Hundreds of young African leaders convened for the virtual 2021 Mandela Washington Fellowship Summit. Selected from a pool of more than 35,000 applicants, the 700 leaders strengthened leadership skills and exchanged ideas with leaders from 49 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and the United States.
“You’ve just begun to engage with this network. You’ve just begun to use the new tools you’ve acquired. This is the beginning of your journey as a Mandela Washington Fellow,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Fellows in his welcome message.
Held August 3 and 4 and hosted by the U.S. Department of State and IREX, the Summit marked the culmination of six weeks of virtual leadership training with 26 U.S. educational institutions. Throughout the program, Fellows developed lasting connections with Americans and forged networks with other young leaders across Africa.
“Since 2014, the Mandela Washington Fellowship has helped shape the next generation of African leaders across government, business, and civil society, and this year, I’m so glad that all of you have had this tremendous opportunity to forge long-term relationships and collaboratively tackle challenges in both the United States and Africa,” Senator Joni Ernst said.
During the Summit’s Partnership Expo, U.S. companies and organizations highlighted their work and connected with the next generation of African decision-makers. Author and Chief Executive Officer of The Africa Center Dr. Uzodinma Iweala delivered the keynote address. Fellows also heard from Mebrahtom ‘Meb’ Keflezighi, an Eritrean-American long-distance runner and Founder of the MEB Foundation.
“You are now part of a vast network of motivated young leaders – friends, allies, and mentors to work with toward a better future,” Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield told the Fellows. “After all, you represent not just Africa’s future, but the future of the world.”
Following the Summit, 70 competitively selected Fellows will participate in six weeks of virtual professional development with U.S. non-governmental organizations, private companies, and government agencies.
The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders is the flagship program of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). YALI is the U.S. government’s signature effort to invest in young African leaders, and it offers four continent-based Regional Leadership Centers and an online YALI Network with more than 700,000 members. Videos of the Summit are available online.