Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders

By | July 13, 2017

Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders

The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders is a flagship program of President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) that empowers young people through academic coursework, leadership training, and networking. Fellowships provide outstanding young leaders with the opportunity to hone their skills at a U.S. university, and support their professional development after they return home.
Individuals who have already demonstrated leadership in the public, private or non-profit sector are ideal candidates for the Mandela Washington Fellowship. Applicants should have significant professional experience and a proven record in leading and promoting positive change in their organizations, institutions, and communities.
Eligible candidates must be:

  • Citizens of, and residents in, a sub-Saharan African country
  • Proficient in spoken and written English
  • Between the ages of 25 and 35 years old at the time of application

** Please note, preference will be given to candidates who do not already have extensive experience in the U.S. Studying at a U.S. university qualifies as extensive experience.
Individuals holding U.S. citizenship or permanent residency in the United States are not eligible. 

U.S. Based Activities

Washington Fellows will participate in a six-week academic program at a U.S. university in one of three study tracks:
Business and Entrepreneurship Institutes cater to Fellows aspiring to become leaders in the private sector or to start their own business ventures in Africa. The Institutes will expose participants to business and entrepreneurial approaches in the United States, including those that address social issues. Fellows will build technical and leadership capacity in areas such as strategy, operations, supply chain management, business ethics, social entrepreneurship, microfinance, organizational development and management, marketing, innovation and technology, emerging markets and risk analysis, strategic business planning, and corporate social responsibility.
Civic Leadership Institutes are for those Fellows who are civically engaged and serving the public through nongovernmental organizations, community-based organizations, or volunteerism.  The Institutes will introduce Fellows to the meaning of civic leadership in the United States, while building technical and leadership capacity in areas such as citizenship, community building, economic development, grassroots activism, political organizing and leadership, and volunteerism.
Public Management Institutes are tailored to those who work, or aspire to work, in all levels of government, regional or international organizations, or other publicly minded groups and think tanks. Public Management Institutes will introduce Fellows to U.S. models and best practices while building technical and leadership capacity in areas such as transparency, procurement, public financial management, government tender processes, legislative and executive collaboration, citizen engagement and outreach, human resource management, program implementation, and policy formulation.

Africa Based Activities

On returning to Africa, the Washington Fellows will continue to build the skills they developed during their U.S. coursework. Fellows will have several tools to support their continued work.
Networking. The first class of Washington Fellows will form the foundation of a continent-wide network of young leaders. A wide range of events and an innovative online platform for social collaboration will encourage and strengthen relationships among Washington Fellows and other African leaders.
Professional Development. Fellows may apply for internships, professional placements, and mentorship opportunities across sectors. Webinars and Skype discussions will provide a virtual meeting place for alumni to discuss common opportunities and challenges.
Seed Funding. Washington Fellows will be eligible to compete for grants to launch or grow small businesses or social enterprises. Coaching and mentoring will also be available.
Community Service. At its core, the Washington Fellowship seeks to support Africa’s young leaders as they assume the responsibility of shaping the future of their continent. Alumni will be empowered to use the skills they have developed throughout their Fellowship to mentor other young leaders in their communities to build a cadre of youth eager and able to define Africa’s next chapter.
For more information about YALI and the Mandela Washington Fellowship, visit or email