The U.S. Embassy near Monrovia has certified the 2023 cohort of the Mandela Washington Fellowship (MWF) for young African leaders.
Launched in 2014, MWF is the flagship program of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) which embodies the U.S. commitment to invest in the future of young African change agents.
YALI was created in 2010 to enhance African youths’ professional, economic, and leadership development, strengthen democratic governance, and enhance peace and security across Africa. Since 2014, nearly 5,100 young leaders from every country in Sub-Saharan Africa have participated in the MWF.
Funded by the U.S. government, MWF is a program of the U.S. Department of State and administered by IREX.
“We are proud to announce that all fellows have returned to Liberia, with the exception of two: Mohammed Jalloh, who was offered a PhD fellowship at the University of Arizona, and Ahmed Konneh, who has begun his Master’s program at the University of Edinburgh,” said Chargé d’Affaires Catherine Rodriguez.
Every year, the embassy calls for applications online. Applicants must present evidence of leadership and success in business, civic involvement, public service, community service, volunteerism, or mentoring.
Also, they must demonstrate their capacity to cooperate in groups of all sizes and respect the ideas of others, as well as their social and communication abilities.
Fellows must promise to return to their respective countries and use their abilities to improve and help their communities.
“As you all are aware, the process of selection for this fellowship is not an easy one. Each fellow in this room demonstrated to our Embassy personnel their commitment to their communities and profession, their outstanding leadership skills, and a potential to further support the progress of the Liberian society in all aspects. Some of you were persistent in applying multiple times until you received this opportunity. That is the persistence I hope you all carry with you as leaders, mentors, and change agents in Liberia,” Rodriguez noted.
The fellows received training in business, civic engagement, and public management. Three of them attended an additional four-week professional development experience.
“True progress requires persistence — and with a newfound professional network that spans the entire continent of Africa, we hope that you organize across borders to further advance your respective societies,” she said.
She encouraged them to leverage the networks they built in the United States while studying at designed universities. “I encourage you to nurture those connections with teachers, colleagues, and friends. They have your best interest at heart. Just as we do at the U.S. Embassy Monrovia.”
“Your experience in the United States is only the beginning. Now is when your work begins on the ground. In your endeavors for the coming years, to organize, train, and give back to your communities — remember that you have a friend in the U.S. Embassy. We chose you to go on these life changing experiences for a reason and want to see you succeed for years to come.”
Selected fellows are assigned at various Universities in the U.S.
“Remember that you are the light in darkness with the ideas and knowledge you have gained. It will help to address some of the issues in Liberia,” said Hassan Kanneh, deputy minister of the Ministry of Gender.
He urged the fellows to utilize their knowledge that would benefit their communities. “We expect that you go back to these communities with these ideas to use them to learn. Do not be selfish with the ideas.”
Janice Bropleh, president of the 2023 fellowship cohort, thanked the embassy and cautioned her colleagues to be change agents for Liberia.