American Fellowship gives young Cape innovators and proven leaders new opportunities

Young leaders who attended the Mandela Washington Fellowship. supplied image

Young leaders who attended the Mandela Washington Fellowship. supplied image

Published Sep 10, 2022

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Cape Town - Young leaders from Cape Town experienced familiar socio-economic issues and learnt from their counterparts during their Mandela Washington Fellowship at universities in the US.

The programme has seen 5 800 young people from 49 countries in sub-Saharan Africa experience life and education in the US.

Nurahn Schroeder, media communication spokesperson for the US Consulate General in South Africa, said the opportunities include a six-week leadership experience at universities, attending summits and engaging with citizens to helpmdevelop skills.

Applications for the 2023 intake ends on September 13.

“The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders is the flagship programme of the US Government’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI),” she said.

YALI was created in 2010 and celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2020.

“Established in 2014, the Mandela Washington Fellowship has brought nearly 5 800 young leaders from every country in sub-Saharan Africa to the US for academic and leadership training.

“The Fellows, between the ages of 25 and 35, are accomplished innovators and leaders in their communities and countries.”

“We are looking for demonstrated leaders between the ages of 25-35 years old, who are doing innovative work in the areas of Business and Entrepreneurship, Civic Leadership or Public Management to apply for this year’s Mandela Washington Fellowship.

“Finalists will spend six weeks in the US from June to July 2023 at different US universities exploring issues of leadership in the above areas along with 700 of their peers from all over sub-Saharan Africa.”

Kiara Ramklass, from Sea Point, was a successful candidate this year. She runs a social enterprise called Marimba Jam which is based in Cape Town. Ramklass attended The University of Texas at Austin for her fellowship experience.

She said her experience taught her about the similarities of socio-economic systems in South Africa and the US.

“I had never been to the US before, but I am aware we share similar socio-economic issues so I was particularly interested in learning more about the social enterprise landscape and how they were building sustainable business models to address their social issues (and hopefully be inspired to think differently about how I was solving our issues back home with a broader perspective,” she explained.

“The programme helped me ’step into my power’ to become a better leader and grow my organisation.

“The relationships I made with other fellows from different African countries have broadened my network and ignited a collective fire within us to work together to build Africa - our motto in our cohort was ’Together, we are better’!”

Another is Ryan Fester from Athlone who is the project co-ordinator at the Development Action Group.

Fester said his experience had shaped him professionally after being part of the fellowship in 2019.

“My experience was one of the most amazing experiences of my life, from attending courses on public management to building relationships with fellows and colleagues from across sub-Saharan Africa and the US. The Fellowship enriched my life in more ways than one.

“I walked away a better leader and more transformed in my thinking around how I can strengthen my impact.

“The most important takeaway for me was the importance of collaboration.

“The fellowship placed a special emphasis on networking and strengthening networks with partners across Africa and with the US and how to utilise these networks to deepen my impact.”

Andiswa Makha is the head of programmes and training at MOT South Africa and carried out her fellowship virtually in 2021 due to the pandemic.

Makha said her vision was to learn skills in developing better opportunities for the youth.

“I felt that there needed to be better co-ordination of initiatives that are there to address social ills that affect our citizens, especially the youth.

“My goal was to learn ways to create more synergy in the programmes and initiatives that promote youth development; gain practical skills to help me use my current platform and networks in order to effectively engage with and influence other stakeholders, namely, government departments such as Education, Social Development and other arenas that can promote youth development and help in empowering youth to become active participants and leaders in their communities and the country as a whole.”

To apply visit the Mandela Washington Fellowship’s website www.mandelawashingtonfellowship.org

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