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 U.S. commitment to invest in the future of Africa. YALI was created in 2010 and supports young Africans as they spur economic growth and prosperity, strengthen democratic governance, and enhance peace and security across Africa. Since 2014, nearly 4,400 young leaders from every country in Sub-Saharan Africa have participated in the Mandela Washington Fellowship.
Due to the global COVID-19 pandemic and with the health, safety, and well-being of Fellows and Partners as the highest priority, the U.S. Department of State is planning a virtual Fellowship for 2021. While remaining in their home countries, Fellows will participate in virtual Leadership Institutes between June 21 and July 30, which will include leadership training, mentoring, and professional development.
After their Leadership Institutes, Fellows will participate in a virtual Summit. Additionally, up to 100 competitively selected Fellows will virtually engage in professional development with U.S. organizations in the public, private, or non-profit sector. Fellows can participate in Alumni Programming after their Fellowships to further build their professional skills and networks.
The Mandela Washington Fellowship is a program of 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 mandelawashingtonfellowship.org.
U.S. Embassy Pretoria is proud to announce that the following leaders will participate in the 2021 Mandela Washington Fellowship:
Khwezilokusa Earl Mohoang
Khwezilokusa Mohoang has more than seven years of experience in environmental management. He is currently an environmental officer at Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality in South Africa, where he focuses on environmental compliance and strategic planning. He has assisted third-year governance and political transformation students during their community service modules and various organizations advocating environmental awareness. Khwezilokusa is committed to environmental and sustainability advocacy and the empowerment of youth regarding governance and social responsibility. He holds a master?s degree in Governance and Political Transformation. After completing the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, Khwezilokusa plans to continue his advocacy work and to use the experience gained to engage other youth across Africa on issues of empowerment and development.
Jeshika Ramchund Moonsamy has more than 12 years of experience planning, designing, and implementing infrastructure and development projects. Jeshika is the lead civil engineer at Bosch Projects, focusing on project structuring for green infrastructure and sustainable and integrated development. She is also the Next Einstein Forum?s Ambassador for South Africa, a member of the University of Kwazulu-Natal?s Industry Advisory Board for the School of Civil Engineering, and the chair of various committees on gender diversity and youth development in consulting engineering. She was one of the Mail & Guardian?s Top 200 Young South Africans in Science and Technology in 2018; the 2019 winner of the Young Engineer of the Year for South African Professional Services; and the Rising Star at the 2019 South African Institute of Black Property Professionals Awards. Jeshika holds a bachelor?s degree in Engineering, and believes she can positively affect people and the environment through her engineering. After completing the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, Jeshika plans to establish a consultancy that mainstreams climate change adaptation and mitigation in African infrastructure development. She also intends to formalize an interactive platform for empowering women and prioritizing diversity and inclusion in the engineering profession.
Odwa Ndesi has more than 10 years of experience in the legal sector and community volunteerism. Currently an attorney at Chris Fick & Associates in Cape Town, Odwa focuses on human rights litigation and property law. His non-profit company, Men Moving Mountains, organizes community engagement forums to provide discipleship, mentorship, and values-based training for boys and young men in rural and township schools. The program has adopted two schools in South Africa?s rural Eastern Cape, where more than 100 boys and men have benefited from mentorship and educational support. Such efforts will ultimately inspire beneficiaries to become the next generation of African leaders. With a master?s degree in Human Rights and Environmental Law, Odwa is passionate about youth development; especially concerned with the upbringing of young boys, he seeks to inspire values that build up families in pursuit of a greater good. On completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, Odwa plans to establish his own law practice to further his human rights litigation. He also envisions Men Moving Mountains launching its programs across Africa, ultimately adopting one school in every African country.
Lindiwe Ngcobo is an economic researcher at the Municipal Infrastructure Support Agent in South Africa. In September 2019, she presented a paper at the International Conference of the African Agricultural Economists Association in Abuja, Nigeria, and subsequently published the paper in the African Journal of Science, Technology, Innovation, and Development. Lindiwe is active in her community and has founded the local chapter of Junior Chambers International, a worldwide leadership development organization that supports young people in learning the skills and characteristics to create positive change in society. She also enjoys volunteering and has helped military veterans with agricultural business plan lessons. Lindiwe holds a master?s degree in Agricultural Economics and is pursuing her Ph.D. at the University of Fort Hare. After completing the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, Lindiwe plans to further her work in her community and field of study.
