Printer-friendly version

Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders

The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders is the flagship program of President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). President Obama launched YALI in 2010 to support young African leaders as they spur growth and prosperity, strengthen democratic governance, and enhance peace and security across Africa. The Mandela Washington Fellowship (inaugurated in 2014) will bring 1,000 young leaders to the United States in summer 2016 for academic coursework and leadership training and will create unique opportunities in Africa for Fellows to put new skills to practical use in leading organizations, communities, and countries.

The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders is a program of the US government and supported in its implementation by IREX. For more information on President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), please visit

Sponsorship Opportunities

Learn about the 2016 Mandela Washington Fellowship Regional Conferences »


The Mandela Washington Fellowship will:

• Invest in a new generation of young African leaders who are shaping the continent’s future.

• Respond to the strong demand by young African leaders for practical skills that can help them take their work to the next level in the fields of public service and business.

• Deepen partnerships and connections between the United States and Africa.

• Build a prestigious network of young African leaders who are at the forefront of change and innovation in their respective sectors.

Project Activities

The Mandela Washington Fellowship includes:

A 6-week Academic and Leadership Institute: Fellows are placed at US colleges and universities for academic institutes. Institutes will focus on skills development in one of three areas: Business and Entrepreneurship, Civic Leadership, or Public Management. New in 2016 will be a specialized Institute on Energy. Institutes will take place from mid-June to late-July 2016. For information on opportunities to host in 2016, see the Recruiting Academic Institutions page.

A Summit with President Obama in Washington, DC: At the conclusion of the academic and leadership institute, all Fellows will participate in a Presidential Summit. The Summit will take place in late July or early August 2016.

An optional 6-week US Professional Development Experience: As part of the Fellowship application, individuals may apply to participate in a Professional Development Experience (PDE) at a US company, civil society organization, or public sector agency in the United States. Approximately 100 Fellows will be selected for the US-based PDEs, which will take place in August and September 2016. For more information on the Professional Development Experience, see the Mandela Washington Fellowship Professional Development Experience Host Information page.

Activities in Africa: Fellows will have the opportunity for continued professional development after they return to Africa, including networking opportunities, internships with institutions in the public, private and non-profit sectors, one-on-one mentoring with industry leaders, travel grants, access to seed funding, and community service activities. If you are a Mandela Washington Fellow and would like more information about professional development opportunities in Africa, please email Businesses and other organizations please see the Partnerships Page for information on opportunities to engage with the Fellows in Africa. 

  • President Obama addresses Mandela Washington Fellows
  • Mandela Washington Fellows at opening reception
  • First Lady Michelle Obama addresses Mandela Washington Fellows
  • Secretary of State John Kerry greets Mandela Washington Fellow
  • Mandela Washington Fellows listen to President Obama's remarks
  • Mandela Washington Fellows participating in First Lady roundtable