What does YALI stand for? 

YALI stands for the Young African Leaders Initiative.  

What is the Young African Leaders Initiative? 

The Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) is a signature effort to invest in the next generation of African leaders.  YALI was founded in 2010 and celebrated its tenth anniversary in 2020. YALI was created to support young Africans as they spur growth and prosperity, strengthen democratic governance, and enhance peace and security across Africa. There are three components of YALI: the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Regional Leadership Centers, and the YALI Network. 

What is the Mandela Washington Fellowship? 

The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, begun in 2014, is the flagship program of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) that empowers young people through academic coursework, leadership training, and networking. In 2023, the Fellowship will provide approximately 700 outstanding young leaders from Sub-Saharan Africa with the opportunity to hone their skills at a U.S. college or university with support for professional development after they return home.  The Mandela Washington Fellowship is a program of the U.S. Department of State with funding provided by the U.S. Government and administered by IREX.  

What are Regional Leadership Centers? 

YALI Regional Leadership Centers (RLCs) build on existing institutional capacity in Africa to provide high-quality training, mentorship, and networking support to young leaders beyond the Mandela Washington Fellows. RLCs provide on-the-continent programming focused on the Fellowship’s core themes – business, civic leadership, and public management.  The four RLCs offer training throughout the year in English, French, and Portuguese and are located in Nairobi, Dakar, Accra, and Pretoria.  Learn more about the RLCs.

What is the YALI Network? 

The YALI Network provides members with invaluable opportunities to connect with other leaders in their community and to learn from experts in their field. Opportunities include free online training, professional development, online conversations, and more.  Learn more about the YALI Network.

What are other young leaders initiatives? 

In addition to YALI, there are three other U.S. Department of State programs focused on young leaders in the Americas, in Southeast Asia, and in Europe. 

The Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI) is a Professional Fellows Program that empowers entrepreneurs and innovative civil society leaders to strengthen capacity and advance their entrepreneurial ideas to contribute to social and economic development in their communities and region.  Learn more about YLAI.

The Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) is the U.S. government’s signature program to strengthen leadership development and networking in Southeast Asia. Through a variety of programs and engagements, including U.S. educational and cultural exchanges, regional exchanges, and seed funding, YSEALI seeks to build the leadership capabilities of youth in the region, strengthen ties between the U.S. and Southeast Asia, and nurture an ASEAN community.  Learn more about YSEALI.  

The Young Transatlantic Innovation Leaders Initiative (YTILI) Fellowship is a flagship young European leaders program of the U.S. Department of State.  The YTILI experience is a professional development opportunity for innovators to become change makers by developing the skills to be successful entrepreneurs.  By exploring entrepreneurship in the transatlantic context, YTILI fellows develop the expertise to better engage in policy conversations in their home countries, across Europe, and in the transatlantic sphere.  Learn more about YTILI.

What is the Reciprocal Exchange component of the Mandela Washington Fellowship? 

Through the Reciprocal Exchange component, Americans have the opportunity to apply for funding to travel to Africa to collaborate on projects with Fellowship Alumni, building upon connections initiated while Fellowship Alumni 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.

What is the Professional Development Experience component of the Mandela Washington Fellowship? 

Through the Professional Development Experience (PDE), a group of competitively-selected Fellows remain in the United States for four weeks after the Leadership Institutes to work with private, public, and non-profit organizations each year after the Summit. 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.

What are the eligibility requirements for the Fellowship?  

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 between the ages of 25 and 35 who meet the criteria listed in the eligibility information.

What are the criteria for selection? 

Selection panels will use various criteria to evaluate applications. To view the full list of criteria, review the eligibility information

If I have a disability, will the Mandela Washington Fellowship accommodate my special needs? 

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to apply for the Mandela Washington Fellowship. The Mandela Washington Fellowship does not discriminate against applicants because of race, color, religion, sex, age, national origin, disability, or any other protected characteristic as established by U.S.  law.  Learn more about the Fellowship’s application policy.

Each Fellow’s needs are evaluated individually so that the host institution and IREX can determine the reasonable accommodations needed to ensure full participation in program activities.  Learn more about what types of reasonable accommodations may be available during the Fellowship

How can I partner with the Fellowship in the United States?  

Many local and multinational corporations, NGOs, universities, and regional institutions have become partners and are directly supporting the Mandela Washington Fellowship by hosting Fellows, collaborating with them on new initiatives in the United States and Africa, and offering access to grants, financing, mentoring, and other professional development opportunities. 

Learn more about how you can work with the Fellowship on our Partnership Information page.

How can I partner with the Fellowship in Africa?

Please visit yali.state.gov/network to reach out to the YALI Network and visit yali.state.gov/RLC to connect with the Regional Leadership Center to see if there are opportunities for partnerships with them, as well as the U.S. Embassy in your region.