The Mandela Washington Fellowship (MWF) for Young African Leaders was established by President Barack Obama as the flagship program of the broader Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) in 2014.
“I launched the Young African Leaders Initiative because I’ve always believed that one person can be a force for positive change,” said President Obama at the 2016 Young African Leaders Summit and Town Hall in Washington, D.C. “So what we wanted to do through YALI is to connect you with each other, to resources, and to networks that can help you become the leaders in business, government, and civil society of tomorrow.”
In the first year of the program alone, the U.S. Department of State received nearly 50,000 applications for only 500 placements across the U.S. (including 25 placements at Notre Dame). In 2017, applications peaked at 64,000 for 1,000 placements across the U.S.
Each summer, the Notre Dame Initiative for Global Development (NDIGD) has been privileged to interact with 25 of the continent’s best and brightest each summer. Designated as a Business and Entrepreneurship Institute by IREX, NDIGD has often hosted business people and executives; lawyers; information and communications technology (ICT) experts; educators; and those involved in various parts of the healthcare and STEM sectors in its MWF cohorts. However, NDIGD has also served as a host to a number of fellows with truly unique backgrounds, including a filmmaker, a news anchor, a publisher, a printer, an academic dean, a naturopath, a shoemaker, a special education teacher, and a radio host, among others.
Although the faces, personalities, and backgrounds change with each new MWF cohort, the invigorating and inspiring entrepreneurial spirit the fellows bring to campus served as a common, uniting thread between every group. Over the years, NDIGD has hosted fellows with true “Fighting Irish” spirits for social causes including gender equality and empowerment; financial inclusion; education; healthcare; people with disabilities; government reform; climate change and renewable energy; access to technology; and other causes.
At the 2014 inaugural summit in Washington, D.C., President Obama announced the creation of YALI Regional Leadership Centers (RLCs) located at higher education institutions across Sub-Saharan Africa. The first RLCs opened the following summer and today there are four primary centers and two satellite campuses. They offer high quality training, mentoring, and networking support to a greater number of young leaders than can be reached through the MWF.
In 2015, NDIGD helped send Notre Dame professors Marc Hardy and Angela Logan, both faculty in the Mendoza College of Business, to the East Africa RLC, led by Deloitte, in Nairobi, Kenya. The two subsequently taught courses at the West Africa RLC in Accra, Ghana.
Highlights of the Program
As of the 2018 cohort, NDIGD has hosted 125 fellows from 35 countries. 68 have been women, 57 have been men. The youngest fellow NDIGD has ever hosted was 21, while the oldest was 36, with an average age of 29. From 2014–2018:
- 125 fellows have graduated from the MWF program at the University of Notre Dame.
- 35 countries from Sub-Saharan Africa have been represented in the MWF program at Notre Dame. These include Angola; Burkina Faso; Burundi; Cameroon; Chad; Cote d’Ivoire; the Democratic Republic of the Congo; Ethiopia; Ghana; Guinea; Kenya; Lesotho; Liberia; Madagascar; Malawi; Mali; Mauritania; Mauritius; Mozambique; Namibia; Niger; Nigeria; Rwanda; Sao Tome and Principe; Senegal; Sierra Leone; South Africa; South Sudan; Sudan; Swaziland; Tanzania; Togo; Uganda; Zambia; and Zimbabwe.
- $1.1 million in investment has been brought into Notre Dame from government, corporations, foundations, and private donors for the MWF program.
- 27 unique faculty have been involved in the MWF program at Notre Dame.
- Notre Dame's Mandela Washington fellows have received 11,850+ collective hours of combined classroom time and one-on-one mentoring.
- Notre Dame's Mandela Washington fellows have spent 7,300+ hours on small business, corporate, civic, and non-profit site visits.
- Notre Dame's Mandela Washington fellows have spent 2,2987+ hours on cultural exchange site visits.
- Notre Dame's Mandela Washington fellows have spent 1,600+ hours on service learning activities.
The Business of Good: Young Africa Rising
In 2015, Bisk, one of the largest online education facilitators, partnered with Notre Dame to capture the entrepreneurial journey of the 2015 class of Mandela Washington Fellows with “The Business of Good: Young Africa Rising,” a 41-minute documentary.
The film features several fellows and their educational and cultural ventures; site visits to great American cities and companies; day-to-day leadership activities of the fellows around the Notre Dame campus; and even the Presidential Summit held in Washington, D.C. The full documentary and bonus videos can be found at thebusinessofgoodfilm.com.