Applications for the Mandela Washington Scholarship for Young African Leaders  are now open. The Mandela Washington Young African Leadership Scholarship, launched in 2014, is the flagship program of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), which supports young people through classroom teaching, leadership training, and networking.

In 2018, the fellowship will provide 700 outstanding young leaders from sub-Saharan Africa with an opportunity to improve their skills at an American college or university and to support post-return career development.

Fellows between the ages of 25 and 35 have achieved proven success in promoting innovation and its positive impact in their organizations, institutions, communities, and countries. In 2017, members represented a diverse group of leaders from 48 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Fifty-one members said they had a disability and 50% of them were women.

Structure of the Fellowship

United States Based Activities:

  • Leadership Institutes: Each Mandela Washington Fellow attends a six-week Leadership Institute at a US university or university in one of three areas: Business, Civic Engagement, or Public Management. The intensive model includes links between academic sessions, on-site visits, networking opportunities, leadership training, community service, and organized cultural activities.
  • Mandela Washington Bursary Summit: Following the Fellowship Scholarship Fellowship, fellows travel to Washington, DC, for a summit meeting that includes a networking meeting and roundtables with US public, private, and for-profit sector leaders.
  • Professional development experience: 70 selected fellows are still in the United States to attend four-week professional development experiences with non-governmental organizations, private companies, and US government agencies that affect their interests and goals. The BDP is intended to give scholarship holders practical training and the opportunity to acquire transferable skills, to broaden their professional networks and to apply the concepts learned in their institutes to real situations in the American context.

Africa-Based Activities:

  • Upon their return to their home country, fellows will continue to learn the skills they have gained during their stay in the United States through the support of the American embassies, four regional leadership centers, the YALI network and tailor-made programs from USAID, the US State Department, and affiliated partners.
  • Through this experience, select Mandela Washington Fellows have access to career development opportunities, mentoring, networking, and training, as well as support for their ideas, businesses, and organizations.
  • Fellows can also invite their US partners to travel to Africa to continue their project-based collaboration through the component of mutual exchange.

Scholarship Benefits:

There is no application fee on the Mandela Washington Fellowship. If you are selected for the scholarship, the US Government will pay all registration fees. The financial arrangements of the US government include:

  • J-1 visa support;
  • Return home from the hometown of the Fellow in the United States and domestic travel to the United States, depending on the program;
  • An academic and management institute of six weeks;
  • Final summit in Washington, DC;
  • Accident and health insurance plan;
  • Accommodation and meals during the program; and
  • Optional six-week professional development experience (for up to 100 members).

Note: The scholarship does not cover the salary if the members are not working or paying for personal purchases such as gifts.

Apply now as one of 700 young African leaders to participate in this fully funded program.


Scholarship Number

The Young African Leaders Fellowship has a total of 700 offers.


Eligibility for Scholarship

Candidates are not discriminated against on the basis of race, color, gender, religion, socioeconomic status, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity. The Mandela Washington Scholarship is open to young African leaders who meet the following criteria:

  • At the time of application, between the ages of 25 and 35, however, exceptional candidates between the ages of 21 and 24 will be considered.
  • Are not US 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 (including a U.S. Embassy or Consulate, USAID, and other U.S. Government entities).
  • Are proficient in reading, writing, and speaking English. Applicants who are deaf should consult the Application Instructions for more information.
  • 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, 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.

Selection Criteria

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, 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.
  • Demonstrated knowledge of, interest in, and professional experience in the preferred sector/track.
  • 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.

The Mandela Washington Fellowship is conducted as a merit-based open competition. After the deadline, all eligible applications will be reviewed by a selection panel. Chosen semifinalists will be interviewed by the U.S. embassies or consulates in their home countries.

If selected for an interview, applicants must provide a copy of their passport (if available) or other government-issued photo identification to verify eligibility.


Application Procedure: 

Read the Application Instruction and see the Frequently Asked Questions.

To apply, complete the online application.

For more information, visit Mandela Washington Fellowship.


Application Deadline:

The application for the Mandela Washington Fellowship 2019 will run as follows;

  • September each year, | Application opens
  • October each year | Application closes
  • December 2019 – February 2020 | Semifinalists interviewed by local U.S. embassies and consulates.
  • Late March 2020 | Applicants are notified of their status
  • May 2020 | Visa processing and Pre-Departure Orientations for finalists
  • Mid-June 2020 | Fellowship begins in the United States

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Mandela Washington Fellowship: Frequently Asked Questions

Who is Mandela?

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was a South African anti-apartheid revolutionary, political leader, and philanthropist who served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999. He was the country’s first black head of state and the first elected in a fully representative democratic election

What was Nelson Mandela’s profession?

Nelson Mandela during his lifetime was an actor, Philanthropist, peace activist, lawyer, statesperson, writer, social activist.

What is the Mandela Washington fellowship all about?

The Fellowship brings young leaders to the United States for academic coursework and leadership training and creates unique opportunities for Fellows and Americans to collaborate as they spur growth and prosperity, strengthen democratic governance, and enhance peace and security across Africa and the United States.

How long is the Mandela Washington fellowship?

The fellowship is 6-week program at a U.S. college or university then an opportunity for up to 70 Mandela Washington Fellows to participate in a 4-week Professional Development Experience with a U.S. business, civil society organization, or public agency.

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