Type of Funding

Fully funded




The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders is the flagship leadership development program of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) to provide young African leaders with the skills and connections they need to accelerate their careers as well as to strengthen democratic institutions, spur economic growth, and enhance peace and security in Africa.

Applications are being invited for the 2019 Mandela Washington Fellowships, which will bring 700 young leaders from Sub-Saharan Africa to the U.S. in the summer of 2019, to build their skills at a U.S. college or university with support for professional development after they return home.

The 2019 Mandela Washington Fellowship includes:

  • Leadership Institutes: An intensive 6-week Academic and Leadership Institute, at a U.S. college or university in 1 of 3 tracks: Business, Civic Engagement, or Public Management. There will be academic sessions, leadership training, site visits, professional networking opportunities, community service, and organized cultural activities.
  • Mandela Washington Fellowship Summit: After the academic component of the Fellowship, the Fellows visit Washington, D.C., for a Summit featuring networking and panel discussions with U.S. leaders from the public, private, and non-profit sectors.
  • Professional Development Experience: Seventy selected Fellows remain in the U.S. to participate in a 4-week Professional Development Experience with U.S. NGOs, private companies, and governmental agencies that relate to their professional interests and goals. Here they receive practical training and learn transferable skills, expand their professional networks, and apply concepts learned at their Institutes to real-world situations in the U.S. context.
  • Africa-based Activities: Upon returning to their home countries, Fellows continue to build the skills they have developed during their time in the U.S. through support from U.S. embassies, the YALI Network, USAID, the Department of State, and affiliated partners. Fellows may also apply for their American partners to travel to Africa to continue project-based collaboration through the Reciprocal Exchange Component.


The U.S. government will cover all participant costs, which includes: J-1 visa support; round-trip travel from fellow’s home city to the U.S. and other required travel; Academic and Leadership institute fees; the concluding Summit in Washington, DC; accident and sickness benefit plan; and housing and meals during the program; as well as the optional PDE.

The Fellowship will not cover salary while Fellows are away from work or funds for personal purchases such as gifts.

Fellows will be housed in university dorms or similar accommodations. Most meals will be provided at campus cafeterias or restaurants, though participants may have access to a kitchen to cook some meals on their own.


Eligible applicants are young African leaders proficient in English, who are between the ages of 25 and 35, although exceptional applicants aged 21 to 24 will be considered. They must be both citizens and residents of 1 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, and Zimbabwe. They have to be eligible to receive a United States J-1 visa.

Applicants should have established records of accomplishment in promoting innovation and positive impact in their organizations, institutions, communities, and countries. Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to apply.

Applicants cannot be residents or citizens of the U.S. and they cannot be alumni of the Mandela Washington Fellowship. Neither can they be 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).

Selection will be based on the following criteria:

  • A proven record of leadership and accomplishment in public service, business, or civic engagement;
  • Commitment to public or community service, volunteerism, or mentorship;
  • Ability to work cooperatively in diverse groups and respect the opinions of others;
  • Strong social and communication skills;
  • An energetic, positive attitude;
  • 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.


Applications are to be done online by 10 October 2018.

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