By Sonnie C. Lawrence (Intern)
The seventeen Liberians who participated in this year’s (2019) Mandela Washington Fellowship have returned to the country after six weeks of training in Business/Entrepreneurship, Civic Engagement or Public Management.
The Mandela Washington fellowship focuses on inspiring young leaders to have a positive impact on Africa.
The Mandela Washington Fellowship is a program of the United States Government, while its components are administered by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, and supported by IREX, a U.S. non-governmental agency.
The fellowship is the flagship program of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). Since it started in 2014, the program has empowered young people through academic coursework, leadership training and networking.
This year, the Fellowship provides up to 700 outstanding young leaders from Sub-Saharan Africa with the opportunity to hone their skills at U.S. higher education institutions with support for professional development after they return home. Participating higher education institutions focus on leadership and skills development in Business, Civic Engagement, or Public Management.
The Fellows, who are between the ages of 25 and 35, have established records of accomplishment in promoting innovation and positive impact in their organizations, institutions, communities and countries. The first five classes of Fellows represented all 49 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and included equal numbers of men and women.
The Business/Entrepreneurship focuses on helping individuals start their own businesses and provides strategies in order to promote their businesses. This track gives individuals a business plan and enables them to interact with US institutions that are doing similar work that they do.
Public Management focuses on working with individuals who are employed in government institutions; it gives them basic information about what they need to do in order to promote and strengthen projects that have been undertaken by them.
Civic Engagement focuses on citizens engagement and how to work with citizens in promoting social change and in making society better. It provides necessary skills to facilitate citizens engagement and ideas that can transform that society.
The Mandela Washington Fellowship program ended with a summit that brings all 700 fellows for that year, together with members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives and other dignitaries.
The Fellowship, which began in 2014, has already engaged several thousand young leaders from every country in Sub-Saharan Africa. Through this initiative, young African leaders are gaining the skills and connections they need to accelerate their own career trajectories and contribute robustly to strengthening democratic institutions, spurring economic growth, and enhancing peace and security in Africa.