Mandela Washington Fellows
The Einaudi Center and Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy welcomed 25 of Africa's most promising emerging public management leaders to campus this summer for a six-week leadership institute sponsored by the U.S. Department of State.
Leadership in Public Management at Cornell
"This prestigious mobility fellowship highlights how much we can learn from and share with emerging global leaders around the world."
Einaudi Director Rachel Beatty Riedl
Cohosted by Einaudi and the Brooks School, Cornell's cohort was part of a group of 700 Mandela Washington Fellows based at 28 educational institutions across the United States. The Cornell fellows engaged in intensive leadership training that honed their skills as public officials and managers in challenging, complex public and private sector environments.
Ufahamu Africa Podcast
Rachel Beatty Riedl interviews select Mandela Fellows on her podcast, Ufahamu Africa, about their expertise in public policy, sustainability, and health.
About YALI's Mandela Fellowship
The Mandela Washington Fellowship, the flagship program of the U.S. government's Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), empowers young African leaders through academic coursework, leadership training, mentoring, networking, professional opportunities, and local community engagement. The fellows, between the ages of 25 and 35, are accomplished innovators and leaders in their communities and countries. YALI has supported nearly 5,800 Africans as they spur economic growth and prosperity, strengthen democratic governance, and enhance peace and security across Africa.
Cornell Mandela Fellows: Summer 2023
Jonathan Mickaël Andréas
Jonathan Mickaël Andréas has more than five years of experience in climate change policy implementation, project management, and climate negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change process. Currently, Jonathan is a division chief at the National Office of Climate Change and REDD+ of the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, where he focuses on adaptation and climate resilience. In addition, he is a member of the Rotaract Club Antananarivo Faneva, and he holds a master's degree in Business Law. He is committed to public service, especially climate action. He focuses on increasing the resilience of local communities to climate risks while mobilizing various stakeholders, such as the private sector. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, he plans to work toward the effective implementation of environmental and climate policies in Madagascar.
Dede Barpeen has seven years of experience in community public health nursing and more than 10 years of experience in broadcast journalism. Currently, he is a community engagement officer at Samaritan's Purse International Relief-Liberia, where he focuses on effective health systems and epidemic prevention. He also is chief of media in the promotion of health and president of the Grand Gedeh County Community Health Services Supervisors Association. Dede previously worked with the Liberia National Community Health Assistant Program in Grand Gedeh County as a community health services supervisor. He holds a bachelor's degree in nursing. He is motivated to help put an end to childhood illnesses (such as malaria, diarrhea, and pneumonia) and to lower the high maternal and infant mortality rates in Liberia through real-time health engagements. After completing the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, Dede plans to continue his community services and develop a rural public health institute in Liberia. He believes his career goal would help achieve goal 3 of the UN Sustainable Development Goal in Liberia, which calls for the "promotion of healthy life and well-being for people of all ages."
Mamandou Barry has more than 10 years of experience in both the private and public sectors. Currently, he is the program manager in charge of experimentation at the United Nations Development Program. Passionate about international development-related topics, he has excellent communication skills, great cultural sensitivity, skills in development project design and implementation, and skills in developing sustainable social innovation protocols. Mamandou has published a collection of poems and numerous articles on development topics. He holds a master's degree in law and is pursuing a master's degree in international project management. After completing the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, Mamandou plans to implement, as part of his work, cocreation projects with communities to reduce social vulnerabilities in rural areas.
Aloisius Kalisa Buyonje
Aloisius Kalisa Buyonje has more than 10 years of experience in Local politics. Currently, he is a district councilor with the local government in the Wakiso District of Uganda and represents the people of Kajjansi 2. He holds a bachelor's degree in information technology. Aloisius is committed to leadership, public management, and good service delivery, which he uses to improve the livelihood of the people in his community. After completing the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, Aloisius plans to widen his community project of briquettes production into a training facility for mindset change and economic empowerment among the youths in his community.
Michel Cabral has more than eight years of experience in national public institutions and regional and continental organizations. Currently, he is chief of staff at São Salvador do Mundo Town Hall and focuses on ensuring the proper functioning of the cabinet and office of the mayor. He was part of the eighth group of the African Union Youth Volunteer Corps, working for 18 months at the African Union Commission in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. He has been a volunteer with the Economic Community of West African States under ECOWARN, the early warning program. Michel is pursuing his PhD in global studies at the Universidade Aberta of Portugal and holds a master's degree in African regional integration. He is passionate about accelerating the development of his capacity and spirit of public leadership. After completing the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, he plans to lead institutions and development projects in Cabo Verde at the regional or continental level.
