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Mandela Washington Fellowship Application Information

Due - TBD

The application for the 2016 Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders is now closed.

In the summer of 2016, the Mandela Washington Fellowship will double in size to bring 1,000 young African leaders to the United States. Fellows will travel to U.S. university and college campuses for six-week academic and leadership Institutes in one of three tracks: Business and Entrepreneurship, Civic Leadership, or Public Management. New in 2016 will also be the pilot for a specialized Institute on Energy. For more details on the sector tracks, please review the application instructions.

The intensive Institute model includes linkages between academic sessions, site visits, professional networking opportunities, community service, and organized cultural activities to maximize learning and cultural exchange. The Institutes will culminate in a Presidential Summit in Washington, DC. Additionally, up to 100 selected Fellows will take part in a six-week, U.S.-based professional development experience with U.S. organizations following the Summit. The U.S. Government and its partners have also created unique follow-on opportunities in Africa for Fellows to put their new skills to practical use in leading organizations and communities.


Technical Eligibility Requirements

Applicants will not be discriminated against on the basis of race, color, gender, religion, socioeconomic 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 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;

• Are eligible to receive a United States J-1 visa;

• Are not employees or immediate family members of employees of the U.S. government; 

• Are proficient in reading, writing, and speaking English;

• Are citizens and residents 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, 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, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe;

• Are residents of one of the above countries; and 

• Are not alumni of the Mandela Washington Fellowship.

• Please note: Fellows are not allowed to have dependents (including spouses and children) accompany them during the Fellowship. 

Individuals residing in Eritrea and Zimbabwe may not apply to the Public Management track. Residents of Sudan may only apply for the Civic Leadership track.

Due to U.S. legislative funding restrictions, we are unable to consider applications from members of the military, defense ministries, police, and other law enforcement officials for the 2016 Mandela Washington Fellowship.

The U.S. Department of State and IREX reserve the right to verify all of the information included in the application. In the event that there is a discrepancy, or information is found to be false, the application will immediately be declared invalid and the applicant ineligible.

Applications not meeting the above technical eligibility requirements will not be forwarded to the selection committee. If you do not meet the technical eligibility requirements for this program, we invite you to visit for information on other U.S. Department of State exchange opportunities.

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 a selection panel. Following this review, chosen semifinalists 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.

Selection panels 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.

Additional Information

Application Timeline:

October 1, 2015: Application opens
November 11, 2015: Application closes
January-February 2016: Semifinalists interviewed by local U.S. Embassies and Consulates
March 2016: Applicants are notified of their status
April-May 2016: Visa processing for finalists
Mid-June 2016: Fellowship starts in the United States


For more information, Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), please visit You can also get updates at and For additional questions about the Mandela Washington Fellowship not answered by the FAQs, please email

Applications for the 2016 Mandela Washington Fellowship are now accepted

Application Materials