OPPORTUNITIES for leadership training for young African innovators

Written by Sophie B. (IMHER Research Assistant)
Edited by Andrew C. (IMHER Research Assistant)

SUMMARY: Every year, about 700 young African leaders go to American universities in mid-June for six-weeks. There, they learn about entrepreneurship, leadership, and organizational development; in the process, they build networks and mentoring relationships that they take back to their countries in order to further their work once at home. At Dartmouth College, the Dickey Center for International Understanding hosted 125 YALI scholars from 35 countries from 2014-2018. Several of these fellows have worked on menstrual health issues, and other young African innovators focused on these (and other) issues should consider applying to this program in the future.

YALI Mandela Fellows at Dartmouth (2018)

What is the YALI Mandela Program?

The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, is a core program of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), a program that empowers young leaders through several weeks of courses, leadership education, mentorship, and networking at American universities, culminating in a conference held in Washington, D.C.  The program was started in 2014 as an initiative of the U.S. State Department.

The Yali Mandela Program begins with a 6-week, all-expense-paid leadership institute held at a U.S. college or university (the university placement is made by YALI; Fellows do not select their location themselves.) Fellows apply for one of three tracks; Business, Civic Engagement or Public Management. The program includes academic workshops, site visits, networking opportunities, leadership training, community service, and cultural activities. All of fellows then reconvene in Washington, DC to participate in the Mandela Washington Fellowship Summit, with leaders from US public, private, and non-profit sectors. Afterwards, activities continue in home countries and regions to facilitate networking and mentorship opportunities. Seventy selected Fellows remain in the U.S. to participate in a four-week internship with U.S. NGOs, private corporations, or U.S. government agencies of professional relevance to their work at home.

Who are the Mandela Scholars?

Mandela Scholars vary in terms of their degree of work experience and the stage of their work and project. However, in general, successful YALI scholars tend to be Africans with:

  • Leadership and accomplishment in public service, business, or civic engagement
  • A demonstrated commitment to public or community service, volunteerism, or mentorship
  • Ability to work cooperatively in diverse groups and respect the opinions of others
  • Strong social and communication skills
  • Energetic, positive attitude
  • A commitment to return to Africa and apply leadership skills and training to benefit the applicant’s country/community after they return home

Requirements for applying to the program can viewed here. Some key requirements include that applicants must be African (not U.S. citizens or residents, or working for the U.S. government), between 21-35 years old, and proficient in reading, writing, and speaking in English, which is the language of instruction for the program.

What is Dartmouth’s role?

YALI Mandela Fellows do apply to one of three tracks, but they are placed at an American university without applying to a specific one. University cohorts are selected by the program in order to facilitate networking between and across regions and sectors.

YALI Fellows (Dartmouth 2017)

From 2014 – 2018, Dartmouth hosted about 25 YALI scholars each summer (the number of universities that host scholars varies each year but is usually between 25 and 40.)

Moving forward, Dartmouth’s focus will be on working with its past scholars to help move their projects to the next level.

What type of training do YALI leaders receive at Dartmouth?

Leaders come to Dartmouth for the business and entrepreneurship track and focus on lifting their projects to a level that is sustainable long term.

Yali Fellows working on preparing a presentation (Dartmouth 2017)

The program has focused on human-centered design and design thinking. Additionally, it works with fellows to develop a “pitch” to present projects in a compelling manner. Digital storytelling is a popular component of the Dartmouth program, as scholars learn to present their stories in compelling video narrative form.

Examples of YALI MHM projects at Dartmouth

Lucy Athieno
  • Lucy Athieno from Uganda (Eco-pads) – YALI 2014. Lucy went to Dartmouth with over three years working with youth with an emphasis on working with girls and women. Lucy is the creator of Eco-pads which are environmentally friendly and cost-effective sanitary kits created with the intention of helping to keep girls in school. Dartmouth’s YALI program helped Lucy develop her idea and business model for Eco-pads, ensuring that she was ready to launch the program when she returned home. Eco-pads has since been launched, and as of 2016 had provided over 45,000 girls with access to sanitary pads and trained over 150 teachers and community members to be menstrual hygiene educators.
Hyasintha Ntuyeko
  • Hyasintha Ntuyeko from Tanzania (Kasole Secrets / Hedhi Salama) – YALI 2015.  Hyasintha is a telecom engineer who is also the founder and director of Kasole Secrets, a company that develops organic sanitary pads for women in Tanzania. Hyasintha also runs the Hedhi Salama (‘safe menstruation’) campaign and began the celebration of International Menstrual Hygiene day in Tanzania. Dartmouth’s YALI program helped her plan to expand her educational programs in order to reach and educate more people.
Grace Ningejeje
  • Grace Ningejeje from Burundi (Uplifting the Girl Child) – YALI 2017.  Grace went to Dartmouth in 2017 with more than 6 years of experience in the telecom industry, and a passion for empowering women and girl’s education. In 2017 YALI helped her develop and launch her nonprofit organization, Uplifting the Girl Child, which aims to keep girls in rural Burundi in school by teaching them about puberty and menstrual hygiene as well as distributing disposable sanitary pads. Uplifting the Girl Child also plans to start a program that teaches girls in schools how to make their own sanitary pads from locally available materials.

How to apply to the YALI Mandela Program

Applicants apply between September and October (the application closed for 2019 on October 12th.) Semi-finalists are interviewed by local U.S. embassies and consulates between December and February, and applicants are notified of the final results in late March.

Click here to learn more about how to apply to this program.