2022 Mandela Washington Fellows Arrive in the United States 

A group of young adults wearing cultural dress pose on steps.
2022 Fellows at The University of Texas at Austin. Elizabeth Jennings, Texas Global.

The U.S. Department of State and IREX are pleased to welcome the 2022 cohort of the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders to the United States.

The Mandela Washington Fellowship is funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and administered in partnership with IREX, a nonprofit organization.  The Fellowship creates stronger ties between 49 sub-Saharan African countries and the United States with the goal of strengthening democratic institutions, spurring economic growth, and enhancing peace and security on the continent. 

Accomplished in their careers and dedicated to serving their communities, the 2022 Mandela Washington Fellows represent the geographic, cultural, and racial diversity of Africa.  The Fellows also come from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds; are small business owners, public sector leaders, and non-profit professionals; represent equal numbers of women and men; and include individuals with disabilities.  Selected from a pool of more than 38,000 applicants, the 700 Fellows are leaders in agriculture, civil society, education, healthcare, and other fields.  Their personal stories include:  

  • Mayimuna “Mya” Naggita is the founder of Women and Youth Platform for Action, a community-based organization that provides career guidance to children in school and combats gender-based violence, child marriage, and other women’s rights issues.  To advocate for policy change in these sectors directly, Mya ran for office and was elected in 2021 to a municipal councillorship position in her city in Uganda. 
  • Solomon Desalegn Ambaw is co-founder and business development manager at Lifeline Addis Home Based Healthcare Services, one of Ethiopia’s leading comprehensive home care providers, with services including COVID-19 testing and treatment.  Solomon is also a senior associate at Innova Healthcare Consultancy and a country representative for Tesfa Ethiopia, a charity organization based in the United States that works to improve children’s education.
  • Lisa Videira is founder and chief executive officer of Academia Nzoji, an e-learning platform working to revolutionize education in the Southern African Development Community.  She is fueled by a mission to improve the prospects of African people and their economies through education, starting with her homeland of Angola.
  • Vlademir Rodrigues is a visual artist who specializes in photography and has been capturing his travel journey across 25 countries and three continents.  Through his project #PositiveWestAfrica, he uses travel, photography, and storytelling to change the narrative of Cabo Verde and West Africa and inspire others to see it in a more positive light.

For six weeks from early June to mid-July, Fellows will participate in Leadership Institutes at 27 U.S. educational institutions in 20 states across the country.  Throughout the program, Fellows will develop lasting connections with Americans and enrich local communities while enhancing their skills through leadership training, experiential learning, and networking.  They will also develop innovative solutions to pressing challenges in their home countries and collaborate with their peers from both the United States and Africa.  Additionally, Fellows give back to their U.S. host communities: since 2014, Fellows have contributed more than 57,500 hours of community service to organizations across the United States.  

Following the Institutes, Fellows will convene for the annual Mandela Washington Fellowship Summit.  During the virtual Summit, Fellows will connect with each other and U.S. professionals, setting the stage for continued collaboration when they return home.  

After the Summit, up to 100 competitively selected Fellows will join private, public, and nonprofit organizations across the country for a four-week Professional Development Experience.  These substantive, short-term placements allow Fellows to contribute their skills and insights to U.S. organizations and grow as early-career professionals.  Since 2014, more than 650 Fellows have contributed over 140,000 hours of service to over 300 U.S. Host Organizations.  

Upon returning home, Fellows continue to build on the skills and connections developed during their time in the United States through access to ongoing professional development, networking, and collaboration opportunities for Alumni.  Fellows may also apply for their U.S. colleagues to travel to Africa to continue project-based collaboration through the Reciprocal Exchange component.  

To get involved in Fellowship activities near you, please contact MWFellowship@irex.org.  

Press inquiries should be directed to ECA-Press@state.gov.  

The Mandela Washington Fellowship is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State with funding provided by the U.S. Government and administered by IREX.