2023 Mandela Washington Fellows Arrive in the United States

2023 Fellows at Presidential Precinct pose for a photo at the College of William & Mary. Photo courtesy of The Presidential Precinct.

The U.S. Department of State and IREX are pleased to welcome the 2023 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 Sub-Saharan Africa 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 2023 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 nearly 50,000 applicants, the 700 Fellows are leaders in agriculture, civil society, education, healthcare, and other fields.  Their personal stories include:

  • Aisha Bubah founded The Sunshine Series, a psychological services firm that provides quality mental health care through teletherapy, capacity building, and employee wellness programs. Through The Sunshine Series, Aisha and her team established the first mental health and suicide prevention helpline on Nigeria’s emergency hotline 112, with support from the Nigerian government.
  • Jonathan Mickaël Andréas has more than five years of experience in climate change policy implementation, project management, and climate negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change process.  Currently, Jonathan is a division chief at the Madagascar National Office of Climate Change and REDD+ of the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, where he focuses on adaptation and climate resilience.
  • Marie Louise Mukangoga is an advocacy officer at the National Union of Disabilities Organizations of Rwanda and advocates for inclusive policies for people with disabilities.  She also promotes inclusive sports and youth empowerment as the chair of the Rwanda Wheelchair Basketball Federation and promotes inclusive sports and social participation of youth with disabilities.
  • Innocent James Sulley is an entrepreneur who founded Soma Group, an initiative that has made reading more accessible for more than 61,000 children in rural communities in Tanzania.  He created a network of mobile libraries and designed a solar-powered bag made from 60% recycled materials, which can provide up to eight hours of light at a time.

For six weeks from early June to mid-July, Fellows will participate in Leadership Institutes at 28 U.S. educational institutions in 20 states and the District of Columbia.  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 67,000 hours of community service to organizations across the United States.

Following the Institutes, Fellows will convene in Washington, D.C., for the annual Mandela Washington Fellowship Summit from July 31 to August 2, 2023.  During the Summit, Fellows will connect with each other and U.S. professionals, setting the stage for continued collaboration when they return home.  U.S. companies and organizations are invited to join the Summit’s Partnership Expo, where they can highlight their work in Africa and make connections with the next generation of African decision-makers.

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.  From 2014 to 2022, Fellows completed 155,000 hours of professional training at nearly 400 companies, organizations, and government agencies in 33 states and the District of Columbia.

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.

Learn more about how to get involved in Fellowship activities near you.

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.