Americans and Africans Tackle Critical Challenges Together through Reciprocal Exchange Component of Young African Leaders Initiative

The U.S. Department of State and IREX are pleased to announce their support of more than 50 Reciprocal Exchange projects in 2017 as part of the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders. More than 50 Americans will travel to Sub-Saharan Africa this year to collaborate with 2016 Mandela Washington Fellowship alumni on projects that address critical challenges.

These Americans, who are leaders in many professional fields and young African leaders are joining forces to collaborate on important issues and to deepen their partnerships, thereby contributing to mutual understanding between the United States and African countries. 

“From my time in Mauritius, I’ve learned that with hard work, determination, and a creative spirit of collaboration, anything is possible,” said Alexander Lopez, a 2016 Reciprocal Exchange awardee from New Hampshire, who worked on waste management. “The program encourages people to be the most innovative versions of themselves. It helps you bring an idea into a reality through a network of Fellow entrepreneurs and curious minds, and a spirit of collaboration and hard work.”

The Reciprocal Exchange component awards up to $5,000 to each American to help fund ongoing projects between 2016 Mandela Washington Fellows and U.S. professionals. American awardees and projects were competitively selected from hundreds of applications and showcase an array of local and global challenges being tackled with innovative approaches. Chosen Americans include:

  • Latisha Bracey from Delaware, advocating for women’s participation in politics in Botswana
  • Scotty Dossett from Illinois, promoting environmental stewardship in Madagascar
  • Smita Patel from Georgia, advancing agriculture and entrepreneurship in Burkina Faso

View the full list of more than 50 awardees.

Many of the American awardees will be traveling to Africa for the first time. While the exchange itself is short in duration – up to two weeks – the results are expected to be long lasting in both the United States and Africa.

The Mandela Washington Fellowship is the flagship program of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). The Fellowship brings young leaders to the United States for academic coursework and leadership training and creates unique opportunities in Africa for Fellows to put new skills to practical use in leading organizations, communities, and countries. Two thousand young leaders from every country in Sub-Saharan Africa have participated in the Fellowship.

For more information about the Mandela Washington Fellowship, visit You can also get updates at and

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