The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, begun in 2014, is the flagship program of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) that empowers young people through academic coursework, leadership training, and networking. In 2019, the Fellowship will provide 700 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 – Mandela Washington Fellowship YALI Scholarship Ethiopia.

I had a chance to participate in a Scholarship application tip discussion that was conducted on a Telegram group called Mandela Washington Fellowship 2020 application Tips Ethiopia, which was administered by helpful Ethiopians who were Mandela Washington Fellowship winners and here are some of the tips that I found to be helpful. I would like to thank them very much for their help and here is the summary of the discussion.

You need to understand the Scholarship Program

1. Go to the YALI link and understand the program first.
-what is the program?
– what are the main criteria?
-who are the main aim targets?
– what is it important to do?
-what do u want to do with it?

2. Be a member of YALI face to face and take more tips from there as well.

3. Read the application instructions before you start so that you can get a clear understanding of all the points.

4. Choose between the track which you are going to apply between the 3.
– Business & Entrepreneurship
– Civic Leadership
– Public Management

General tips for the application

1. You should understand the criteria very well and you should be a person who is actually doing something in your community not only PLANNING TO DO. (A proven record of leadership)

2. You should know your self better before you start writing. You should sit down and write about the things that you are doing in your community, list as many as possible and focus on the main thing that you are doing which is affecting the community.

3. You should be honest about your work and express them with GREAT words. No matter what you are doing if it is affecting someone’s life, it means you are a leader.

4. Focus on the “present activities” rather than focusing on the future only. Don’t bombard the application with words only saying” I plan to do”

5. Focus on the essay questions, When you answer these questions tackle them individually.

Application Information for 2019 Mandela Washington Fellowship

The 2019 Mandela Washington Fellowship Application closing date is October 10, 2019 > Then From October – November 2019 (Applications will be Reviewed) > From December 2019 – February 2020(Semifinalists will be interviewed by local U.S. Embassies & consulates) > Late March 2020 ( Applicants will be notified of their status) > May 2020 (Visa processing and Pre-departure orientation will be provided for Finalists) > Mid – June 2020 (Fellowship begins in the United States).

The most important part of the application – ESSAY Writing

When you write the essay the works that you are doing right now might seem big and small at the same time. So first focus on the major task that you are engaged with, especially the work you want help with. Then try to understand how it will work out if you choose this line of work?

General tips to apply for the Mandela Washington Fellowship are :

– Be honest, don’t event anything u are not or haven’t done
– Don’t be too shy to highlight your achievements. Small or big, tell your story and highlight it well.
– Whatever story you share, frame it in a way that shows how your leadership journey is bringing something to the community.

Always remember that they are looking for proven leaders that are already doing something for their community, big or small. They don’t want to create a leader. They want a leader who wants to improve his/her skills and build a network. And doing something for your community is something Americans appreciate a lot. So whether you are in business, public management or in civic engagement, link your story with what it brings to the community.You can apply whether your non-profit company is already created or not. But you have to make sure through the different question that the reader understands the following:

1. What is the challenge you want to tackle through your work?
2. Why it is important for you?
3. What are you currently doing to make that happen?

When they say they want “proven leaders” it doesn’t necessarily mean you are at a leading position. It’s more about the act of leading. Example: if your aim is to resolve the street children issue in ur town and you are currently helping one or several children find a place to sleep in at night or trying to talk with their parents so that they go back home etc… it is being a leader. Being a leader is acting towards resolving an issue that you see in your community. Not necessarily being a founder of a Non-Governmental Organization.

Question of 2019 YALI, Mandela Washington Fellowship  

The First question this year is “Please give a brief description of your professional background and current work, including any specific professional accomplishments with the last year. Why have you chosen this work?

In your answer to this question you have to make sure:

1. Your answer to all parts of the question: Background + current work + specific accomplishments + why you have chosen this work. Since you have a word limit, please chose what’s most relevant to tell. For example, if your main activity is around climate change, but on the side, you work with orphans and also help domestic violence victims, don’t try to give detail of everything. Detail one of them only and for the other activities you do, if they are good to tell, one sentence is enough to say ” In my free time I also do this and that”. But don’t confuse the reader by detailing everything.

Throughout the application, it’s important to make the reader get to know you more and more. So you have to frame it all around one main profile. You don’t need to hide the other things you do, but just don’t jump from one activity to another activity.

Professional background

– If you have always had the same job and it’s your current job which is also your dream job around which u are creating your profile, it’s going to be easy. Tell how many years you have been doing this, with which education credential and the impact you have created with your work.

If you have changed careers describe

1. What you have been doing before and for how long.

2. What you are doing now and since when have you been doing it.
3. Why you have made a change in Career.

The WHY is important all the time so that they know there is a purpose in everything that you do and that you are not just applying to this fellowship because others are doing it. It would be nice to frame your accomplishments in terms of impact. For example, a doctor could give an example of a time where he re-imagined the way his team works so that they can save more lives at the ER. Or a business owner can give an example of how he created a service or a tool that has changed the way people don’t waste time while waiting for the taxi. Or a blogger can say how one of his articles reached thousands of people and created awareness on child abuse. It must be something you have done (you are at the origin of the idea and you have been part of implementing the idea) and it has changed something in the community.

First, without focusing on the word limit you write everything down. Then you proofread your essay to remove repetitive ideas. Then repeat the process and focus on your sentences. Find synonyms that have the same idea but different in wording etc. And this can also help you “perfect” your speech skills too. You can see it this way;  when u answer this question first list all the works you have done, accomplishments and why you choose this work on a rough paper. Then chose works that can make you stand out. Then chose the best sentences that describe your work efficiently.

