The 2016 Nigerian participants of the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders at the reunion conference held in Lagos on October 12, 2016. Photo Credit --U.S Embassy

2016 Mandela Fellows Urged to Create African Solutions that Benefit the World

Nigerian participants of the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, an exchange initiative created by President Barack Obama, have been urged to use all they have learnt in the United States, and from each other, to accomplish positive change.

Speaking at the two-day reunion conference for the 2016 Mandela Washington Fellowship in Lagos, U.S. Consul General F. John Bray advised the Fellows to take their game to the next level by creating international partnerships that will benefit Africa, and African solutions that benefit the world.

“I am asking you to define this conference as the moment when you take your game to the next level.  To gather everything you have learned in the United States, and from each other, and act with all the force in you to accomplish positive change in Nigeria.”

“Ask yourself – how much more can you empower thousands of fellow Nigerians to access opportunity and gain the knowledge that you hold?  How many more Nigerians can you reach?”

About 100 Nigerians were among the 1000 Fellows who arrived at Washington this summer for the annual Mandela Washington Fellowship, a flagship program of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). Now in its third year, the fellowship empowers young Africans to hone their skills at a U.S. college or university through academic coursework, leadership training, and networking.

This year’s Fellow will enjoy the support of USAID, IREX, and the State Department to attend events, organise events, create networks, and partner with other organisations.

Meanwhile, Fellows are urged to come up with innovative development projects that could enjoy grants from the United States Government.

“There will be grant opportunities but it is going to be competitive,” the Public Affairs Officer, U.S. Consulate General, Darcy Zotter, said, adding that the investment will be in line with what the fellow studied in Washington.

The proposed solutions are going to be African solutions to African problems.

On the concern that the programme may not continue after President Obama administration, Ms. Zotter told journalists on the sideline of the event that the fellowship will continue to enjoy the support of the United States in years to come.

“The YALI fellowship will continue after President Obama administration. It is supported by both the Democratic and Republican party of the United States. ”

“This programme has been so successful and members of our congress have been so impressed with the Mandela Washington Fellows. There is bi-partisan support for it, it got funded again. We have every reason to expect regardless of who becomes president, this programme will survive based on its merit.”

Ms. Zotter further advised Fellows to continue to network with one another and when they are looking for new ideas, they should reach out to one another.

“They have got to work together. No one person has a solution. We know innovation is a group effort and this is what I hope they will do — work together to find solutions.”

The 2017 Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders is now on. To apply, Ms. Zotter says, “You have to already be a leader. We are looking for young people between the ages of 24 and 35.  We are looking for young leaders who have already demonstrated within their community that they have the ability to gather support and make a positive change. ”


Busayo Sotunde is a prolific writer with special focus on Business, Entrepreneurship, Reproductive Health and other development issues in Africa. Her articles have been published by different outlets including Investing Port and She has a penchant for reading and sustainable development. Follow Busayo on Twitter @BusayomiSotunde

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