Application Instructions Mandela Washington Fellowship


General Application Instructions and Tips

The Fellowship uses an online application system. You will need access to a computer, tablet, or mobile device and an internet browser to apply. The online application system works in low-bandwidth environments and can be used on non-Apple and non-Android devices. It is also accessible and compatible with screen readers for applicants who are blind or have low vision.

You do not have to finish your application in one session. You may save your work and return to complete your application as many times as necessary. Once you have submitted your application, however, you can no longer add any additional information or make any changes. All information and documents must be uploaded prior to your final submission. Be sure to carefully check your entire application and confirm that any supplemental documents uploaded correctly. You must submit your completed application through the online application system by the deadline.

All application questions must be answered in English. If you have a supplemental document in another language, you must also include a full English translation.

All fields marked with a red asterisk (*) must be completed.

All answers in the application, including written responses to essays and optional PDE questions, must be your own original work. Using language copied from other Fellowship applications (including other applicants’, your own submissions from previous years, or those of Fellowship Alumni) or from other sources (including websites) is considered plagiarism and will result in your application being disqualified.

You may wish to review the application fully before completing any responses. Some applicants find it helpful to draft their responses offline (for example, in a separate Word document) and then paste their responses into the appropriate sections of the application.

This is the official application for the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders. Only applicants who complete this application using the online application system will be considered. Applications and information submitted via email or other means will not be considered.

Application Sections


In this section, you will answer questions to determine your technical eligibility for the Mandela Washington Fellowship. You must fully complete this section to continue with the application. Please note that if you do not meet all technical eligibility requirements in this section currently or at the start of the program, you will not be able to participate in the 2022 Fellowship. If your technical eligibility for the Fellowship changes at any point, please email [email protected] as well as your local U.S. embassy or consulate immediately. Please refer to the Fellowship’s Technical Eligibility Requirements noted above.

General Information

In this section, you will provide general information about yourself, including your name, city, and country of birth, passport status, etc.

  • Provide your full legal name as spelled on your passport and/or official government-issued identification.
  • Provide your biological sex as it appears on your passport and/or official government-issued identification. You will be able to provide your gender in a different part of the application.
  • Indicate if you live and if you grew up in a national capital city.
    • A national capital city is the seat of your federal or national government (e.g., Abuja, Nigeria, or Dakar, Senegal).
  • Indicate what location type best describes where you currently live and where you grew up.
    • A major city is defined as an urban area with a large population of about 100,000+ people (e.g., Cape Town, South Africa).
    • Another city or town is roughly defined as a semi-urban area with a population between 2,500 and 100,000 people (e.g., Lamu, Kenya).
    • A rural area is defined as any area with fewer than 2,500 inhabitants and that is distinctively not in an urban area (e.g., Chachani, Tanzania).
  • Indicate if you currently have a passport and, if so, provide the expiration date. If you do have a passport, you will be required to present it at the interview stage if you are selected as a semi-finalist. If you do not have a passport, you will be required to obtain one if you are selected as a Finalist.


See how to Build Your Resume To Apply For The Mandela Washington Fellowship

In this section, you must provide information about your past education, work experience, volunteer experience, any awards you have earned, etc. Some of the information that you provide in this section will be populated into later application sections to streamline the application process. You may be asked to provide more details about your entries later in the application.

  • Professional Experience: List up to four professional positions that have been your primary occupation, whether paid or unpaid.
    • For example, you could list your role as program officer or head of sales.
  • Education: List up to five educational institutions that you have attended and the degree you received at each one.
    • For example, you could list your secondary school or university degree.
  • Other Professional Trainings and Certifications: List up to five professional trainings and/or courses you have completed outside of degree-seeking programs.
    • For example, you could list a project management certification.
  • Community and Volunteer Work: List up to five volunteer roles or other unpaid work outside of your primary occupation.
    • For example, you could list the time you spend mentoring young entrepreneurs.
  • Awards, Honors, Fellowships, Grants, and/or Scholarships: List up to 10 awards or honors you have received at the university or professional level.
    • For example, you could list that you were recognized as employee of the month.
  • Professional Skills: List up to eight languages and/or up to 10 computer or software skills you possess.
    • For example, you could include that you speak French and English and are familiar with Microsoft Office.
  • Publications, Conferences, and Notable Presentations: List any of your professional publications as well as conferences and presentations that you have participated in.
    • For example, you could list that you were a panelist in a discussion at your university.
  • Associations and Affiliations: List any professional organizations, leadership groups, or community organizations that have not otherwise been captured and any leadership roles you hold in these organizations.
    • For example, you could list your role as president of your local trade association or co-founder of a women’s leadership group.

