Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders

2020 MWF – YAL Leadership in Business Institute 

Due to the current global health situation, and with the safety and well-being of Fellows and Partners as the highest priority, the U.S. Department of State has postponed the 2020 Mandela Washington Fellowship until summer 2021.  Applicants for the 2020 Fellowship who were selected as Finalists and Alternates have been notified that they are eligible to defer their participation until summer 2021.
This is an emerging situation, and we encourage you to continue to check the Mandela Washington Fellowship’s website periodically for future program updates.
IREX, the cooperative agency that implements the Mandela Washington Fellowship, and The University of Texas at Austin are operating and open globally, and our team members are working virtually.  

Please contact Annette Whatley with any additional questions.  The Fellowship Team at IREX may be reached at

Explore the UT Austin MWF – YAL Leadership in Business Institute

Since 2014, The University of Texas at Austin has hosted the prestigious Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders (MWF-YAL), the flagship program of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). Through this initiative, young African leaders are gaining the skills and connections they need to accelerate their own career trajectories and contribute more robustly to strengthening democratic institutions, spurring economic growth, and enhancing peace and security in Africa.

During their six weeks on the Forty Acres, 25 emerging entrepreneurs from Sub-Saharan Africa are immersed in a world-class Business and Entrepreneurship Institute developed in collaboration with the McCombs School of Business. This dynamic and holistic institute, made up of six components listed below, allows these young professionals to develop the skills needed to shape the future of their continent—and the world.

MWF-YAL is a program of the United States Government. It is administered by the U.S. Department of State and is supported by IREX.

Academic Coursework

The academic portion of the program, led by McCombs Business School Faculty John Doggett, will help Fellows improve their ability to assess new business opportunities and grow their companies. Fellows will be taught to understand what they must do during the opportunity identification phase for new products and services to accurately reflect the real tasks and costs of starting a new enterprise or product line. 

The challenges of running and growing an entrepreneurial company will be explored.  Since growth is a choice, Fellows will look at the trade-offs between aggressive growth and what venture capitalists call "lifestyle" businesses, as well as to look at the importance of identifying opportunities for new product development and responding to competitive threats. Time will be spent meeting with and getting mentoring from peers in a wide range of organizations in Austin both within and outside of the Fellows’ respective fields.

Key themes:  

  • How to use the Customer Discovery Method to continually refine your business model 
  • The importance of innovation in every aspect of your business 
  • How to grow your company in a capital-constrained environment
  • Why a top-down management approach is a recipe for stagnant growth
  • How to pitch your business to customers, partners, employees and investors 
  • How to empower your employees to treat your customers like valued members of their family 


Site Visits to Local Businesses

Experiential learning components such as site visits help bring classroom sessions to life. These visits will provide Fellows with insight into how Americans deal with challenges, both successfully and unsuccessfully.  Fellows should also view these visits as introductions to a broad network of Americans whose work might be applicable to Fellows’ home countries.

Example site visits include:


Leadership Training

Fellows across all Institutes will participate in both Common Leadership Curriculum (CLC) sessions and the Leadership Development and Action Plan (LDAP).  The CLC provides a common leadership experience that instills a shared language and foundational knowledge for all Fellows to build upon as they return to their home countries. 


Community Service 

Community service activities are designed to expose Fellows to America’s diverse service culture and highlight American approaches to addressing local and larger societal challenges.  These activities also allow Fellows the opportunity to meet and collaborate with Americans from a range of backgrounds and interests in working toward a common goal. 

Example community service activities include:


Cultural & Social Activities

The Mandela Washington Fellowship promotes mutual understanding.  While academic and leadership activities form the basis of the program, cultural and social interactions with Americans are essential for fostering meaningful, enduring understanding between Fellows and Americans.

Example activities include:


Contact the UT Austin MWF-YAL Program Team:

Annette Whatley
Program Coordinator, Global Customized Programs