Lindah Chavuya has more than 10 years of experience in communication management, relationship building, public relations, and advocacy. Currently, Lindah is the communications lead at the Cereal Growers Association and focuses on communication strategy development, documentation, and dissemination of farmer impact stories, partner management, and delivery of general communication assignments. She volunteers as a mentor with the Comms Avenue Mentoring Program to help bridge the gap between junior and senior communication professionals in Kenya and across Africa. She holds a bachelor's degree in communication and public relations from Daystar University in Kenya. Lindah is committed to changing how agriculture is perceived by ensuring that more farmers acquire digital communication skills and are involved in policy processes and that youth engagement in agriculture is realized. After completing the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, she plans to continue her work to improve communication in agriculture, close communication gaps, and champion involvement in policy processes through partnerships with national and county governments.
Adi Dekebo Dale
Adi Dekebo Dale has more than 10 years of experience as a lawyer in Ethiopia. He is a leading expert in Ethiopian transitional justice endeavors. Adi has been an educator and long-standing volunteer in legal and institutional reform works, regulation of transnational organized crimes, transitional justice work, and human rights in criminal justice administration. He was one of the lead drafters in replacing the infamous Anti-Terrorism Proclamation 652/2009 in Ethiopia, which resulted in and enabled widespread human rights abuses in Ethiopia for more than a decade. He holds a bachelor of laws degree from Haramaya University, a master of laws in constitutional and public law from Addis Ababa University, and a master's degree in transnational criminal justice from the University of the Western Cape and Humboldt University of Berlin. After completing the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, Adi plans to promote the implementation of genuine and comprehensive transitional justice in Ethiopia; continue mentoring, advocating, and educating others in human rights and criminal justice; and bring about democratization, lasting peace, and rule of law.
Walter Dimba is a technician with the Angolan Municipal Department of Environment. He was general manager of Organizações João Manuel Felipe LDA. He acquired technological skills while working at Zicai Group Infornet, where he focused on operating and selling technical products, such as computers and CCTV cameras. Walter is passionate about issues and policies regarding the environment. He holds a bachelor's degree in environmental studies and is pursuing his master's degree in public policy and governance at Africa University. After completing the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, Walter plans to create a community project to protect rivers from eutrophication in southern Angola. He also hopes to establish environmental education programs for students in tertiary education.
Tefo Gaebetse has more than 11 years of experience in teaching and community service in South Africa. Currently, Tefo is a primary teacher at Ncweng Primary School and focuses on teaching foundational knowledge, tracking absenteeism and dropout learners, facilitating peace to senior students, and building and empowering communities. He holds a diploma in Early Childhood Development and is currently pursuing a bachelor's degree in Education and Public Administration. Tefo is passionate about reducing the high rates of school dropouts and empowering youth with community services and skills to combat poor standards of living and exam results. After completing the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, Tefo plans to grow an organization that empowers youth with skills development and to work together with the local government for better education and services.
Alice Igisaro is a dental surgeon and a passionate health equity activist with more than five years of experience in public health and community-based outreach. Her advocacy for health equity in rural areas of Rwanda is centered on a comprehensive, community-based approach that prioritizes preventive measures and addresses social determinants of health such as poverty, education, and gender inequality. By engaging with communities and involving them in decision-making processes, she ensures that their unique health needs are addressed. Alice holds a bachelor's degree in Dental Surgery from the University of Rwanda. She has volunteered for Healthy People Rwanda, where she is also serving as a member of the executive board, working on projects that address social and health inequities. As part of the next generation of leaders, Alice believes that quality healthcare services for all can become a reality. After completing the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, she plans to improve her skills in designing effective programs that are tailored to her country's health system, with goals of increasing access to essential health services, promoting preventive measures, and providing health education, particularly in rural areas.
