Fellowships and Internships Available in USA for South Africans

Applications for the prestigious international Mandela Washington Fellowship for 2015 are open until November 5 this year, the United States Embassy in South Africa has announced. There are also internship opportunities available & bursaries to study abroad.

Previously the programme was known as the Washington Fellowship but was renamed this year by President Barack Obama, in honour of the iconic President Nelson Mandela. It is considered to be a flagship programme that symbolizes and personifies President Obama’s commitment to initiate continued investment in the future of the African continent as a whole.

There are 500 fellowships available, and 100 of the successful “fellows” will be able to participate in internships, making this one of the most exciting bursaries available.

Mandela Washington Fellowships

While Washington Fellowships are available to all “young African leaders” from all parts of Africa, some of the most successful “fellows” to have been awarded fellowships in the past have come from South Africa. Celebrities, Faith Mangope (eTV), Candice Potgieter (CEO of the KZN Science Centre), and iNkosi Sbonelo Mkhize (Zulu chief) were all fellows this year (2014). Other less known participants were also involved in the fellowship this year, many of whom worked in rural communities (including several villages situated in the Eastern Cape and in Mpumalanga) where they could make an appreciable difference.

The way it works is that a total of 500 “young African leaders” get to spend a total of six weeks at a top United States university studying either:

Business and entrepreneurship
Civic leadership
Public management
bursaries to study abroad
study abroad scholarships
studying abroad
study abroad for free
study and work abroad

After completing their studies the fellows go to Washington, DC where President Obama hosts a summit that is also attended by government leaders, business leaders, and leaders that come from various NGO communities in the USA.

According to the US President’s office, the Fellowship has been designed to foster and encourage passion, confidence in the interests of the commitment of a new generation of leaders. It also offers participants a unique opportunity to meet some of the most dedicated American leaders who work in the community and report to President Obama, and share their ideas and approaches.


Internships are available to 100 of the fellows who stay on in the US for an extra six to eight weeks after the summit. The internships are varied, and include positions in private, public and in non-profit sectors in different parts of the country. They involve professional mentoring, and there is more than US$1-million in the form of seed money available for new initiatives and to grow brand new businesses.

While the organisers say that they do try to match fellows carefully with organisations, often the choice is based on broad interests rather than specific, as the internship opportunities are not intended to mimic experiences fellows will have at home. Instead it is intended that the experience will provide additional ideas, skills and even networks that they will be able to use later in life, to further their careers.

“The Fellowship internship is designed to offer a new perspective on the Fellow’s current position and prepare them for sector-wide leadership as they progress in their careers.”

Opportunities include all the sectors covered by South Africa’s SETAs, and it doesn’t end here. The United States Government will be offering an additional 200 professional placements and internships in major private-sector companies and in global non-government organisations. Millions of dollars worth of grants will be made available.

Who Can Apply for These Fellowships and Internships?

While the people who are accepted for this amazing initiative come from all walks of life and from very varied backgrounds, all applicants should be between 25 and 35 years of age. They must also have strong leadership skills and must be able to illustrate a good track record.

People who have been accepted previously include those who own small businesses, as well as environmental activists and those who are active in terms of education reform. Requirements are clearly stated on the Young African Leaders’ website.

President Obama said. “The Mandela Washington Fellowship will challenge preconceived ideas and open new horizons for those who embrace the experience.”