Mthokozisi Siphelele Nhleko
Mthokozisi Siphelele Nhleko has more than five years of experience in the agribusiness sector. Currently, he is the head of agribusiness and farmer development at Khula Milling, a new agroprocessing venture that contributes to food security, job creation, and local economy enhancement. Mthokozisi works mainly on business plan development, grant funding proposals, financial planning, business strategies, and farmer development. In his spare time, he assists in rural community gardens, teaching practical skills that will enhance local farming productivity. An agriculturist by profession, Mthokozisi holds a bachelor?s degree in Agricultural Management from Nelson Mandela University. Mthokozisi looks forward to strengthening his business and entrepreneurship skills through the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders so that he can increase the scope of career and business pathing in South Africa.
Thokozile Eulanda Nhlumayo
A politician and human rights activist with 10 years of experience, Thokozile Eulanda Nhlumayo is the executive secretary of the International Youth Parliament, an organization that Thokozile co-founded that has spread to more than 35 countries in Africa. The organization advocates for meaningful inclusion of young people in leadership and decision-making roles, and equips and empowers young people with leadership skills and experience. With a passion for social justice and human rights, Thokozile has been appointed secretary general of the Youth Against Slavery Movement, an organization that works to prevent human trafficking and contemporary forms of slavery globally. Additionally, Thokozile is the deputy country director of the African Youth Union Commission in South Africa. On completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, Thokozile plans to build a leadership academy that will offer innovative curricula to aspiring leaders, producing results-oriented leaders who apply critical thinking to social issues.
Nwabisa Plaatjie is a theater-maker and producer with five years? experience in the field. In 2017, she was awarded the Theatre Arts Emerging Theatre Directors Bursary and was the first recipient of the Baxter Theatre Centre PlayLab residency. Nwabisa was also a nominee for Best New Director in the 2018 Fleur du Cap Theatre Awards and was the Baxter Theatre Centre?s 2018 Young Artist of the Year. Nwabisa received her master?s degree in Theatre and Performance at the Centre for Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies. She directed the South African premieres of Wine in the Wilderness and Florence by American playwright Alice Childress and represented South Africa at the Directors in TYA (Theatre for Young Audiences) International Exchange in Berlin. Her productions Aha! and 23 Years, a Month, and 7 Days have toured locally and internationally. Currently, Nwabisa is a trustee for the Denis Goldberg House of Hope and coordinates and curates the Baxter Theatre Centre?s Masambe Theatre. On completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, Nwabisa plans to develop the entrepreneurial capacity of theater and dance artists in her community by creating and sharing resilience modules focusing on navigating theater careers in uncertain times.
Tumelo Robert Ramongalo
Tumelo Robert Ramongalo is a South African politician and activist. Tumelo is currently a proportional representational councilor, representing the Sedibeng District Municipality with the Democratic Alliance (DA) party. Tumelo’s committee assignments are (a) transport and infrastructure and (b) local economic development. He is also deputy chair of the DA caucus at the district municipality. He serves in the Emfuleni North Constituency as a public representative, responsible for ensuring service delivery, good governance, and community engagement in three wards around the township of Evaton. For his master’s degree in Political Science at the North-West University, Tumelo is conducting research related to land reform and property ownership in South Africa. Tumelo was one of 10 South Africans selected for the Program for Young Politicians in Africa in 2016. In 2017, he was among 20 South Africans selected for leadership training in the DA Young Leaders Programme. Tumelo is also director of Intellectual Generation, a program aimed at using literacy, arts, and cultural activities to empower youth. He is director of Black Olives Productions, which uses the creative space to fight for social justice. After completing the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, Tumelo will continue to be a servant leader in his community.
Nazley Khan Sharif
Nazley Khan Sharif has 12 years’ experience in politics and five years’ experience holding public office. Currently, Nazley is a member of Parliament in the Republic of South Africa, where she focuses on gender issues (particularly gender-based violence), inclusion issues, and, as a member of the opposition, holding the executive to account. Nazley has held office in opposition and in government. She has worked with various youth and women?s organizations and stakeholders through public participation. Nazley has held various political leadership positions in different structures of her political party and has expertise in growing and managing political structures, working in elections, and conducting policy analysis. Nazley holds a postgraduate honors degree in Political Studies. She is committed to ensuring that South Africa cultivates a society that is inclusive, fair, and equal for all people. After completing the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, Nazley plans to expand her influence in the government, working with world leaders and organizations to ensure a more just society.
