Americans Expand Opportunities Through International Exchange with Africa

The U.S. Department of State and IREX are pleased to announce the 102 Americans selected to participate in the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders Reciprocal Exchange Component in 2019.

Through the Reciprocal Exchange component of the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, Americans travel to Africa to build upon strategic partnerships and professional connections developed with young African leaders during their Mandela Washington Fellowship in the United States.  This Reciprocal Exchange encourages U.S. experts and leaders to collaborate with African Fellows on critical issues, such as promoting peace, stability, and economic prosperity, while contributing to U.S. public diplomacy efforts and strengthening mutual understanding between the United States and Africa.

Collaborative project proposals are submitted by the American participant and African Mandela Washington Fellow, and selected through a competitive process. In 2019, 102 Americans from 30 states and the District of Columbia will travel to 34 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa to complete projects with their collaborating Mandela Washington Fellow that address a wide array of global and local challenges across the United States and Africa.

Reciprocal Exchanges also create unique business opportunities for American Awardees, allowing them to share successful American business models while being exposed to new African markets.  In 2018, Greg Milano, a disability rights advocate from Berkeley, CA, traveled to Kenya for a Reciprocal Exchange project providing bicycles adapted for use by children with disabilities (also known as adaptive cycles).  The impact of his Reciprocal Exchange experience “can’t be understated,” Greg says.  As interest in the use of adaptive cycles grows abroad, he anticipates that new markets for American products will emerge.  “[My company] now has a new market in Kenya for selling and distributing the kinds of adaptive cycles which can’t be manufactured locally.”  Thanks to his experience on the Reciprocal Exchange, Greg is better positioned to take advantage of this opportunity.

The Mandela Washington Fellowship, the flagship program of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), empowers young African leaders through academic coursework, leadership training, mentoring, networking, professional opportunities, and local community engagement.  By the end of summer 2019, nearly 4,400 young leaders from every country in Sub-Saharan Africa will have participated in the Fellowship since 2014.  Since its inception in 2015, 209 Reciprocal Exchange projects have been awarded to 215 American professionals, representing 35 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, for travel to 41 African countries.

The Mandela Washington Fellowship is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State with funding provided by the U.S. Government and administered by IREX.  For more information about the Mandela Washington Fellowship, visit and join the conversation online using #YALI2019 and #ReciprocalExchange.

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