Launched in 2014, the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders is the flagship program of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI)  and embodies the United States’ commitment to invest in the future of Africa. YALI was created in 2010 to support young Africans as they spur growth and prosperity, strengthen democratic governance, and enhance peace and security across Africa. Since its inception, nearly 4,400 young leaders have participated as Mandela Washington Fellows and had a positive impact on more than 45 million people across Africa

In the first year of the program alone, the U.S. Department of State received nearly 50,000 applications for only 500 placements across the U.S. (including 25 placements at Notre Dame). In 2017, applications peaked at 64,000 for 1,000 placements across the U.S.

Each summer, the Pulte Institute (formerly the Notre Dame Initiative for Global Development) has been privileged to interact with 25 of the continent’s best and brightest each summer. In the first five years of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, the Pulte Institute was classified as a Business and Entrepreneurship Institution and primarily hosted business people and executives; lawyers; information and communications technology (ICT) experts; educators; and those involved in various parts of the healthcare and STEM sectors in its MWF cohorts. In 2019, the Pulte Institute was reclassified as a Leadership in Business Institute. The Pulte Institute has hosted a diverse range of Fellows in the past, including a filmmaker, a news anchor, a publisher, a printer, an academic dean, a naturopath, a shoemaker, a special education teacher, and a radio host, among others.

Although the faces, personalities, and backgrounds change with each new cohort, the invigorating and inspiring entrepreneurial spirit the fellows bring to campus served as a common, uniting thread between every group. Over the years, the Pulte Institute has hosted fellows with true “Fighting Irish” spirits for social causes including gender equality and empowerment; financial inclusion; education; healthcare; people with disabilities; government reform; climate change and renewable energy; access to technology; and other causes.

In 2014, the YALI Regional Leadership Centers (RLCs) were created at higher education institutions across Sub-Saharan Africa to serve YALI network members. The first RLCs opened in 2015 and today there are four primary centers and two satellite campuses, all of which offer high quality training, mentoring, and networking support to a greater number of young leaders than can be reached through the Mandela Washington Fellowship.

In 2015, the Pulte Institute helped send Notre Dame professors Marc Hardy and Angela Logan, both faculty in the Mendoza College of Business, to the East Africa RLC, led by Deloitte, in Nairobi, Kenya. The two subsequently taught courses at the West Africa RLC in Accra, Ghana.

Highlights of the Program

As of the 2019 cohort, the Pulte Institute has hosted 150 fellows from 36 countries. 82 have been women, 68 have been men. From 2014–2019:

  • 175 fellows have graduated from the MWF program at the University of Notre Dame.
  • 38 countries from Sub-Saharan Africa have been represented in the MWF program at Notre Dame. These include Angola; Benin; Botswana; Burkina Faso; Burundi; Cabo Verde; Cameroon; Chad; Cote d’Ivoire; the Democratic Republic of the Congo; eSwatini; Ethiopia; Ghana; Guinea; Kenya; Lesotho; Liberia; Madagascar; Malawi; Mali; Mauritania; Mauritius; Mozambique; Namibia; Niger; Nigeria; Rwanda; Sao Tome and Principe; Senegal; Sierra Leone; South Africa; South Sudan; Sudan; Tanzania; Togo; Uganda; Zambia; and Zimbabwe.
  • $1.1 million in investment has been brought into Notre Dame from government, corporations, foundations, and private donors for the MWF program.
  • 27 unique faculty have been involved in the MWF program at Notre Dame.
  • Notre Dame's Mandela Washington fellows have received 14,750+ collective hours of combined classroom time and one-on-one mentoring.
  • Notre Dame's Mandela Washington fellows have spent 9,100+ hours on small business, corporate, civic, and non-profit site visits.
  • Notre Dame's Mandela Washington fellows have spent 2,800+ hours on cultural exchange site visits.
  • Notre Dame's Mandela Washington fellows have spent 2,000+ hours on service learning activities.

The Business of Good: Young Africa Rising

In 2015, Bisk, one of the largest online education facilitators, partnered with Notre Dame to capture the entrepreneurial journey of the 2015 class of Mandela Washington Fellows with “The Business of Good: Young Africa Rising,” a 41-minute documentary.

The film features several fellows and their educational and cultural ventures; site visits to great American cities and companies; day-to-day leadership activities of the fellows around the Notre Dame campus; and even the Presidential Summit held in Washington, D.C. The full documentary and bonus videos can be found at thebusinessofgoodfilm.com.