S?busisiwe Sithebe is a South African female entrepreneur with five years’ experience in agriculture and agroprocessing. She is the founder and chief executive officer of Buska Foods, which focuses on the agroprocessing of beetroot, tomato puree, carrot, sweet corn tangy salad, and packaged fresh produce. S?busisiwe imparts her skills and knowledge to women entrepreneurs through the Academy for Women Entrepreneurs at the U.S. Embassy in South Africa. She has been recognized through multiple awards for her work in the agriculture and agroprocessing industry and community, and is driven by the love she has for her community, especially for young African women. After completing the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, S?busisiwe will continue helping youth and women in her community escape poverty through agriculture.
Mike Anthony Skosana
Mike Skosana has more than 12 years of experience as a youth professional development advocate and social entrepreneur. He is a computer lab specialist and assistant center manager at Manaleni Achievement Centre in South Africa, where he develops future leaders by providing underprivileged children in his community with leadership skills, mentorship, life skills, computer programs, food, and after-school support. Mike is adamant about using technology in his community. He is the founder of Vivace Youth Centre, a non-profit organization, and co-founder of Crystal MG Trading and Projects, which provides digital classes to youth at the early childhood development level. After completing the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, Mike intends to use his new knowledge and network to continue expanding his company and his youth organization to reach more young people in underprivileged communities across Africa.
Kwezi Luxolo Sogoni
Kwezi Sogoni has more than six years of experience in public policy and administration at both the national and local levels of government. He has experience in opposition, coalition, and government politics across different spheres of government. Currently, Kwezi is the assistant director of political administration at the Office of the Council Chief Whip of the City of Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality, in which role he focuses on political operations, public policy and administration, and civic engagement. Previously, Kwezi was a parliamentary researcher for the Parliament of South Africa and a policy analyst focusing on the governance of natural resources. Kwezi holds a Bachelor of Social Sciences (with honors) in Politics, Philosophy, and Economics. He is committed to changing the lived reality of a divided country by using politics as a vehicle through which to address power imbalances and by rebuilding transformed and unified communities. After completing the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, Kwezi intends to help establish platforms that support active citizenship and direct participation in the decision-making processes of the Johannesburg City Council, with the aim of devolving power from the politicians to the people.
Siyabulela Lawrence Sokomani
Siyabulela Sokomani is an environmentalist and green entrepreneur who has worked in the horticultural industry for more than 17 years. He founded Nguni Nursery, a plant production nursery in Cape Town, South Africa. The nursery produces high-quality plants and tree saplings and makes them accessible and affordable to organizations that work on land restoration and greening projects and to the horticultural industry as a whole. He is passionate about growing trees and plants in large volumes to help scale up Africa?s restoration goals. Siyabulela is also a co-founder of Township Farmers SA, a community organization that creates small-scale organic farms and environmental awareness in disadvantaged areas. Township Farmers? Running Tree Campaign holds marathons in which volunteers run with trees strapped to their backs to raise awareness about environmental and climate change issues. Siyabulela is one of five youth ambassadors with the African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative, a partnership among 20 African governments to restore degraded forests, farms, and grasslands. After completing the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, Siyabulela plans to further focus on restoring degraded lands and to offer jobs and green entrepreneurial opportunities to those in his community.
Mpho Gift Tjope
Mpho Gift Tjope is a South African author and speaker. Mpho is founder and managing director of Albinism Advocacy for Access (AAA), a non-governmental organization that gives children, youth, and mothers of children with albinism access to health, education, and economic opportunities and ensures that people with albinism are not excluded from opportunities. AAA?s #ICanBe Campaign encourages students with albinism to stay in school and prevents them from committing suicide. AAA works with successful professionals with albinism who demonstrate to students that the myths communities perpetuate about albinism can be overcome. Mpho also works with organizations such as the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa, Amnesty International, the United Nations, and the Human Rights Commission. Mpho is one of the 100 South African Shining Stars (2019 and 2020), an Obama Leader (2019), and deputy chair of the National Albinism Task Force. He believes that education is the best form of advocacy. After completing the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, Mpho plans to extend #ICandBe throughout Africa. He envisions a world where people look at a person with albinism and see a lawyer, doctor, or professional who contributes to the economy and assists in community development.
