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. 

Group of people smiling
2021 Fellowship Alumni gather for a photo during the Alumni Enrichment Institutes Welcome Events in Washington, D.C.

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.

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.

Professional Development Experiences (PDEs)

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.

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.

Reciprocal Exchanges 

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 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

A young man with a national dress hat on sits in front of a laptop
A Fellow participates in virtual Fellowship activities.

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