Young Africans Conclude Mandela Fellowship Summit In Washington

The effort of the US government to improve leadership capacity among young leaders in Africa continued in Washington  recently with the annual Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders. Alex Cole of IREX details the activities that have marked the fellowhsip so far.

Seven hundred young African leaders gathered in Washington, D.C. from July 30-August 1 for the 2018 Mandela Washington Fellowship Summit. Selected from a pool of more than 37,000 applicants, the Fellows strengthened leadership skills and exchanged ideas with leaders from across Sub-Saharan Africa and the United States.

Hosted by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and implemented by IREX, the Summit marked the culmination of six weeks of academic and leadership training at 27 colleges and universities across the United States. Throughout the program, Fellows developed lasting connections with Americans and forged networks with each other to expand U.S.-Africa cooperation on shared goals on the continent.

The theme of this year’s Summit, “Living Mandela’s Legacy,” honors the centenary celebration of Nelson Mandela’s birth. Fellows pledged to carry on Nelson Mandela’s legacy of servant leadership.

“The Fellowship will inspire the younger generation of Africans to be more open, to listen to their people, when they try to address the challenges that their communities are facing,” said Fabianna Bonne, a Mandela Washington Fellow from Seychelles.

Masai Ujiri, President of the NBA’s Toronto Raptors and Founder of Giants of Africa, addressed the Fellows, saying, “I look up to Nelson Mandela…because, in the twenty-first century, we need visionaries. We need you guys to see ahead because Africa is now.”

Ambassador Jennifer Zimdahl Galt, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs called the Summit to order, citing each of the 27 host colleges and universities and congratulating the Fellows on their leadership accomplishments. “As Mandela Washington Fellows,” she said, “each of you has a unique story.”

Ivanka Trump, Special Advisor to the President, addressed the Fellows by video message, congratulating them for being selected for the program and emphasizing the importance of the Fellowship. She stated, “Initiatives like YALI are critical to ensuring global stability, peace, and economic prosperity as they seek to prepare our future leaders at home and abroad to succeed in a modern economy.”

The Summit’s Networking Reception and Partnership Expo encouraged Fellows and American professionals to exchange ideas, setting the stage for continued collaboration when Fellows return home.

August 1 sessions included a panel focused on trade and entrepreneurship featuring representatives from Brussels Airlines, Global Entrepreneurship Network, IBM, Marriott International, and Procter & Gamble. U.S. Senator Christopher Coons (DE), Congressman Hank Johnson (GA), and Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC) also spoke on a panel about youth engagement in politics and policy development. 2018 Fellow Ayanda Allie Paine of South Africa later interviewed Dr. John W. Franklin, Cultural Historian and Senior Manager at the Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History and Culture, about leadership and cultural memory.

One hundred Fellows will stay in the United States for six weeks of additional professional development at U.S. businesses, government agencies, and non-profit organizations.

Photos and videos of the Summit are available online.

The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders is a program of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and administered by IREX. For more information about the Mandela Washington Fellowship, visit For further information from the Department of State, please contact

Alex Cole, Director of Strategic Communications, IREX