Samantha Selma Varney
Samantha Varney has more than eight years of experience working in the development sector in South Africa. She leads solutions design for Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator, an award-winning social enterprise with extensive experience tackling the youth unemployment challenge in South Africa. She also co-founded the Dlala Nje Foundation, a Johannesburg-based social enterprise that aims to challenge perceptions of the inner city. Dlala Nje runs walking tours and experiences in some of the most misunderstood parts of the city to help fund community spaces where more than 180 kids come to learn, develop, and grow in a safe environment. Samantha has worked as the South African malaria program manager for the Clinton Health Access Initiative to eliminate malaria, and has spent time building a medical supply chain across remote parts of Zambia. After completing the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, Samantha plans to continue working in youth development in South Africa, with a focus on real, implementable solutions that can create impact at scale.
Thokozile Dingokuhle Nombulelo Zambane
Thokozile Zambane is an infrastructure development professional with more than 10 years of experience in the energy sector as an adviser, project developer, and facilitator. She is the chief operating officer at Bayakha Infrastructure Partners, a specialist fund manager, where she is responsible for leading the firm?s operational strategy and supporting fundraising and investment activities. She is an attorney and has been involved in financing several ground-breaking large-scale power generation and public-private partnership projects and in facilitating project finance and legal training sessions. Thokozile is also a co-founder of READPower, a social investment initiative that distributes solar lights in informal settlements. She has been selected to participate in the Young Women in African Power Leadership Program, an initiative of Power Africa and the Young African Leaders Initiative. She holds a bachelor?s degree in Commerce with a specialization in Law, and a bachelor?s degree in Law. After completing the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, Thokozile plans to bring about development through investments in renewable energy and economic infrastructure projects and to build capabilities that will support economic growth in South Africa and the continent.
Chipo Zhou has worked in the arts industry for more than 14 years, with experience in audiovisual. She holds a Bachelor of Arts (with honors) in Motion Picture Medium. Currently, she is the head of programming and curator for the Durban International Film Festival (DIFF), the longest-running festival in southern Africa and arguably the largest in Africa. Chipo has deliberately cultivated the development of indigenous talent and facilitated access to both audiences and aspiring filmmakers from previously marginalized communities through various initiatives. As an avid proponent of the inclusion of women in the film industry, she signed the 50/50 by 2020 pledge on behalf of DIFF, having already demonstrated her commitment to the pledge at the time of her signing. Chipo sits on the Short Film Conference board and previously sat on the board of Women Filmmakers of Zimbabwe. She has also served on local and international film festival juries, as well as on project selection panels for several residency programs. On completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, Chipo plans to develop various partnerships that will further expand women?s access to the film industry and to international coproductions throughout Africa.
Olehile Boitumelo Mokgele
Olehile Boitumelo Mokgele
Athenkosi Nontshokweni is a full-time student at the University of Fort Hare pursuing his Bachelor of Education. He serves as an affiliate motivational speaker for Grow & Glow, an annual seminar that strives to motivate, empower, and supply food relief to disadvantaged high school students to support their development as global citizens. Athenkosi is also deeply invested in his business of creating solutions for the global unemployment challenge; in response to the high unemployment he witnessed in his hometown of King William’s Town, he co-founded Lelenda Solutions. He is determined to combat unemployment through PinPointZA, a mobile app that helps users discover professional tradesmen in their area for household and business maintenance needs. This technological solution will both engage township economies and solve the issue of skilled underpaid artisans. After completing the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, Athenkosi plans to refine and expand the impact of this initiative.
Melun Margaret Jeptha
Melun Margaret Jeptha is the founder of Ohana Environmental Consultants and Projects, a South African firm that guides development planning through environmental impact studies to ensure social, environmental, and economic sustainability. Its studies mitigate dynamic global processes such as the effects of climate change on coastal landscapes. Melun believes that being a contributor to a healthy, thriving environment is one of her greatest callings in life. She plays a proactive role in her community, where she is project leader for a food garden and uses her environmental expertise to help rehabilitate a wetland. She enjoys encouraging youth to pursue environmental or agricultural studies. Melun holds a bachelor?s degree in Environmental Management from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. She is a registered professional natural scientist with the South African Council for Natural and Scientific Professions. She looks forward to learning more about environmental policies and the approach to environmental impact assessment in the United States during her time in the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders. After the Fellowship, she plans to embark on climate change studies and expand her company?s environmental services on a global scale.