Demographic Information

In this section, you will have the opportunity to answer optional questions about how you identify yourself. These questions will help us understand how people from diverse backgrounds seek out and experience opportunities through the Mandela Washington Fellowship.

The questions in the “Demographic Information” section are optional and are for statistical purposes only. All responses will remain confidential and will not be considered during the selection process. The Mandela Washington Fellowship strongly encourages all eligible applicants to apply.

The Mandela Washington Fellowship does not discriminate against applicants because of race, color, national origin, sex, age, religion, geographic location, socio-economic status, ability, sexual orientation, gender identity, or any other protected characteristic as established by U.S. law. Please see the definitions of protected characteristics below. The Fellowship is committed to fairness, equity, and inclusion.

  • Indicate if you identify as a person with a disability. Applicants with disabilities are encouraged to apply and provide information regarding their disability and any accommodations they may need while in the United States.2 Your application will not be affected in any way if you disclose a disability.
    • Hearing (e.g., deaf, hard of hearing)
    • Medical (e.g., asthma, arthritis, etc.)
    • Physical/Mobility (e.g., wheelchair users, amputees)
    • Speech (e.g., speech impediments)
    • Vision (e.g., blind, low vision)
  • Indicate what option best describes your gender identity. Gender identify is an individual’s internal, deeply-felt sense of being a man, a woman, both, neither, or in-between. This may or may not match the individual’s biological or legal sex.
  • Indicate if you identify as LGBTQI. If you identify as LBGTQI, you may identify with one of the following categories:
    • Lesbian: A woman who is sexually and romantically attracted to other women.
    • Gay: A man who is sexually and romantically attracted to other men. Also often used as a generic term used to describe people of any gender who are sexually and romantically attracted to people of the same gender.
    • Bisexual: A person who is sexually and romantically attracted to both women and men.
    • Transgender: An umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or expression differs from cultural expectations based on the sex they were assigned at birth.
    • Queer: Historically a negative term for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. More recently reclaimed by some LGBT people to refer to themselves. Often used to reference a more flexible view of gender and/or sexuality. Some people still find the term offensive, while others use it as a more inclusive term that allows for more freedom of expression.
    • Intersex: A variety of conditions in which a person is born with or develops a reproductive or sexual anatomy or physiology that may not seem to fit typical ideas of female or male or typical development of physical sex traits.
  • Indicate the pronouns that you prefer. A pronoun is a term used to substitute a person’s name when they are being referred to in the third person.4 A person’s gender should not be assumed based on their pronouns. Gender pronouns can include, but are not limited to:
    • He/him/his: Masculine pronouns
    • She/her/hers: Feminine pronouns
    • They/them/theirs: Neutral pronouns
  • Indicate if you identify with a historically marginalized group that faces discrimination based on one of the following categories:
    • Racial or ethnic group: Race discrimination involves treating someone unfavorably due to their race or personal characteristics associated with race such as hair texture, skin color, or certain facial features.5
    • Indigenous group: Indigenous discrimination involves treating someone unfavorably because they are a member of an indigenous group.
    • Religious group: Religious discrimination involves treating someone unfavorably because they are of a certain religion.6
    • Linguistic group: Linguistic discrimination involves treating someone unfavorably because of their language abilities, native language, or accent.
    • Socioeconomic class or status: Social class discrimination involves treating someone unfavorably on the basis of social class or economic status and the grouping of individuals based on wealth, income, education, occupation, and social network.
    • Gender: Gender discrimination involves treating someone unfavorably based on their gender.

Contact Information

In this section, you will provide your contact information, including your phone number, email address, and address.

The contact information you provide will be used to reach you during the application and selection process. Please provide accurate addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses that you use and check on a regular basis.

Institute Track

In this section, you will rank in order of preference the three tracks according to what most closely aligns with your daily work, education, or community involvement. The three tracks are Leadership in Business, Leadership in Civic Engagement, and Leadership in Public Management.

