Drake hosts 25 African leaders through Mandela Washington Fellowship

Photo courtesy of Drake University.

The exchange of cultural ideas and perspectives has become a summer tradition at Drake University through its participation in the Mandela Washington Fellowship program.

For the past four years, the program has brought in 25 young professionals from countries in Sub-Saharan Africa to spend six weeks at Drake, learning critical skills in leadership, entrepreneurship and business development.

The program, a part with Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), allows African leaders and entrepreneurs to visit the United States to learn about leadership and to make connections with local businesses and personnel. The goal is that the young adults who participate in the program will bring back what they have learned to their communities.

This year’s fellows, who arrived June 19, hail from 18 different countries and have spent the last five weeks on campus and exploring various businesses and communities throughout the state.

“One of the goals is for them to develop networks and relationships in the United States,” said Debra Bishop, Academic Director of the program. “But just as much we want them to develop friendships and relationships across the nations that they can continue to use when they return home.”

Some of the businesses this year’s fellows are working on include opening a medical clinic in Congo, expanding a renewable energy company in Kenya and launching a company that helps improve maternal and child heath in Rwanda.

“They are all already doing amazing things. I’m just in awe of them. Their talents, their capabilities, their drive is just amazing,” Bishop said. “What we do is just give them six weeks of opportunities to network in the community, to learn more about themselves, to help their develop their business ideas and to help them get to know each other more.”

A total of 700 African individuals were selected from over 38,000 applicants, to come to the United States as part of the Mandela Washington Fellowship.

“One of the neat things that we want to continue to explore is that the Mandela Fellowship has reciprocal exchange agreements where people from the U.S. can go to Africa and work on a project in a country the fellows are from,” Bishop said.

Learn more about each of the 2019 Fellows here.

Mandela Washington Fellowship Summit

This summer’s program will culminate next week with a visit to Washington, D.C., for the Mandela Washington Fellowship Summit.

Throughout the week, the Fellows will take part in networking and panel discussions with U.S. leaders from the public, private and nonprofit sectors.

“It’s pretty amazing when you get to see the energy of these 700 young leaders all in one place,” Bishop said. “There’s really nothing else like it.”

Previous coverage

Laura Kinnard brings her entrepreneurial skills to Nigeria -July 30, 2018

Nigerian businessman uses the Mandela Fellowship to better his country – August 30, 2017