What are The Criteria for Selection?
Applications will be judged according to the following standards (in no particular order of importance):
- A proven track record of success and leadership in business, community involvement, or
- A track record of volunteerism, mentorship, or public or community service;
- The capacity to respect others’ perspectives and cooperate in a variety of groups;
- Strong social and communication skills;
- An energetic, positive attitude;
- Demonstrated expertise in, enthusiasm for, and professional experience in the desired field or
career path; and
- A commitment to return to Africa and apply leadership skills and training to benefit the
applicant’s country and/or community after they return home.
The Mandela Washington Fellowship Application Timeline.
The Mandela Washington Fellowship application period starts every year between mid-September
- August 16, 2022 | Application opens
- September 13, 2022 | Application deadline
- November 2022 – January 2023 | Semi-finalists interviewed by local U.S. embassies and
- March 2023 | Applicants are notified of their status.
- May 2023 | Visa processing and Pre-Departure Orientations for Finalists
- June 2023 | Fellowship begins in the United States
The Mandela Fellowship has given people a platform for communication, networking, and sharing
their hopes and objectives. Being a part of this organisation, which will promote change for the benefit
of societies, cities, nations, and especially Africa, is an honour.
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