By John Ikani
The United States Mission in Nigeria has selected 56 young ‘changemakers’ for the Mandela Washington Fellowship (MWF) for 2022.
The Mission has also selected 16 alumni from the Mandela Washington Fellowship cohort from 2021 to participate in this year’s Alumni Enrichment Institute (AEI).
Launched in 2014, the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders is the flagship exchange programme of the US government-sponsored Young African Leaders Initiative created to further the United States’ commitment to investing in the future of Africa.
Each year, the US Missions across sub-Saharan Africa select accomplished leaders who have established records of promoting innovation and positive impact in their countries.
This year, 72 young Nigerians who have demonstrated the capacity to make a positive impact in their societies through projects and programmes were selected out of the many that applied.
Since 2014, over 5,000 young leaders from every country in Sub-Saharan Africa have participated in the MWF with 456 Fellows hailing from Nigeria. Thus far, Nigeria remains the largest contributor of Fellows each year.
A statement on Thursday by the US embassy in Abuja said this summer, the fellows would travel to the United States to participate in six-week leadership institutes studying business, civic engagement or public management at US colleges and universities.
“After their programme, fellows will attend the annual Mandela Washington Fellowship Summit where fellows, US government officials and representatives from businesses and organisations with interest in Africa engage in high-level sessions and workshops.
“After completing both the leadership programmes in the institutes and summit, fellows are eligible to participate in several MWF alumni opportunities, such as the AEI that builds on the skills and connections developed during their summer exchange programme,” the statement noted.
Commenting on the significance of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, US Ambassador to Nigeria Mary Beth Leonard Stated that , “the United States is dedicated to investing in the next generation of young Nigerian leaders reinforcing the strong partnership between both nations. The vision, courage, and drive to innovate of Mandela Washington Fellows will help shape the future of Nigeria for many generations to come.”
Addressing the seventy Nigerian participants in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, the US Chargé d’Affaires in Nigeria, Kathleen FitzGibbon, charged the Fellows to remain as good Ambassadors of their countries as they journey to the US for the programme’ and use their time in the United States to learn and interact with their host communities.
“So what I want you to get out of this six weeks programme is this, in America we believe everybody can make a difference in everybody else’s life. All of the things you are doing is going to change somebody else’s life, we are investing in you because you are our first multiplier and when you get back, there’s going be so many opportunities, so we are hoping also that when you come back is not that you are just going to make a difference only at the national level but also at the state level”.
The Counselor for Public Affairs, US Embassy, Abuja, Mr. Adnan Siddiqi, said the fellowship which serves as a tool for social interaction was part of the United States government’s approach to uniting young people around the world, therefore the fellows to use the opportunity given to them in a positive way.
“Use your opportunity to make friends with Americans, get to know our country a little bit, but also tell Americans Nigerians story and tell them about the culture the society and the economy, Because we need to learn from you as well. It is very much a two way exchange, we look forward to having that exchange, you are not just smart people, you are also people that want to engage with the rest of the world and that what we are looking for and that’s what Nigeria needs.”