Mandela Washington Fellowship

The Mandela Washington Fellowship will bring up to 700 young Sub-Saharan African leaders to the United States for a comprehensive executive-style program that is designed to build skills and empower fellows to lead in their respective sectors and communities.

Opening on: August 18 – September 15, 2021

Mandela Washington Fellowship Coverage

  • Sub-Saharan African leaders selected for the fellowship will be fully-funded by the US government. Participation costs covered include the following: J-1 visa support;
  • Round-trip travel from Fellow’s home city to the U.S. and domestic U.S. travel as required by the program;
  • A six-week academic and leadership institute;
  • Concluding Summit in Washington, DC;
  • Accident and sickness benefit plan;
  • Housing and meals during the program; and
  • An optional six-week Professional Development Experience (for up to 100 Fellows).

Mandela Washington Fellows will also have access to ongoing professional development opportunities, mentoring, networking and training, and support for their ideas, businesses, and organizations.

*IMPORTANT NOTE: The fellowship will not cover salary while fellows are away from work or funds for personal purchases such as gifts.

Mandela Washington Fellowship Details

As the flagship program of the US government’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), the Mandela Washington Fellowship gathers fellows aged 25-35.

The outstanding Sub-Saharan African Leaders are given the opportunity to hone their skills at a U.S. college or university with support for professional development after they return home.

Moreover, the Mandela Washington Fellowships for Young African Leaders empowers young people through academic coursework, leadership training, and networking. 

Here are some of the US-based activities included within the fellowship program:

Leadership Institutes

Each year, the Mandela Washington fellows participate in six-week Leadership Institutes, studying Business, Civic Engagement, or Public Management at US colleges or universities. During their time on campus, participants connect with Americans and enrich local US communities while sharing best practices. 

Mandela Washington Fellowship Summit

After the Institutes, fellows convene for a multi-day summit in Washington, DC, where they forge connections with one another and US leaders from the private, public, and non-profit sectors, setting the stage for long-term engagement between the United States and Africa.

Professional Development Experience

Following the summit, a group of competitively selected Fellows remains in the United States for four weeks to work with private, public, and non-profit organizations. During the Professional Development Experience (PDEs), both fellows and hosts benefit from discussing shared issues and challenges in their sectors, broadening their perspectives, and positioning US organizations for international engagement.

Reciprocal Exchanges

Americans have the opportunity to apply to travel to Africa to collaborate on projects with fellows, building upon connections initiated during the program. These partnerships and professional connections are intended to form lasting relationships, expand markets and networks, and increase mutual understanding.

Post-Fellowship Opportunities for Alumni

Fellows continue to build on the skills and connections developed during the program through access to ongoing professional development, networking, and collaboration opportunities with support from the US Department of State and affiliated partners.

Virtual Programming

The fellowship leverages stakeholder expertise to deliver a suite of virtual programming for selected candidates and Fellowship Alumni to support their continued leadership development and strengthen their access to networks and resources.

Eligibility Criteria for Sub-Saharan African Leaders

Applicants interest to apply for the fellowship 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.

The Mandela Washington Fellowship selection process is a merit-based open competition. After the deadline, all eligible applications will be reviewed by a selection panel. Following this review, chosen semifinalists will be interviewed by the U.S. embassies or consulates in their home countries. 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. Selection panels will use the following criteria to evaluate applications (not in order of importance):

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.

How to Apply

To start your application process, please download and read the Mandela Washington Fellowship Application Instructions carefully. You may also refer to the Resources Page to learn more about special information and additional resources.

Meanwhile, Frequently Asked Questions can be found here.  You may also contact the fellowship’s team at [email protected] with any questions not answered on the page.

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