What’s Mandela Washington Fellowship About?
It’s yet another opportunity for Young Leaders across Africa to showcase their leadership potential. Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders empowers young people with academic work, leadership training and networking opportunities in United States Institutions. The young leaders from different cultures and states across sub-Saharan Africa will get to hone their skills at a U.S college or University with support for professional development after they have completed the program. Young African Leaders will be engaged in three major activities in the U.S that include participating in a six-week Leadership training at a U.S college or university in one of the selected three tracks: Business and Entrepreneurship, Civic Engagement or public management.
Mandela Washington Fellowship Summit
Young leaders will also participate in the Mandela Washington Fellowship Summit which is the component of the fellowship where the leaders get to visit Washington D.C for a summit featuring, networking and to engage in panel discussions with U.S leaders from the public, private and the non-profit sectors. Lastly, seventy selected fellows will remain in the U.S for a further four-week Professional Development Experience with U.S non-governmental organizations, private companies and governmental agencies that relate to your professional interest and goals. Through this PDE experience, you will have the opportunity to learn transferable skills and expand your professional networks.
Upon returning back to your home country after the YALI Experience Mandela Washington Fellows get to implement on the skills they have learned during the Mandela experience with support from U.S embassies, the YALI Network, USAID, the Department of state and other affiliated partners. Mandela fellows can also apply for their American partners to travel to Africa to continue project-based collaborations through a reciprocal Exchange component.
Filling the Application Forms
Before commencing filling your application form, you have to prepare thoroughly. You should research about the Young African Leaders Initiative and understand their goals, mission and vision. Then when applying you have to connect your personal goals to those of YALI. It’s advisable to answer the essay questions on a word document then transfer the answers to the YALI portal after being satisfied with your answers. This will allow you to work carefully on your essays, have family, friends or former YALI fellows to help edit your essays.
The most important part is to stay true to the deadline. What would be the point of preparing a stellar application only to realize the deadline done?
Show some passion
Most Mandela Washington fellowship applicants don’t show passion in their applications. It’s okay to brag. It’s true; I can bet my life on it. Show them how good a leader you are, otherwise how will they know? If you have unsuccessfully applied more than once, this is your time to show how you have improved this time around and that the fellowship is very important to you and to the work that you do.
It’s important to talk numbers, how many lives have you changed? How many years have you been working on your projects? Talk about the positive things you have achieved. It’s also important to articulate about your future plans and how being a Mandela Washington fellow will help you accomplish that. You can brag but don’t lie. One, because it’s not cool and you may get caught up in your own lies during the interview. Let’s just be real.
After you have submitted your application, Relax, pray and wait for the results. You are one step closer to being a 2020 Mandela Washington Fellow. You can use YALI resources on the MWF website and learn about different topics on entrepreneurship, civic leadership as well as in public management. These skills might come in handy during the interview sessions. You can also improve your speaking skills and keep practising for the Interview.
It’s not a matter of life and death
Hey, it’s not a matter of life and death so have some fun while at it. If you are not selected as a fellow, don’t give up, you can apply as many times until you are 35 years old. In fact, many fellows get selected during their 2nd application, 3rd and even fourth application.
Before starting your application, check if you meet the eligibility requirements below
- Are between the ages of 25 and 35 on or before the application deadline, although exceptional applicants ages 21–24 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 (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, Côted’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.
- Are not alumni of the Mandela Washington Fellowship.
Here are some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the Mandela Washington Fellowship?
My first language is not English. Do I need to speak fluent English to participate in this fellowship?
- Fellows must have a proficient understanding of English to participate in the Fellowship. Fellows take classes, conducted in English, at their U.S. universities and will be conversing with other English speakers during networking events and activities. Therefore, knowledge of English is essential to the successful completion of the program.
Which track should I apply to?
- This is a question posed by many applicants whose work is applicable to more than one category. If you’re involved in many different types of projects, it is advised that you apply to the track where you can demonstrate the highest level of competence, experience and achievement. You want to apply to the track that will make your application as strong as possible and that best aligns with your current work and long-term professional goals.
- In looking at all of the projects you are engaged with, which one do you seek growth in the most? Which one can the Mandela Washington Fellowship most likely allow you to develop further? It is important to avoid combining all of your various, unrelated projects into one application, as this could confuse the reviewer.
Are preferences given to any track?
- No, there are no preferences given for applicants in any certain sector. A leader in any sphere of engagement, regardless of the track, are welcome to apply for the Fellowship. As previously mentioned, you just must be sure you are applying under the track that is most relevant to your work. Each track equally focuses on leadership development and helps Fellows gain skills that are transferable to a variety of industries, so one track is not comparably better than another.
How can I be a successful applicant?
- Successful applicants use real stories, statistics and examples to describe their success. When answering application questions, be specific and provide details! It is also important to clearly state the impact of your work, as well as your plans for after the Fellowship.
- How will you apply what you learned in the United States to your work in your home community? Show that you will learn from other Fellows and highlight how knowledge acquired during the Fellowship will improve your work. Don’t forget to focus on why you chose to do the work you do. Demonstrate why your work is important to you and to the community you serve. Lastly, be sure to proofread your answers with friends, MWF Alumni or other professionals!
Do I have to own or run my own foundation or NGO to be selected for this fellowship?
- No, owning or running an NGO or foundation is not a necessary qualification for this program. It is only necessary that prospective Fellows demonstrate a track record in leadership through their application.
I have applied for the fellowship before but was not selected. Can I apply again?
- Yes, you can, and you should! You can apply to the Fellowship as many times as you want, as long as you still meet the basic eligibility requirements. Many of the MWF Alumni in the #YALICHAT spoke about how they had applied three, four or even five times before they were accepted. Each year you apply, your application only gets stronger because you have had more experience. If you’re feeling discouraged because you weren’t accepted in the past, don’t give up!
I was not selected for the fellowship in the past. How can I strengthen my application for the future?
- Review the advice given in the previous questions to understand how to create a successful application. An additional tip is to contact the U.S. Embassy in your country and ask them to connect you with MWF Alumni from your country. Meet up with them and see if they can give you feedback on how to strengthen your application for next time. The second set of eyes never hurts!
How can I be successful in the interview?
- A certain percentage of applicants that convince reviewers on passion, impact, vision and knowledge of what to do with the program will pass to the interview phase. When you get to this stage you need to be consistent with the content of your application: Demonstrate what you wrote in your application through compelling stories and practical examples. Highlight why you believe this fellowship is very important for you and what you hope to achieve on your return. Do not dwell on irrelevant information.
I submitted my application, now what?
- Now you wait! If you are selected as a semifinalist, you will be contacted and interviewed by your local U.S. Embassy or Consulate Applicants will be notified of their status and if you are a finalist, you will begin visa processing and pre-departure orientation soon.
Good luck to all future applicants!
Let’s go change Africa!