From July 23 to August 5, the U.S. Africa Institute will be hosting the 2022 Mandela Washington Fellows in Los Angeles for the first time since its establishment by former President Barack Obama.
Dr. Tadios Belay, an Ethiopian refugee and president of the U.S. Africa Institute, started this organization to create a strategic bridge between Africa and the United States through education and exchange programs.
“There’s a gap in terms of a partnership between U.S. universities and African institutions,” explained Dr. Belay, “so we create a number of projects and academic support programs to bridge the two together.”
Just some of the programs the U.S. Africa Institute provides are a Democracy, Human Rights, and Rule of Law Project in South Sudan, as well as a virtual exchange program on Faculty Development in Kenya and Niger.
Hosting the Mandela Washington fellows is now being added to the organization’s list of successes.
The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders is the flagship program of the U.S. Government’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). Since 2014, nearly 5,100 young leaders from every country in Sub-Saharan Africa have participated in the Fellowship. The Fellows, between the ages of 25 and 35, are accomplished leaders and have established records of promoting innovation and positive impact in their communities and countries.
In 2022, the Fellowship has worked to 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.
“This program was established by President Obama almost eight or nine years ago, however, the fellows have never made it to Los Angeles,” said Belay.
“This is not only a historical moment for the U.S. Africa Institute, but also for city of Los Angeles and the whole country. We have a significant number of Black immigrants coming, and we have a significant number of African American communities, here. This is an opportunity for our communities to better connect with the continent from the best minds of the continent.”
While visiting L.A., the fellows will participate in a number of activities including touring Black-led and owned businesses and organizations as well as visiting different academic institutions, agencies and even the California African American Museum. The Mandela Washington Fellows will take leadership courses.
“We’ll also be introducing them to different professionals within Los Angeles that they can network and connect with,” shared the president of the organization.
Dr. Tadios Belay continued with, “U.S. African Institute is all about connecting our communities to the continent of Africa. There is a lot of disconnection between even Africans here, including African Americans and the Black people in Africa. Hosting the fellows is a huge opportunity for our organization, and our community to be able to gain community power. The U.S. Africa Institute is excited to meet these young African leaders, and hopefully, start the process of touching countries we’re not working with.”