Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders

2020 Mandela Washington Fellowship 

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?

Applicants will not be discriminated against on the basis of race, color, gender, religion, socio-economic 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, and other U.S. Government entities);
  • Are proficient in reading, writing, and speaking English (applicants who are deaf should refer to the English Language instructions on the Resources page);
  • Are citizens of one of the following countries: 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, 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. 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 information is found to be false, the application will immediately be declared invalid and the applicant ineligible.

Selection Process

The Mandela Washington Fellowship selection process is a merit-based open competition.  After the deadline, all eligible applications will be reviewed by independent readers.  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-Departure Orientation in their home country within Africa. The following criteria will be used to evaluate applications (not in order of importance):

  • 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 https://youngafricanleaders.state.gov/washingtonfellowship; follow the Embassy on Facebook www.facebook.com/namibia.usembassy and Twitter https://twitter.com/USEmbNamibia; 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: PublicAffairsWindhoek@state.gov