U.S. officials are celebrating yet another successful class of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, as over 700 young African leaders are about to graduate from their six-week mentorship program on U.S. shores and will Sunday be returning to Africa to implement lessons learnt.
The Mandela Washington Fellowship says it has brought over 5,100 young African leaders to the U.S. since its formation in 2014.
While addressing the fellowship class of 2022 at the annual Mandela Washington Fellowship Summit which this year is being held virtually, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said YALI is accomplishing its purpose.
“When president Obama launched this initiative 8 years ago, he said the goal was to give young Africans an opportunity to come to the United States to develop their skills as the next generation of leaders and for six weeks you have done that” said Blinken, who also emphasized that the Mandela Washington Fellowship is playing a pivotal role in diplomatic relations between Africa and Washington.
Blinken’s sentiments are echoed by Zambian YALI alumnus and award-winning broadcaster, Kayula Chisanga who said the fellowship program equips young Africans with the tools to solve Africa’s problems.
“There has been a number of fellows that have gone to create organizations and come up with innovations that have had a really great impact on their communities,” said Chisanga, adding, “When COVID hit a lot of borders closed which impacted several businesses, but one of the fellows in my cohort came up with an app that allowed traders to continue business.”
Gloria Anderson, a Tanzanian alumnus and the Founder of Tanzania Enlightenment Development Innovation says the six-week program equips young African leaders with leadership skills and is a gateway to funding which has been used to uplift African communities.
“I had a lot of experience in learning how to become a civic and public servant,” said Anderson, adding, “We were successful in getting funding from the U.S. State Department which we used to establish a computer lab in a Maasai community public school in Tanzania.”
Mozambican 2015 alumnus and the Co-Founder of Appload, Frederico Silva says being associated with the Mandela Washington Fellowship has empowered thousands of African entrepreneurs and opened several doors for young leaders on the continent.
“The most relevant thing about YALI for me was the networking with peers from the continent whom I maintain a tight relationship with and taught me that we all face the same problems but don’t have the same solutions which shows that problems can be addressed in different ways,” said Silva, adding, “another thing I felt was great is that when you are branded a Mandela Washington fellow your credibility comes to play which has given us access to grants and a lot of exposure.”