Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders

The 2019 Mandela Washington Fellowship application is now closed.

The Mandela Washington Fellowship, begun in 2014, is the flagship program of President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) that empowers young leaders through academic coursework, leadership training, and networking. In 2016, the Fellowship provided nearly 1,000 outstanding young leaders from Sub-Saharan Africa with the opportunity to hone their skills at a U.S. higher education institution with support for professional development after they return home.

Ideal candidates are self-identified leaders, aged 25 to 35, with proven accomplishment in promoting innovation and positive change in their organizations, institutions, communities, and countries.

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. university or college in one of three tracks: business and entrepreneurship, civic leadership, or public management.

Summit: Following the academic component of the Fellowship, the Fellows visit Washington, D.C. for a summit. During the three-day event, Fellows take part in networking and panel discussions with U.S. leaders from the public, private, and non-profit sectors.

Professional Development Experience: Selected Fellows remain in the U.S. to participate in a six-week professional development experience with U.S. non-governmental organizations, private companies, and governmental agencies related 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, Regional Leadership Centers, the YALI Network, and customized programming from affiliated partners. Mandela Washington Fellows have access to ongoing professional development opportunities, mentoring, networking and training, and seed funding to support their ideas, businesses, and organizations.

Application Information

The application includes basic information and questions about the applicant’s professional and academic experience, including educational background; honors and awards received; extracurricular and volunteer activities; and English language proficiency.  A résumé is also requested (with dated educational and professional background), and personal information (name, address, phone, email, country of citizenship). Additional elements, such as letters of recommendation or university transcripts, are OPTIONAL and may supplement your application.

Who is eligible to apply?

The Mandela Washington Fellowship is open to young African leaders who meet the criteria below. Note: Applicants are not discriminated against on the basis of race, color, gender, religion, socio-economic status, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity.  Criteria:

  • Are between the ages of 25 and 35 at the time of application submission, although exceptional applicants younger than 25 will be considere
  • Are not U.S. citizens or permanent residents of the United States
  • Are eligible to receive a United States J-1 visa.
  • Are proficient in reading, writing, and speaking English
  • Are citizens and residents of: Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cabo Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Republic of the Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, 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, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia or Zimbabwe.
Selection Process

The Mandela Washington Fellowship is conducted as a merit-based, open competition. After the deadline, all eligible applications will be reviewed by a selection panel. Chosen semifinalists will be interviewed by the U.S. embassies or consulates in their home countries. If selected for an interview, applicants must provide a copy of their passport (if available) or other government- issued photo identification to verify eligibility.  Selection panels evaluate applications based on:

  • Proven record of leadership and accomplishment in public service, business and entrepreneurship, or civic engage
  • Demonstrated commitment to public or community service, volunteerism, or me
  • Ability to work cooperatively in diverse groups and respect the opinions of others
  • Strong social and communication skills.
  • Energetic, positive attitude.
  • Demonstrated knowledge, interest, and professional experience in the sector/track selection
  • Commitment to return to Africa and apply leadership skills and training to benefit the applicant’s country and/or community after they return home.

For further information, go to; follow the Embassy on Facebook and Twitter; or visit the American Cultural Center, Sanlam Centre 3rd Floor, Independence Avenue in Windhoek. You can also reach out by telephone: 061-229801 or by email: