The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders is the flagship program of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). Begun in 2014, the Fellowship supports young African leaders as they spur growth and prosperity, strengthen democratic governance, and enhance peace and security across Africa. Please visit yali.state.gov for more information.
The Mandela Washington Fellowship will bring up to 700 young leaders to the United States in the summer of 2018 for academic coursework and leadership training and will create unique opportunities in Africa for Fellows to put practical new skills to use in leading their organizations, communities, and countries.
The Mandela Washington Fellowship includes:
A six-week Academic and Leadership Institute: Fellows are placed at U.S. colleges and universities
across the country and in both urban and rural areas. Institutes will focus on skills development in
one of three areas: Business and Entrepreneurship, Civic Leadership, or Public Management. The
intensive six-week Institute model includes linkages between academic sessions, leadership
development, site visits, community service, networking, and organized cultural and civic activities.
Fellows will gain both theoretical knowledge and practical skills, and the Institutes will take place
from mid-June to late July 2018.
A Summit in Washington, DC: At the conclusion of the Academic and Leadership Institutes, all
Fellows will participate in a high-level, three-day Summit. During this event, Fellows participate in
networking and panel discussions with each other and U.S. leaders from the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. The Summit will take place in late July or early August 2018.
An optional six-week Professional Development Experience: As part of the Fellowship application,
individuals may apply to participate in a professional development experience (PDE) at a U.S.
company, civil society organization, or public sector agency in the United States. The PDE offers
Fellows practical training and the opportunity to learn transferable skills, expand their professional
network, and apply concepts learned at the Institutes to real-world situations. Placements will relate
to Fellows’ professional interests and goals but are typically not an exact match for their current
position at their home organization. This experience offers Fellows new perspectives on their fields,
deepens their awareness of issues present in both the United States and their home countries, and
equips them with best practices that can be applied to their work upon their return home.
Professional Development Experiences will be intensive and demanding, and chosen Fellows may be placed at organizations across the United States. Fellows selected must be available to be in the United States for approximately 13 weeks total (academic institute plus placement with a U.S.
organization). Up to 100 Mandela Washington Fellows will be selected for the Professional
Activities in Africa: Fellows will have access to networking opportunities, ongoing professional
development, and volunteer opportunities upon their return home after the Fellowship.
The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders is a program of the U.S. government and is supported in its implementation by IREX.
FINANCIAL PROVISIONS OF THE FELLOWSHIP
There is no fee to apply to the Mandela Washington Fellowship. If you are selected for the Fellowship, the U.S. government will cover all participant costs.
Financial provisions provided by the U.S. government will include:
J-1 visa support;
Round-trip travel from Fellow’s home city to the U.S. and domestic U.S. travel as required by the
A six-week Academic and Leadership Institute;
Concluding Summit in Washington, DC;
Accident and sickness benefit plan;
Housing and meals during the program; and
An optional six-week Professional Development Experience (for up to 100 Fellows).
Please note: the Fellowship will not cover salary while Fellows are away from work or funds for personal
purchases such as gifts.
Please note that Fellows will be housed in university dorms or similar accommodations. Fellows may be
expected to share a bedroom and bathroom with another Fellow of the same gender. 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. Please note that campus cafeterias will not offer the same types and varieties of foods that applicants may access in their home countries. It is important that applicants are aware of these arrangements and that they are comfortable with such accommodations. To the extent possible, care will be taken to ensure that any special requirements regarding diet, daily worship, housing, and medical care are satisfied. However, Fellows should understand that food and housing may be very different from what they are used to at home and should be open to new experiences.
TECHNICAL ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS
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 criteria1
Are between the ages of 25 and 35 at the time of application submission, although exceptional
Applicants younger than 25 will be considered;
Are not U.S. citizens or permanent residents of the United States;
Current IREX employees and consultants and their immediate family members (spouses, parents, children, and siblings) are not eligible to
apply for any IREX-implemented grant programs, either as individuals or as the responsible party representing an institutional applicant.
MANDELA WASHINGTON FELLOWSHIP APPLICATION PROCESS TIMELINE
September 13, 2017 Application opens
October 11, 2017 Application deadline
December 2017– February 2018 Semifinalists interviewed by local U.S. embassies and consulates
Late March 2018 Applicants are notified of their status
April-May 2018 Visa processing and Pre-Departure Orientations for finalists
Mid-June 2018 Fellowship begins in the United States
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. 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.
Independent readers will use the following criteria to evaluate applications (not in order of importance):
A proven record of leadership and accomplishment in public service, business and entrepreneurship,
or civic engagement;
A demonstrated commitment to public or community service, volunteerism, or mentorship;
The ability to work cooperatively in diverse groups and respect the opinions of others;
Strong social and communication skills;
An energetic, positive attitude;
A demonstrated knowledge, interest, and professional experience in the sector/track selected; 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.
GENERAL APPLICATION INSTRUCTIONS AND TIPS
The Mandela Washington Fellowship uses an Internet-based application system. You will need
access to a computer or mobile device and the Internet to apply.
You do not have to finish your application in one session. You may save your work and return to
complete your application as many times as necessary. Once you have submitted your application,
you can no longer add any additional information or make any changes. All information and
documents must be uploaded prior to your final submission. You must submit your completed
application by the deadline.
Answer all questions on the application in English.
Spaces marked with a red asterisk (*) must be completed.
All answers in the application, including written responses to essays and optional internship
questions, must be your own, original work. Using language copied from other past applicants’
essays or using language from websites is considered plagiarism and will result in applications being
You may wish to review the application and its questions before filling out the application. Some
applicants find it helpful to draft their responses offline (in a separate Word document for example)
and then cut and paste their responses into the appropriate sections of the application.
This is the official application for the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders
administered by the U.S. Department of State. Only those applicants who complete this application
will be considered. Applications and information submitted through email or other means will not
Apply here: APPLICATION LINK