Leadership Institutes are designed to provide Fellows with background on U.S. practices and to help Fellows expand their networks to include U.S. citizens with whom they may find opportunities to collaborate in the future. The Fellowship is not designed to help Fellows identify specific funding for projects or organizations.

Fellows should be prepared to examine U.S. case studies and approaches to challenges and relate them to the African context. The Fellowship does not encourage Institute Partners to teach African models to Fellows – as such, Institute speakers may not be specialists on African subjects. As leaders, Fellows should be prepared to consider what elements of each U.S. approach or strategy might be useful in their own contexts.

While Institutes focus on specific tracks and themes, not all sessions will directly relate to each Fellow’s current work. Sessions are designed to help Fellows broaden their understanding on a variety of topics to prepare them for leadership outside of their current role or focus area. Fellows are encouraged to build their own networks and connections by reaching out directly to U.S. citizens in their host communities during unstructured time. The Fellowship Terms and Conditions require all Fellows to attend and fully participate in all required sessions and program activities scheduled by their Institute.

  • Leadership in Business: Leadership in Business Institutes will provide Fellows with an overview of U.S. entrepreneurial strategies in the for-profit sector and socially minded enterprises. Institute programming will examine the development, history, challenges, and successes of U.S. enterprises in both the United States and global markets, while providing space for Fellows to discuss related challenges and opportunities on the African continent. Fellows will develop key skills in business and entrepreneurship such as business plan development, sustainability in business, marketing, business ethics, regional and international trade, and the importance of public-private partnerships. These Institutes will give Fellows the opportunity to engage with the local business community to spur the development of innovative ideas, identify new markets, and establish links for future collaborations.
  • Leadership in Civic Engagement: Leadership in Civic Engagement Institutes will provide Fellows with an overview of how citizens have shaped U.S. history, government, and society both as individuals and as groups. Institute programming defines civic engagement, studies its development in the United States, and examines U.S. case studies with a particular relevance to the African continent. Fellows will develop skills and study approaches as they relate to citizenship, economic development, social justice, political activism, grassroots organizing, volunteerism, and the use of media and technology to advance civic causes. These Institutes will connect Fellows to community organizations to gain new insights into the intersectionality of issues and their impact on civic participation.
  • Leadership in Public Management: Leadership in Public Management Institutes will provide Fellows with an overview of how regional economic and workforce development, financial management, and the global knowledge economy shape both the domestic and foreign policy process. Institute programming will delve into topics such as rule of law, education, public health, climate change and environmental sustainability, and public sector transparency and accountability. Fellows will develop skills and approaches as they relate to policy development and evaluation, public finance and budgeting, ethical leadership, and good governance. The Institutes will provide access for Fellows to leaders at the local, regional, and state levels to learn about the implications of policy decisions on communities and businesses.

Please rank your preferred sectors/tracks (first choice, second choice, and third choice) according to what most closely aligns with your daily work, education, or community involvement. Please note that if selected, you may not be placed in your first-choice track, but you may be placed in a different track that, based on your application materials, fits your profile.

Current Professional and/or Educational Experience

In this section, you will provide information about where you are currently working and/or studying.

  • Select up to five sectors in which you have the expertise and/or interest to help us better understand your professional areas of focus. Please note that this information will not factor into your selection, but may be used to help place Finalists at Leadership Institutes. This information may also be used by the YALI Network (if you have opted in) to provide you with tailored opportunities.
  • Indicate the level of your current or most recent professional position:
    • Entry-level: Beginning-level employees who have a basic understanding of the occupation. Employees work under close supervision and receive specific instructions on required tasks and expected results.
    • Mid-level, non-supervisory: Employees have a sound understanding of the occupation and have attained special skills or knowledge through education or experience. They perform tasks that require exercising judgement. They do not directly supervise anyone, but they may coordinate the activities of other staff.
    • Mid-level, supervisory: Employees have a sound understanding of the occupation and have attained special skills or knowledge through education or experience. They perform tasks that require exercising judgement. They may coordinate the activities of other staff, and have supervisory authority over those staff.
    • Executive: Employees have sufficient experience in the occupation to plan and conduct work requiring judgement and the independent evaluation, selection, modification, and application of procedures and techniques. Employees use advanced skills and diversified knowledge to solve unusual and complex problems. They have management and/or supervisory responsibilities.

Previous U.S. Experience

In this section, you will provide information regarding your experience with any U.S. Government programs and/or past travel to the United States, if applicable.