Bashiru Koroma has over 12 years of experience in conservation leadership, natural resource management, ecotourism, and environmental health (water, sanitation, and waste management). Currently, he is the product planning and development officer at the National Tourist Board Sierra Leone, focusing on initiating and implementing national tourism policies, programs, and projects in Sierra Leone. Koroma is also the executive president and Founder of Keep Africa Beautiful Sierra Leone, a youth-led environmental company in Sierra Leone, and the national coordinator for Climate Live Sierra Leone, using music and concerts to engage, educate and empower young people to ensure that local leaders take actions to combat the climate crisis. Koroma is a United States Fish and Wildlife MENTOR-PACE Fellow. Koroma holds an MBA from the African Leadership University School of Business, Conservation Leadership Pathway from the School of Wildlife Conservation, African Leadership University, and an MPH specializing in environmental health. Koroma is a member of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance. Koroma is highly passionate about youth advocacy, climate justice advocacy, and environmental education for children and youth. After the Mandela Washington Fellowship, he is planning to establish the Center for Climate Justice and Sustainability to build the capacity of young people with knowledge and skills on climate action and sustainability best practices. The center will identify young transformational community leaders who contribute to finding innovative solutions to the increasing deforestation, plastic pollution, and environmental and climate change challenges in local communities in Southern Sierra Leone and the sub-region.
Kelebogile Lefhoko is a doctor with three years of experience in medicine. Currently, Lefhoko is a doctor at Princess Marina Hospital, providing clinical healthcare services. She is passionate about global health and research, patient education, and advocacy, and she works with nongovernmental organizations that promote awareness of different health-related issues. Kelebogile holds a Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery degree from the University of Botswana. In this fast-growing world with evolving public health matters, Kelebogile is driven to do research and empower patients and their families with knowledge about different health conditions. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, Lefhoko plans to collaborate with nongovernmental health organizations to promote health education and to empower others to research any challenges they encounter in their organizations. She believes that quality research and findings have the power to shift and create effective health policies that adequately address encountered challenges.
Matshidiso Lencoasa is a policy advocate with more than seven years of experience, which began with the FeesMustFall student protests. Currently, Matshidiso serves as a budget researcher at SECTION27, where she advises the South African government on fiscal policy and interventions that advance equality and socioeconomic rights in the country. She currently serves on steering committees at the Budget Justice Coalition and Imali Yethu, and she forms part of the Fiscal Openness Accelerator advisory group for the National Treasury. Her advocacy is driven by her lived experience. She recognizes the power budget allocations have in alleviating social ills and suffering for marginalized people. Matshidiso holds a master's degree in International Development and Education from the University of Sussex through the Sussex Mandela Scholarship. As a first-generation university graduate who was able to go to university because of scholarships, she continues to advance education for others by assisting learners in underresourced schools in applying for bursaries and financial aid. Upon completing the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, Matshidiso plans to formulate and advance gender-responsive fiscal policy, particularly in the context of climate change.
Albert Macha has more than 10 years of experience in medicine. Currently, Macha is an orthopedic and trauma surgeon at Muhimbili Orthopaedic Institute - a national referral hospital in Tanzania - focusing on surgical services, research, and teaching. He is cofounder of a medical devices and health consultancy firm that aims to offer affordable and accessible health solutions within the region and engages in various outreach programs related to health and education. Albert holds a Doctor of Medicine degree with a master's in Orthopedic Surgery and Traumatology and a diploma in Football Medicine. Macha is motivated to change the status quo in the field of medicine within his community by using innovative research and leadership skills to find sustainable and resourceful solutions, especially in underprivileged and remote areas. Upon completing the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, Macha plans to live by the strong values and use skills he developed through the program to guide his decisions and behavior as a leader as he works toward developing better, disease-free societies.
Gibson Maina has more than seven years of experience in community health. Currently, Gibson is cofounder and chief executive officer of Healthy Young Kenya, a nonprofit organization that focuses on lifestyle disease prevention through information sharing and the promotion of innovation. He is a practicing pharmacist and consultant experienced in procurement, logistics, and healthcare management. He also holds a Social Entrepreneurship certificate from Watson Institute in Boulder, Colorado, in the United States. Gibson is passionate about youth development and has a goal of improving healthcare access in his community and beyond. After completing the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, he plans to expand Healthy Young Kenya to other countries and launch a healthcare innovation accelerator to empower more young people to contribute to solving healthcare challenges facing their communities.
