By Mike Hove
The annual prestigious Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders is set to kick off next month.
A number of Zimbabweans have been selected for this program and will be studying at several different institutions in the United States. Last year there were 60 fellows from Zimbabwe.
Nkanyeziyethu Malunga, the founder of GANU, a fashion textile company based in Bulawayo, is one of the young Zimbabweans set to participate in this year’s program.
Malunga, who is happy about being granted an opportunity to be part of the program, says she hopes to sharpen her skills in fashion design and related activities.
She always works hand in hand with elderly people in Zimbabwe.
“In my opinion what made them select me for this fellowship is the beautiful fashionable clothing I produce while working alongside the elderly. Their knowledge on the textile industry has not only elevated the quality of work I produce, but it has also helped me produce amazing clothes for the disabled.”
The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders is the brainchild of former United States president Barack Obama.
The program started in 2010 as the Young African Leaders Initiative before rebranding to the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders.
It is the flagship program of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) that empowers young people through academic coursework, leadership training, and networking.
In 2017, the Fellowship will provide up to 1,000 outstanding young leaders from Sub-Saharan Africa with the opportunity to hone their skills at a U.S. college or university with support for professional development after they return home.
The fellows, who are between the ages of 25 and 35, have established records of accomplishment in promoting innovation and positive impact in their organizations, institutions, communities, and countries.
In 2016, fellows represented all 49 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. They also represent diversity across the continent as 66 fellows identified as having a disability, thirty percent came from rural areas or towns of fewer than 100,000 people, and fifty percent of fellows were women.
Each Mandela Washington fellow takes part in a six-week Academic and Leadership Institute at a U.S. college or university in one of three tracks: Business and Entrepreneurship, Civic Leadership, or Public Management.
Following the academic component of the Fellowship, the fellows visit Washington, D.C., for a Summit featuring networking and panel discussions with U.S. leaders from the public, private, and non-profit sectors.
One hundred selected fellows remain in the United States to participate in a six-week Professional Development Experience with U.S. non-governmental organizations, private companies, and governmental agencies that relate to their professional interests and goals.
Upon returning to their home countries, fellows continue to build the skills they have developed during their time in the United States through support from U.S. embassies, four Regional Leadership Centers, the YALI Network, and customized programming from USAID, the Department of State, and affiliated partners.