  • Include all past experience in the United States such as work, trainings, degree programs, study abroad experience, personal travel and tourism, or extended stays or residencies. Previous experience in the United States does not disqualify you from the Fellowship.

English Language

In this section, you will provide an accurate assessment of your English language proficiency. High-level proficiency in written and spoken English is required for the Fellowship.

Applicants who are deaf should indicate their proficiency in reading and writing in standard English and their proficiency in interpersonal communication, presentational speaking, and listening in American Sign Language (ASL). Please note that interpretation in the United States may only be available in ASL, so selected Fellows should be proficient in, or be prepared to learn, ASL prior to arrival in the United States. Prior to the start of the Fellowship, selected Fellows who require sign language interpretation during their Institute will have the opportunity to learn ASL through a Pre-Institute training at Gallaudet University, the world’s only liberal arts university for deaf individuals. Gallaudet University also offers free resources for learning ASL..

  • Indicate whether English is your native language. Native language refers to the language a person learned as a child (usually from your parents or guardians). Children from bilingual homes can have more than one native language.
  • Complete a self-assessment of your English language skills as accurately as possible. English language proficiency is required for participation in the Fellowship. All activities—including academic sessions, discussions, meetings, cultural activities, and social interactions—will be in English.
  • Read the statements corresponding to each proficiency level. Then, select the level (Absolute Beginner, Novice, Intermediate, Advanced, Very Advanced) that most closely aligns with your English language abilities for each skill. Applicants who are deaf should indicate their proficiency in reading and writing in standard English and their proficiency in Interpersonal communication, presentational speaking, and listening in ASL.

Personal Statements

In this section, you will answer short essay questions. The Fellowship selects qualified and dedicated individuals who have demonstrated the potential to be great leaders.

  • Each response has a space limitation and a designated word limit. Please use specific, concrete examples that support your statements. It is important that you provide some background information, since the reader may not be familiar with the situation in your community/country, but you should focus primarily on your experience and examples.

Long Essay

You will have 250 words to answer each of the long essay questions.

  • Please give a brief description of any major professional accomplishments within the last year and your long-term goals and aspirations. Why have you chosen this work?
  • Based on your understanding of your preferred track of study, what skills and knowledge do you hope to gain from the Fellowship that you would not be able to develop through other education or training? How will you use those skills and that knowledge to adapt your activities in your home country and/or community within the next three to five years?

Short Essay

You will have 150 words to answer each of the short essay questions.

  • Public and community service are essential responsibilities for leaders. What communities do you most hope to reach and engage through your work? How are you working toward this goal now, and what else do you hope to accomplish in the future?
  • The Mandela Washington Fellowship values diversity, equity, and inclusion and strives to reach diverse audiences through all programming. Provide a specific example of how you have committed yourself to these values in your professional and/or personal life.
  • Nelson Mandela said, “Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.” Strong leaders are able to effectively handle challenges. The COVID-19 global health pandemic has posed significant challenges, both globally and locally. Describe a specific instance when the pandemic or its repercussions posed a problem that helped you grow as a leader. What did you do, and how are you applying lessons learned from this experience in your current work?
  • Nelson Mandela was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for working with leaders of the South African government to agree on a peaceful transition to multiparty rule and an end to apartheid, demonstrating that leaders can achieve progress despite differing views or identities. Please explain a situation where you have worked with people from different backgrounds, identities, or perspectives and had to use your leadership skills to resolve a conflict or disagreement. What actions did you take, and how did you encourage respectful discussion?

Optional Professional Development Experience (PDE)

In this section, you will indicate whether you would like to apply to the Mandela Washington Fellowship Professional Development Experience (PDE).

  • The PDE component of the program is optional and competitive. You do not have to apply for the PDE component in order to be considered for the Fellowship.
  • To apply for the optional PDE, you will be required to answer an additional essay question. You will have 250 words to answer the following question:
    • What are your goals for the Professional Development Experience, including the specific skills and knowledge you hope to gain? How would you apply an experience working in a U.S. organization to your work after returning to your home country?

In this section, you have the option to upload one file that you feel will strengthen your application. This is entirely optional and must be in English (or must include a full English translation).

  • Documents can be attached in.pdf, .png, .jpg, or .gif formats and must be no larger than 4 MB each. Examples include a writing sample, a résumé or CV, or an academic transcript.

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