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The government of the United States has announced that about 100 Nigerians have been selected to take part in this year’s Mandela Fellowship. The fellowship programme, named after the late South African President Nelson Mandela, is part of President Barrack Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), which was conceived as a means of driving investment in the development of Africa’s leadership potential for the future.

The beneficiaries of this year’s fellowship were selected from a much larger number of applicants from Nigeria and the African continent. Having emerged as beneficiaries through what was a competitive process involving tens of thousands of entrants from Nigeria and other parts of African, they are to undergo a six-week study in civic leadership, business and entrepreneurship and public management in selected universities across the United States. It is believed that taking these courses would help improve the leadership abilities of what is already a talented crop of entrepreneurs, public servants and development activists.

Since its inception in 2014, 86 Nigerians have taken part in the Mandela Fellowship. On the list of beneficiaries for this year are some rather fairly well-known names; former beauty queen (Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria 2000), Dr. Matilda Kerry who has worked to improve the lives of underprivileged children through the George Kerry Life Foundation; Adebola Williams, co-founder of Red Media; and Otto Orondaam, founder of Slum2school, a large volunteer driven Non-Profit Organization (NGO) among others. It is expected that the training which they undergo will help to encourage leadership and entrepreneurship in the sectors within which these beneficiaries operate while spurring others on, especially intending entrepreneurs and public service workers to contribute to economic growth and the strengthening of democratic institutions.

The Mandela Fellowship is specifically tailored to recognise the role being played by young entrepreneurs aged 25 to 35 in bringing about positive change in the economies of African countries. The number of people selected to take part in this fellowship programme in the current year is reported to be about double the number of the two preceding years, probably reflecting an eagerness on the part of the Obama administration to expand the reach and impact of the programme.

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This article was first published on 9th May 2016


Ikenna Nwachukwu holds a bachelor's degree in Economics from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He loves to look at the world through multiple lenses- economic, political, religious and philosophical- and to write about what he observes in a witty, yet reflective style.

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