Imagine six weeks at a U.S. university where you can sharpen your skills in public management, civic leadership or business; get advice from experts in the U.S. public, private and nonprofit sectors; and build a network of Africans and Americans to support your professional development. This is the Mandela Washington Fellowship experience.

What is it?

The Mandela Washington Fellowship is the flagship program of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), which also includes the YALI Network and the YALI Regional Leadership Centers.

Applications are now open for the 2019 Mandela Washington Fellowship.

Fellows will receive six weeks of training and mentoring at partner universities and colleges across the United States. Past Fellows have toured the Google headquarters in San Francisco, met with Fortune 500 executives and seen the latest sustainability techniques on farms in America’s heartland. After returning home, the Fellows will have access to professional development opportunities, mentoring, networking, training and seed funding to support their ideas, businesses and organizations.

Infographic with timeline for application process and tips for applicants (State Dept.)
(State Dept.)


Am I eligible?

You are eligible to apply if you meet these conditions:

  • You’re between 25 and 35 when you apply, although exceptional applicants under 25 will be considered.
  • You’re eligible to receive a United States J-1 visa.
  • You can read, write and speak English.
  • You’re a citizen of one of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

There are no minimum academic requirements, but the Fellowship is looking for men and women with proven track records in promoting innovation and positive change in their organizations, institutions, communities and countries.

The Mandela Washington Fellowship program values diversity and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, gender, religion, socio-economic status, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity.

How do I apply?

Applicants need to submit a resume and basic info — name, address, phone number, email address and country of citizenship — but supporting documents are up to the individual to choose. Many applicants submit letters of recommendation, academic transcripts and writing samples. These are not required, but they can make an application stronger by displaying leadership qualities.

The deadline for applications is October 10. Visit YALI’s application page for more information on requirements and a timeline with details on applicant notifications and other dates. You can also find answers to frequently asked questions and suggestions for writing your personal essay.

Be forewarned: The competition is fierce. More than 37,000 applied for the 2018 fellowship. Fortunately, the YALI Network is here to offer tips. By becoming a network member and following the YALI Network Facebook page, you can find tips for your application and connect with alumni for helpful advice.