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 4,400 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. 

2017 Alumna Ruzivo Chonyera speaks at the 2018 Mandela Washington Fellowship Summit Closing Session. She wears a black suit, light blue tie, and natural hair and stands in front of a line of other alumni in similar dress.

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 at U.S. colleges or universities.  Throughout the Institutes, Fellows connect with Americans and enrich local U.S. communities while sharing best practices. Learn more about Leadership Institutes.

Mandela Washington Fellowship Summit 

Woman in white with traditional jewelry speaks at a podium
Sinethemba Thwala, 2019 Fellowship Alumna, speaks at the 2019 Summit.

After the Institutes, Fellows convene for a multi-day Summit in Washington, D.C., 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)

2019 PDE Fellow Balkissa Gambo Illo Daoura observes the Washington Monument from the U.S. Capitol. The obelisk rises in the distance, with green grass, trees, and a reflecting pool in the foreground in front of Balkissa, whose back is to the camera.
A 2019 Fellow observes Washington from the U.S. Capitol during her PDE in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Following the Summit, a group of competitively-selected Fellows remains in the United States for four weeks to work with private, public, and non-profit organizations. 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 group of people smiles and plays drums, wearing traditional dress in yellow pattern
Dennis Donovan of Minnesota traveled to Ghana on a Reciprocal Exchange.

Americans have the opportunity to apply to travel to Africa to collaborate on projects with Fellows, building upon connections initiated while Fellows were in the United States. These partnerships and professional connections are intended to form lasting relationships, expand markets and networks, and increase mutual understanding. Learn more about Reciprocal Exchanges.

Opportunities for Alumni 

2014 Fellow Adepeju Jaiyeoba delivers a speech at a podium at the 2019 Mandela Washington Fellowship Summit after she is presented with the inaugural Leadership Impact Award. She has her hair pulled back and is wearing an orange and teal patterned dress.
Adepeju Jaiyeoba, 2014 Fellowship Alumna from Nigeria, accepts the inaugural Leadership Impact Award.

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 with support from the U.S. Department of State and affiliated partners. Learn more about opportunities for Alumni.

Virtual Programming

Fellows watch presentation in a classroom at Syracuse University during their Mandela Washington Fellowship Leadership Institute.
Fellows participate in a session with Dean James Steinberg at Syracuse University.

New for 2020, the Fellowship is delivering a suite of virtual programming for Fellowship Alumni and selected candidates for the 2021 Fellowship to support leaders and strengthen access to networks and resources.  Learn more about Virtual Programming.