2016 Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders

Ambassador Miller
  • 2016 Mandela Washington Fellows
  • Members of the Press
  • Ladies and Gentlemen

Good morning. Thank you for joining us today as we introduce the 26 Batswana leaders who will participate in the prestigious Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders in 2016.

In 2010, President Barack Obama launched the Young African Leaders Initiative – known as “YALI” – to support young Africans as they cultivate a prosperous and secure Africa. The initiative includes a fellowship component, and for the past two years, 500 young Africans from across the continent had the opportunity to study in the United States and develop their skills as the next generation of leaders in civil society, business and government.

This year, President Obama has opened the fellowship to 1,000 talented Africans, and the response here in Botswana was overwhelming. Over 700 Batswana applied for the opportunity from all corners of this remarkable country.

After a rigorous, months-long selection process, we are here with the 26 talented, driven, and dedicated young leaders selected for the Fellowship this year.

The leaders selected to represent Botswana will participate in a six-week academic residency at U.S. universities including the University of California at Berkeley, Purdue University in Indiana and Dartmouth College in New Hampshire – to name just a few. The program includes leadership seminars, mentoring and networking sessions, as well as community service opportunities and cultural outings.

After the academic component, Fellows will unite in Washington, D.C. for a Presidential Summit to interact with senior U.S. government, business, civic, and government leaders, including President Barack Obama. In addition, two of our Batswana Fellows have been invited to participate in a professional internship following the Summit.

But the fellowship is not just about going to the U.S. – Fellows are chosen because they are poised to make a real difference back home and across the continent.

Upon return, Fellows have numerous opportunities, to do just that, including internships, professional mentorships, travel grants to speak at high-level conferences, and funding assistance. I am proud of our 2014 and 2015 Mandela Washington Fellowship alumni who created the BW YALI network, a registered nonprofit organization that coordinates alumni projects.  The organization works with the Ministry of Education and Skills Development to hold workshops to empower young teachers with leadership skills and is implementing a program to provide business mentorship to young entrepreneurs.  And, in the coming months, alumni will establish a Wi-Fi enabled “YALI Park” in Gaborone to help youth network and gain leadership skills.

What a privilege to present these 26 Batswana leaders today. We expect great things from them during the fellowship and for years to come.

What an impressive group of young leaders. We at the U.S. Embassy feel privileged to be working with our family of Mandela Washington Fellows, and we look forward to working with them to help build an even stronger, more prosperous and resourceful Africa.

Finally, to the Fellows, you are the most powerful generation this world has ever known. The world will benefit from your leadership. We are counting on you to work together to energize your communities, propel forward this nation, this continent, this world with your power and optimism. Change the future with your enthusiasm, initiative, and limitless energy. We couldn’t be prouder of you. Onward!