2024 Mandela Washington Fellowship Application for Young Africans

The Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) of the U.S. Government’s flagship program is the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders. YALI was founded in 2010 and will commemorate its tenth birthday in 2020. Since its establishment in 2014, the Mandela Washington Fellowship has provided academic and leadership training opportunities for almost 4,400 young leaders from Sub-Saharan Africa.


The Fellows are accomplished innovators and leaders in their communities and nations, aged 25 to 35. Throughout the Fellowship, the Fellows participate in six-week Leadership Institutes offered by American schools and institutions, where they study public management, business, or civic engagement. They will go to a summit in Washington, DC, with young African leaders.

About the Mandela Washington Fellowship Application for Young Africans

In the summer of 2024, the Mandela Washington Fellowship will bring up to 700 young leaders to the United States for an extensive executive-style program to develop skills and enable Fellows to take on leadership roles in their communities and industries.


The Fellowship is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to

  • Take part in a six-week Leadership Institute at an American college or institution to learn from and share experiences with fellow Fellows and citizens of the United States.
  • Develop your skills by investigating fields outside of your regular job.
  • Take part in a summit involving upcoming African leaders.
  • Meet with leaders of the U.S. government, the community, and industry.
  • Make your work stronger by acquiring new knowledge, abilities, and concepts.
  • Become a member of a continental and international alumni network to help you find creative answers to shared problems.


The Fellowship provides special opportunities for collaboration between Fellows and Americans as they promote growth and prosperity, bolster democratic governance, and improve peace and security throughout Africa and the United States. It also brings young leaders to the United States for academic coursework and leadership training.


The Mandela Washington Fellowship is an initiative of the U.S. Department of State, managed by IREX and funded by the U.S. government.

Procedure for Applications and Selection

There is an open competition with a merit-based selection process for the Mandela Washington Fellowship. Independent readers will review all qualified applications following the deadline.

After this review, the U.S. embassies or consulates in the selected semi-finalists’ home countries will conduct interviews with them. The chosen semi-finalists must participate in these in-person interviews in their native African nation. Suppose candidates move on to the semi-finalist stage.

In that case, they must present a copy of their foreign passport (if one is available) or another form of official government photo identification during the interview. The compulsory Pre-Fellowship Orientation must be attended by the Finalists selected in their native African country.

Go to and submit your application to download a copy. Then select “Generate PDF” from the menu at the bottom.

Who can apply?

No applicant shall face discrimination due to sexual orientation, gender identity, socioeconomic status, race, color, or religion. Young African leaders who fulfill the following requirements are eligible to apply for the Mandela Washington Fellowship:

  • Are between the ages of 25 and 35 as of September 12, 2024, the deadline for applications; however, outstanding applicants between the ages of 21 and 24 will be taken into consideration
  • Are qualified for a J-1 visa to the United States; Are not employed by the United States government, including through an American embassy or consulate, USAID, or another U.S. government agency, or the immediate family of an employee of the U.S. government;
  • possess strong English reading, writing, and speaking skills (deaf applicants will receive further instruction soon);
  • Are nationals of any of the following: Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cabo Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Côte 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, or Zimbabwe; reside in one of the nations above; and
  • are not Mandela Washington Fellowship alumni.
  • Please be aware that dependents such as spouses and kids cannot travel with Fellows while on the Fellowship.

In reaction to local, national, or international circumstances that affect the program’s ability to run, the selection of finalists from all qualifying countries may be reviewed.

IREX and the U.S. Department of State reserve the right to examine the application and confirm all the information provided. If there is a discrepancy or it is discovered that the data needs to be corrected, the application will be rejected immediately, making the applicant ineligible.

People observe a flip chart while a teacher walks them through an exercise.

What are the selection criteria?

Applications will be judged based on the following standards, which are not prioritized:

  • A track record of success and leadership in civic involvement, business or entrepreneurship, and public or government service;
  • A track record of volunteerism, mentorship, or public or community service;
  • the capacity to appreciate other people’s viewpoints and collaborate well in a variety of groups;
  • robust interpersonal and communication abilities;
  • A lively, upbeat, and adaptable mindset;
  • A proven interest in, familiarity with, and professional background in the chosen field or Fellowship track, as well as specific objectives for utilizing the knowledge and abilities acquired from the Fellowship in current and future work; and
  • A pledge to return to Sub-Saharan Africa and use their abilities and skills to improve and support their communities.

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