The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders is the flagship program of the U.S. Government’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). YALI was created in 2010 and celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2020. Established in 2014, the Mandela Washington Fellowship has brought nearly 4,400 young leaders from every country in Sub-Saharan Africa to the United States for academic and leadership training. The Fellows, between the ages of 25 and 35, are accomplished innovators and leaders in their communities and countries.
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.
- Attend a Summit with young African leaders in Washington, D.C.
- Meet with U.S. Government, civic, and business leaders.
- Strengthen your work through new connections, skills, and ideas.
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.
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, civic engagement, or public 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 attitude;
- A demonstrated knowledge of, interest in, and professional experience in the preferred sector/track; 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.
- August 18, 2021 | Application opens
- September 15, 2021 | Application deadline
- November 2021 – January 2022 | Semi-finalists interviewed by local U.S. embassies and consulates
- Late March 2022 | Applicants are notified of their status
- May 2022 | Visa processing and Pre-Departure Orientations for Finalists
- Mid-June 2022 | Fellowship begins in the United States
Why is the 2021 Mandela Washington Fellowship virtual?
Due to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the current challenges of global travel, the 2021 Mandela Washington Fellowship will be virtual. This decision was made with the health, safety, and well-being of Fellows and Fellowship Partners as the highest priority in this unprecedented time.
What does YALI stand for?
YALI stands for the Young African Leaders Initiative.
What is the Young African Leaders Initiative?
The Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) is a signature effort to invest in the next generation of African leaders. YALI was founded in 2010 and celebrated its tenth anniversary in 2020. YALI was created to support young Africans as they spur growth and prosperity, strengthen democratic governance, and enhance peace and security across Africa. There are three components of YALI: the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Regional Leadership Centers, and the YALI Network.
What is the 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 2021, the Fellowship will provide approximately 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 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.
What is the YALI Network?
The YALI Network provides members with invaluable opportunities to connect with other leaders in their community and to learn from experts in their field. Opportunities include free online training, professional development, online conversations, and more.
What are other young leaders initiatives?
In addition to YALI, there are three other U.S. Department of State programs focused on young leaders in the Americas, in Southeast Asia, and in Europe.