Hundreds of young African leaders gathered in Washington, D.C. last week for the 2023 Mandela Washington Fellowship Summit. Selected from a pool of nearly 50,000 applicants, the 700 participants strengthened their leadership skills and exchanged ideas with leaders from Africa and the United States.
“More than 60% of Africa’s population is under the age of 25. In 2030, two in every five people on our planet will be young and African,” said Secretary of State Antony Blinken. “Looking around this room today, I know that because of that fact, that future can and will be very bright.”
Held July 31 – August 2 and hosted by the U.S. Department of State and IREX, the Summit marked the culmination of six weeks of leadership training at 28 educational institutions across the United States. Throughout the program, Fellows develop lasting connections with Americans and forge networks with other young leaders across Africa.
“The truth of the matter is most people are fine with mediocrity and the status quo. Most people are not invested in innovation, in making things better,” said Everette Taylor, Chief Executive Officer of Kickstarter and opening keynote speaker. “You’re here because you see a brighter future, you’re changemakers who see that the world can be better.”
The Networking Reception, held at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, forged relationships between Fellows and U.S. professionals, setting the stage for continued collaboration when Fellows return home. At the Partnership Expo, American companies and organizations highlighted their work and connected with the next generation of African decision-makers.
“Everything you’re doing back home and bringing with you when you come to this country are helping change the narrative, too,” said Samantha Power, Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development. “Show [the world] all of the agency that communities are bringing to solve their own problems in their countries.”
Following the Summit, up to 100 competitively selected Fellows will participate in four weeks of professional development with U.S. non-governmental organizations, private companies, and government agencies.
“There are 700 stories in this room today, and we need to tell them… until lions learn to write, hunters will tell their stories for them,” said Moky Makura, Executive Director of Africa No Filter and closing keynote speaker. “Let us be the lions that write.”