It is also very important to start your application soon, because the first time you write your essay it may be too long or not as well written as you might have wanted it to be. So when you review it some other time you will have a better critical view of your own writing and you can improve it. Also please please please proofread your essay, your application must not contain any “u” for “you”, “gonna” for “going to” etc. Read it many times and ask someone else to review it for you.

Another very important part of the application is selecting which track to apply for:

* Are you an activist? Do you advocate for youth empowerment, education, health? Are you working towards empowering women? Are you fighting against human injustice? Are you doing anything to benefit your community or tackling societal problems/ challenges? If so your best fit is civic leadership.

* Do you own a business? Or do you have an idea for a business? Does this business or business idea have an impact related to SDG’s ( sustainable development goals)? Do you have or plan to start a social enterprise? Then your best fit is business and entrepreneurship.

* Are you working for a nonprofit organization? Do you own a non-profit? Are you addressing social issues? Are you involved in policy-making? Are you providing public services? Do you make reforms? If any of the above describes you apply for public management.

If none of the above things listed are within your scope; you don’t need to worry! Just think about what you want to gain from the fellowship that should direct you to which track you want to apply for. While answering your questions make sure it is cohesive with one another, Like if you were to read all your essay answers conservatively without the questions, it should be able to give you and the reader an idea about yourself.

Draft all your essay answers, leave it for a couple of days and review it again. You need to make sure that you have enough time before the deadline, repeat the process review it again – this process will give you a new perspective. Thus you will be able to come up with the best essay you can write.

What qualities do you consider key for a leader?

Think of someone you consider a leader.

-Why do you consider them a leader?
-What qualities do they have?
-What strikes you as most outstanding of those qualities?

One great quality of a leader is the ability to learn from mistakes or using our failures to our advantage. When you think of a setback, failure or mistake, please bear in mind what you have been writing in the above essay questions. Because your story needs coherence. And the mistake should be something that helped you to do things differently now. Try to connect the mistake or setback you have been faced before with one of your leadership traits now (like patience, resilience, risk-taking and so on). You have to describe what you did wrong then your learning process and finally how you grow as an individual or professional.

Now, why do you think that is the most important? A self-reflecting question that sort of mirrors your values. So, have you been in a situation where you have had to apply this in your leadership or daily life? You will need to Share that, this question has two components the first one being what is the quality of a leader which you say the most significant in a leader. Second, how can you apply it while working with others? So this quality Should be a quality which will help you work with others.

They want to see how you have used that leadership quality to create change. For example, if you answer listening to others and communication, they want to know about a time that you have given your time to listen to people when things were difficult. If you say negotiation they want to see how you were able to negotiate in a difficult situation.

When they ask this question, all they want to know is that if you have good qualities when working with others. Mandela Washington fellowship is about leadership, in your essays show how you are bringing change. The challenges you are trying to solve. Your ideas should display a leadership quality and as already mentioned passion is vital so do show it in your essays.

How do you react when you encounter different perspectives other than yours?

Think personality, gender, age, social status, level of education, ethnicity, race, disability, political inclination, religion etc, Should you get into the program, you will see a lot that is different from what may be a norm in Ethiopia. So this question is about how you will manage yourself and the diversity around you when you join the fellowship scholarship.

Your answer should:

– Describe a time where you worked with people of different perspectives.
– Describe strategies you have used to navigate this situation.
– Describe lessons you have learned from the challenge.

So think about a time when you have encountered such a challenge,  it could be at high school, at college or at work. Think of means and methods you used to overcome it. They would like to know how you relate with people that are different from you, how do you adapt or cope up. You have to give an example of a time or situation when you had to deal with people of a different background, or race what did you do.

The same when you are selected how will you manage to stay for 6 weeks with people of different backgrounds, characters and more and still make the best out of it. Some of the things that you will see might be a different scenario from what you used to at home. You might see a difference among other Fellows as well as U.S. culture and citizens but you have to be open to everything and try to learn the culture, norm, and view of different people. This will help you learn more about Africa and the U.S.

What skills and knowledge do you hope to gain from this fellowship

Have you read about how this fellowship is different? What does it provide? Once you understand that bit, it becomes easy to answer what you want to gain. You cant ask for something that they can’t provide for you. What is your gap in leadership and what knowledge will it need. Think of the gaps in your leadership skills and correlate your answers with what they can provide in their fellowship. You can write about long term impacts and how these can help you improve your work: Networking – The US might be the best in your area of expertise; Leadership skills, community engagement, Volunteer recruiting, To learn the American culture, Innovative ideas, To work on a regional level and make an impact, To learn from experiences from fellows from other countries, Community service, Academic coursework, Innovative solutions, Exposure, Do you think it will help you to look for creative solutions? To transfer the knowledge you will gain to the youth around you after coming back? Mentorship, to learn from other fellows who might be facing the same challenges in other countries and to engage with them to look for solutions? To shift from theories to Real-world applications, To learn from the culture of Volunteerism? Grant writing, etc.

After you gain those skills through the fellowship, how will you apply it in the next 3 to 5 years?

This is to see if you have a clear vision in mind for your own leadership journey. You will need to state what you hope to accomplish and how the skills and knowledge you mentioned can help you achieve it. For example…In 5 years I plan to increase the number of mentors at Nolawi scholarship program to 50, but not only raise numbers but also use the knowledge and skill I will gain from the fellowship to train future mentors.

Mandela Washington Fellowship YALI Scholarship Ethiopia – Hope this gives you some tips about the Mandela Washington Fellowship Young African Leaders Initiative, you can also join the original Telegram group – Mandela Washington Fellowship 2020 Application Tips. You can find the application instructions and Frequently asked questions Here. You can also read’s recent scholarship article >>> Fully funded Obama Foundation scholarship at Columbia University, New York, United States of America