Thursday, June 9, 2022

For the first time in three years, the University of Iowa is again hosting 24 young entrepreneurs from 17 sub-Saharan African countries as part of the U.S. Department of State’s Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, the flagship program of the Young African Leadership Initiative (YALI).

The Mandela Washington Fellowship empowers young people from Africa through academic coursework, leadership training, mentoring, networking, professional opportunities, and support for activities in their communities. Fellows are young leaders from sub-Saharan Africa who have established records of accomplishment promoting innovation and positive change in their organizations, institutions, communities, and countries.

The fellows will begin a six-week Leadership in Business program on June 8, participating in entrepreneurial education programs such as Venture School that are offered by the university’s John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center (JPEC) and Institute for International Business (IIB). They will also tour businesses and manufacturing facilities in Cedar Rapids, Des Moines, and Williamsburg, Iowa and get a sense of the local culture and history through visits to Kalona and the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum in West Branch.

This is the seventh year Iowa has participated in the fellowship. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the fellowship was postponed in 2020 and conducted virtually in 2021, both of which Iowa participated in.

Dimy Doresca
Dimy Doresca

Dimy Doresca, director of the IIB, says the fellows will learn more about the U.S. economy and how American businesses are managed, information they can bring home to help build and strengthen businesses in their countries.

“They will be Iowa’s ambassadors to Africa, learning our way of doing things and bringing Iowa values back to their homes,” says Doresca. “The visits will also have an economic-development impact, as the fellows will build connections with Iowans who want to conduct business in Africa.”

The fellows visiting Iowa are among the 700 who were selected from 49 sub-Saharan African countries to participate in numerous programs hosted by colleges and universities across the United States and were chosen from more than 38,000 who applied.

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. The University of Iowa is a sub-grantee of IREX and is implementing a Leadership Institute as a part of the Fellowship. For more information, please visit