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 2019, the Fellowship will provide 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 Fellows, who are between the ages of 25 and 35, have established records of accomplishment in promoting innovation and positive impact in their organizations, institutions, communities, and countries. In 2018, Fellows represented a diverse group of leaders from 48 countries across Sub-Saharan Africa. Twenty five Fellows identified as having a disability, and 51 percent of Fellows were women.
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 at the time of application submission, 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 consult the Application Instructions for more information.
- Are citizens and residents 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, and Zimbabwe.
The U.S. Department of State and IREX reserve the right to verify all of the information included in the application. In the event that there is a discrepancy, or information is found to be false, the application will immediately be declared invalid and the applicant ineligible. Applications not meeting the above technical eligibility requirements will not be forwarded to the selection committee. If you do not meet the technical eligibility requirements for this program, we invite you to visit exchanges.state.gov for information on other U.S. Department of State exchange opportunities.
What are the criteria for selection?
Selection panels will use the following criteria to evaluate applications (not in order of importance):
- A proven record of leadership and accomplishment in public service, business, or civic engagement.
- A demonstrated commitment to public or community service, volunteerism, or mentorship.
- The ability to work cooperatively in diverse groups and respect the opinions of others.
- Strong social and communication skills.
- An energetic, positive attitude.
- Demonstrated knowledge of, interest in, and professional experience in the preferred sector/track.
- 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.
October 10, 2018 | Application closes
December 2018 – February 2019 | Semifinalists interviewed by local U.S. embassies and consulates
Late March 2019 | Applicants are notified of their status
May 2019 | Visa processing and Pre-Departure Orientations for finalists
Mid-June 2019 | Fellowship begins in the United States