Programming Note

Due to the current global pandemic, and with the safety and well-being of Fellows and Partners as the highest priority, the U.S. Department of State postponed the 2020 Fellowship until summer 2021. Applicants for the 2020 Fellowship who were selected as Finalists and Alternates have been notified that they are eligible to defer their participation until summer 2021. The U.S. Department of State will not open a general application for the 2021 Fellowship this fall.


Learn more about how to be a part of the next generation of African leaders!

The Fellowship is an unparalleled opportunity to…

  • Participate in a six-week Leadership Institute at a U.S. college or
    university to share your experiences with and to learn from
    Americans and other Fellows.
  • Explore industries beyond your daily work and expand your expertise.
  • Attend a Summit with young African leaders in Washington, D.C.
  • Meet with U.S. Government, civic, and business leaders.
  • Strengthen your work through new connections, skills, and ideas.
  • Join a continental and global Alumni Network to help you seek innovative solutions to common challenges.

This is an experience of a lifetime. The [Fellowship] has provided a medium for interacting and networking with each other, sharing our dreams and aspirations… I am so privileged to be a part of this generation that will foster change for the betterment of our families, communities, cities, countries, and Africa.”

2018 Mandela Washington Fellow
Graphic depiction of the 4 steps to download your Fellowship application, with the text "Download a copy of your application for future use!" at the top.
  1. Log into your account.
  2. Select “Download Application PDF.”
  3. Save your application to your computer.
  4. Use your application for future reference.

Application and Selection Process

Selection Process and Criteria

The Mandela Washington Fellowship selection process is a merit-based open competition.  After the deadline, all eligible applications will be reviewed by independent readers.  Following this review, chosen semi-finalists will be interviewed by the U.S. embassies or consulates in their home countries.  Selected semi-finalists will be required to participate in these in-person interviews in their home country within Africa.  If advanced to the semi-finalist round, applicants must provide a copy of their international passport (if available) or other government-issued photo identification at the time of the interview.  Selected Finalists are required to attend the mandatory Pre-Departure Orientation in their home country within Africa.

Who is eligible to apply?

Applicants will not be discriminated against on the basis of race, color, gender, religion, socio-economic status, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity.  The Mandela Washington Fellowship is open to young African leaders who meet the following criteria:

  • Are between the ages of 25 and 35 on or before the application deadline, although exceptional applicants ages 21-24 will be considered;
  • Are not U.S. citizens or permanent residents of the United States;
  • Are eligible to receive a United States J-1 visa;
  • Are not employees or immediate family members of employees of the U.S. Government (including a U.S. embassy or consulate, USAID, and other U.S. Government entities);
  • Are proficient in reading, writing, and speaking English (applicants who are deaf should refer to the English Language instructions on the Resources page);
  • Are citizens of one of the following countries: Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cabo Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Republic of the Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Gabon, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, or Zimbabwe;
  • Are residents of one of the above countries; and
  • Are not Alumni of the Mandela Washington Fellowship.

Please note that Fellows are not allowed to have dependents, including spouses and children, accompany them during the Fellowship. The U.S. Department of State and IREX reserve the right to verify all information included in the application.  In the event of a discrepancy, or if information is found to be false, the application will immediately be declared invalid and the applicant ineligible.

What are the criteria for selection?

The following criteria will be used to evaluate applications (not in order of importance):

  • A proven record of leadership and accomplishment in business, civic engagement, or public service;
  • A demonstrated commitment to public or community service, volunteerism, or mentorship;
  • The ability to work cooperatively in diverse groups and to respect the opinions of others;
  • Strong social and communication skills;
  • An energetic, positive attitude;
  • A demonstrated knowledge of, interest in, and professional experience in the preferred sector/track; and
  • A commitment to return to Africa and apply leadership skills and training to benefit the applicant’s country and/or community after they return home.