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 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.

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

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.

Professional Development Experiences (PDEs)

Up to 100 competitively-selected Fellows work with private, public, and non-profit organizations for six weeks. 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.

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.

Reciprocal Exchanges 

U.S. citizens have the opportunity to apply to travel to Africa to collaborate on projects with Fellows, building upon connections initiated during the program. These partnerships and professional connections are intended to form lasting relationships, expand markets and networks, and increase mutual understanding. Learn more about Reciprocal Exchanges.

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.

Opportunities for Alumni 

Fellowship Alumni continue to build the skills and connections developed during the program 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.

The Fellowship leverages stakeholder expertise to deliver a suite of virtual programming for selected candidates and Fellowship Alumni to support their continued leadership development and strengthen their access to networks and resources.  Learn more about Virtual Programming.