Young African Leadership Initiative (YALI) Mandela Washington Fellowship 2018

Are you thinking of applying to the 2018 Young African Leadership Initiative (YALI) Mandela Washington Fellowship ? The application season will open for submission on Wednesday, 13 September at 16:00 GMT/UTC, so begin to prepare now!

What is The Young African Leaders initiative(YALI) ?

The Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) is an initiative of the United States Department of State. It was begun by President Barack Obama

YALI is a programme aimed at educating and networking young African leaders with activities including a fellowship to study in the United States for six weeks, follow-up resources, networking and student exchange programs.

Who is eligible to apply?

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 younger than 25 will be considered.
  • Are not U.S. citizens or permanent residents of the U.S.
  • Are eligible to receive a United States J-1 visa.
  • Are proficient in reading, writing, and speaking English.
  • 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, 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, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Note: Applicants are not be discriminated against on the basis of race, color, gender, religion, socio-economic status, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity

What are the criteria for selection?

Selection panels use the following criteria to evaluate applications (not in order of importance):

  • A proven record of leadership and accomplishment in public service, business and entrepreneurship, 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, interest and professional experience in the sector/track selected.
  • 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.

What are the tips for a successfull application?

The YALI Network Team interviewed 2017 Mandela Washington Fellows and asked them to share their advice on putting together a successful application. Check out these 9 application tips for a successfull application.

  1. Advocate for Yourself. When you are timid or shy, you don’t fully explain what you have accomplished through your activities. You are not demonstrating who you really are and how you’re a leader in your community or within your organization. Your written application needs to be able to stand out in a large pool of applicants.
  2. Reach Out. Don’t wait for someone to come to you and give you advice — take initiative and seek it. There are many Mandela Washington Fellows looking to help prospective applicants. Look up past Fellows and find their contact information, send them an email, or drop them a Facebook message and introduce yourself.
  3. Visit When filling in their application, current Fellows found the online blog posts and FAQ page very helpful.
  4. Take Your Time. Start early and familiarize yourself with the application questions. Do not rush your application or try to complete it at the last minute.
  5. Be Specific and Truthful. Narrow down your focus. It’s great that you’re interested in a lot of different projects, but make sure to emphasize your expertise on a certain topic. Know your projects, know your passion. Don’t pretend to be interested in something you’re not.
  6. Be Resourceful. If internet access is scarce or expensive, find a place to print out the application forms and fill out the answers directly on the form. This also gives you a chance to reflect on and refine your responses. Once you have finalized your answers, go back online and fill in the application based on what you already wrote.
  7. Ask For Help. Find someone (or a couple of people) to review your application and provide feedback, especially if English is not your native language.
  8. Take a Chance! If you’re reading this list, you’re already a step ahead! You’re here because you want to better your community — believe in yourself and what you can do, and apply!
  9. Stay Cautiously Optimistic. Applying for the Fellowship doesn’t guarantee you’ll get it. (Last year there were more than 64,000 applicants!) Having realistic expectations can help you articulate your goals and what you would hope to achieve through the Fellowship. Keep in mind that there are a lot of other opportunities open to you under the YALI program aside from the Fellowship — like the Regional Leadership Centersand YALI Network courses and resources.

Related article Fifteen Rwandan Leaders selected for the fourth YALI Mandela Washington Fellowship


As mentioned above,The 2018 Mandela Washington Fellowship application will open on Wednesday, 13 September at 16:00 GMT/UTC.

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.

For more details on YALI,please visit