Fellowship Overview

The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders is the flagship program of the U.S. Government’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). Since 2014, nearly 6,500 young leaders from every country in Sub-Saharan Africa have participated in the Fellowship. The Fellows, between the ages of 25 and 35, are accomplished leaders and have established records of promoting innovation and positive impact in their communities and countries. 

Fellows and staff during the 2023 Leadership in Civic Engagement Institute at the University of Georgia

Fellowship Components

Leadership Institutes 

Blindfolded Fellows participate in a Common Leadership Curriculum team-building exercise during their Mandela Washington Fellowship Leadership Institute. They are kneeling on the ground touching different materials, including colorful fluffy balls.
Fellows participate in a Common Leadership Curriculum exercise.

During the Fellowship, the Fellows participate in six-week Leadership Institutes, studying Business, Civic Engagement, or Public Management hosted by U.S. colleges or universities.  Throughout the Institutes, Fellows enrich local U.S. communities while sharing best practices. Learn more about Leadership Institutes.

2015 Alumna and 2023 Leadership Impact Award Winner Jamila Mayanja speaks at the 2023 Summit.

Mandela Washington Fellowship Summit 

After the Institutes, Fellows convene for a Summit, where they forge connections with one another and U.S. leaders from the private, public, and non-profit sectors, setting the stage for long-term engagement between the United States and Africa. Learn more about the Summit.

Professional Development Experiences (PDEs)

Young woman in a suit points to the letters "CSI" on the back of a van
2022 Anael Bodwell of Seychelles visits the county sheriff during her PDE in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Fellows may apply for the opportunity to work with private, public, and non-profit organizations for up to six weeks, either immediately following the Summit during their Fellowship or as Alumni. Both Fellows and Hosts benefit from discussing shared issues and challenges in their sectors, broadening their perspectives, and positioning U.S. organizations for international engagement.  Learn more about PDEs.

Reciprocal Exchanges 

A woman reads a book to a group of children
Dr. Constance Green of North Carolina reads to children during her Reciprocal Exchange in Burundi.

U.S. citizens have the opportunity to apply to implement projects in sub-Saharan African countries to continue collaborative work with Fellowship Alumni on the continent.  These partnerships and professional connections are intended to form lasting relationships, expand markets and networks, and increase mutual understanding. Learn more about Reciprocal Exchanges.

A young man in a suit and tie speaks at a podium, gesturing
2021 Leadership Impact Award Winner Ian Tarimo of Tanzania speaks at the Alumni Enrichment Institutes Welcome Events.

Opportunities for Alumni 

Fellowship Alumni continue to build the skills and connections developed during the program through access to ongoing in-person and virtual professional development, networking, and collaboration opportunities with support from the U.S. Department of State and affiliated partners. Learn more about opportunities for Alumni.