2024 Mandela Washington Fellows Arrive in the United States

2024 Mandela Washington Fellows at University of Georgia

The U.S. Department of State and IREX are pleased to welcome the 2024 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.  Established in 2014, the Mandela Washington Fellowship is celebrating its tenth anniversary in 2024.  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 2024 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 as well as non-binary individuals; and include persons with disabilities.  Selected from a pool of over 50,000 applicants, the 700 Fellows are leaders in agriculture, civil society, education, healthcare, and other fields.  Their personal stories include:

  • Amara Kamara is a business leader helping rural, off-grid communities meet their energy demands through clean and sustainable energy solutions. He is the CEO of Go-Solar Fresh, a social organization that distributes solar panels and lamps to increase energy access and affordability throughout Liberia.
  • Esther Nyakiri is the co-founder of Blue Firms Investment, a grassroots mobilization organization in Kenya that empowers women and youth to become small-scale farmers, increasing per-household income by 104%.  She also founded Urembo Mashinani CBO to empower rural women and girls with education and mentorship.
  • Waji Kiga Elis is an award-winning multimedia journalist, producing impactful stories on a number of topics in Cameroon and beyond.  As a fact-checker, he has launched training for aspiring journalists on techniques for combatting the threat of misinformation.
  • Millicent Tshuma has over 10 years of experience in civic leadership with the LGBTQI+ community.  They are the founder and executive director at Sisters in Systematic Transformation Agenda, focused on reinforcing the equality of women through gender visibility and creating platforms that amplify voices in the LGBTQI+ community.

For six weeks from early June to mid-July, Fellows will participate in Leadership Institutes at 28 U.S. educational institutions in 21 states.  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 during Leadership Institutes and continue a commitment to community service after their Fellowship. 92% of Fellowship Alumni reported volunteering in their community at least once within the last year. 

Following the Institutes, Fellows will convene in Washington, D.C., for the annual Mandela Washington Fellowship Summit from July 29 to July 31, 2024.  During the Summit, Fellows and members of the Fellowship network will celebrate the Fellowship’s 10th anniversary and reflect on successes from the past ten years.  Summit activities provide Fellows the opportunity to 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 2023, nearly 420 companies, organizations, and government agencies in 36 states and the District of Columbia have hosted PDE Fellows. These placements have led to the development of numerous U.S.-African partnerships, such as 2016 Fellowship Alumnus Nyasha Mharakurwa’s PDE at Ability360, which allowed Nyasha to grow his youth adaptive sports organization and Ability360 to expand its partnerships internationally.

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.