In 2017, Thato Valencia Mmatli was awarded the Swedish Institute Study Scholarship.
Now, two years later, Mmatli has been accepted for the Mandela Washington Fellowship 2019.
Of the fellows selected in South Africa, there were more than 2000 applications and 50 000 from the African continent. Being chosen as a 2019 Fellow is no mean feat.
What is the Mandela Washington Fellowship?
This is the flagship programme of the Young African Leadership Initiative (YALI) which was started by former President Barack Obama in 2010. The fellowship programme conducts a selection from 46 countries across Sub-Saharan Africa. It is a focused response to the strong demand for leadership skills within the fields of public management, entrepreneurship and civic engagement.
Mmatli applied and got accepted for the Leadership in Public Management track. She believes that South Africa’s government departments are in need of the innovative and bold approaches of the youth.
She says, “As a country, we continuously need new ways to rebuild and reconstruct. The public sector is the backbone of a country’s economic viability, so this opportunity is essential to the contributions I want to make while working within government in South Africa.”
Moving to the United States
Selected fellows are placed in host institutions across the US which have designed an intensive model that make linkages between academic sessions, site visits, professional networking opportunities and rigorous leadership training.
Mmatli’s host institute is Syracuse University in the state of New York. After her academic residency, Mmatli will travel to Washington, D.C. to participate in the Washington Leadership Summit.
It’s at the event that Mmatli will have the opportunity to interact with US leaders and business pioneers within various industries.
What happens next?
The residency in the US is an invaluable experience for academic, practical and network exposure. Thereafter, fellows return to their home countries across the African continent to contribute within their areas of expertise.
The Fellowship programme continues for a year, with cross-border collaborations between fellows.
The Mandela Washington Fellowship is funded by the US Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. It aims to build and maintain bi-national relationships between the US and Africa.