Sandile Mnikathi is the deputy mayor of uMngeni Municipality in South Africa. He is also a member of the Democratic Alliance's provincial management committee, which oversees the day-to-day running of the party in the province of KwaZulu-Natal. He also sits on the Democratic Alliances Provincial Executive Committee, which is the highest decision-making body of the party in the province. Sandile holds a Bachelor of Social Science (Political Science and Philosophy), a Bachelor of Arts (International Relations), and a Master of Social Science (Political Science) and is pursuing his Ph.D. He received the Golden Key Award in 2015 and 2016; in 20222, he was named one of Inside Education's top 100 South African Shining Stars. He is the director of the Sandile Mnikathi Sports Foundation and a board member of Midlands Community College. After completing the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, he plans to use the skills and networks he acquired to expand the scope of his work.
Aisha Namugga has more than 10 years of experience in legal practice and as a volunteer in social work. Aisha is a legal associate for climate change projects at Earth and Rights Initiative, junior partner and associate at GM Kibirige & Co. Advocates, and a woman councilor and member of the Education and Health Committee at Njeru Municipality. She is focused on realizing the right to a clean and healthy environment, which includes executing projects that facilitate the dissemination of information and a community's role in its protection. She lobbies for constructing boreholes to increase water supply sources, institutes cases against violators of a clean and healthy environment, facilitates measures to rehabilitate communities affected by water pollution, and other endeavors. Namugga is pursuing a Master of Laws and holds a Bachelor of Laws, a postgraduate certificate in Public Interest Litigation, and a postgraduate diploma in Legal Practice. Aisha is passionate about using law as a tool for social development and change while focusing on the right to a clean and healthy environment. After completing the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, Aisha plans to better her Ugandan community by lobbying for the implementation of various social development tools.
Kwame Odame has more than seven years of experience in medical laboratory practice. Currently, Kwame is a medical laboratory scientist and deputy quality manager of laboratory services at Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital. He focuses on implementing quality management systems, improving patient care, and striving to acquire ISO accreditation for the facility. He periodically organizes free health screenings that seek to create awareness about certain diseases and common illnesses. Kwame holds a bachelor's degree in Medical Laboratory Technology. He is passionate about helping people reach their health goals through regular screening and professional counseling. He believes a good laboratory result is essential to disease diagnosis, which will ultimately lead to making the right health choices and applying the precise treatment where applicable. After completing the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, Kwame plans not only to secure ISO accreditation for his facility but also to instill and maintain a culture of quality in all staff members. He further plans to engage various stakeholders and extend health screenings to more target communities.
Ifenla Oligbinde has more than 11 years of experience in project and community development and management. Ifenla is the national director of communications and programs for the African Democratic Congress in Nigeria. She focuses on publicity, communications, and programs that improve the party's image and encourages the participation of youth and women in politics. She is the founder of Ark and Rainbow Movement, which empowers women and girls with skills against sexual and gender-based violence, and Mind and Ink Consult, a writing, ideation, and restructuring consulting firm. Ifenla is a member of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), an Alumnus of the YALI Regional Leadership Center West Africa Cohort 13, and an external consultant for the Network of Disabled Women and Cedar Seed Foundation. Ifenla holds a bachelor's degree in Law and certification in Public Policy from the African Civic Engagement Academy at the University of Georgia. She is a solicitor and barrister of the Supreme Court of Nigeria. Ifenla is passionate about advancing democratic values through advocacy, good governance, gender equality, and education. After completing the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, Ifenla plans to create projects that will motivate youth to be involved in politics and leadership.
Fingo Sally Sonndia Ouattara Epse Polneau
Fingo Sally Sonndia Ouattara Epse Polneau is an accomplished agronomist with more than eight years of experience in project management, sustainability, and audits within the cocoa sector. Currently, she is the program team leader for cocoa in Fairtrade Africa's West Africa Cocoa Programme, where she manages a team of six field staff members and supports small producer organizations through certification support, strategic support for development projects, and chocolate brand and retail management. She is currently leading the implementation of three projects that empower women and youth. Fingo Sally Sonndia is also a member of Les ZinZins du Bonheur, an association that assists vulnerable young people and sick children up to 14 years. She holds a master's degree in Agronomy from the Ecole Supérieure d'Agronomie, Yamoussoukro, Côte d'Ivoire. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, Fingo Sally Sonndia wants to advocate at governmental and international institutions for living wages for producers, child labor remediation, and empowerment of rural women who are facing climate-change issues in order to create real change in the cocoa sector.
Anusha Seechurn, from the island of Mauritius, is a professional with eight years of experience in the field of climate change and sustainability. Anusha was one of the first to obtain a master's degree in Climate Change and Sustainable Development from the University of Mauritius. She holds a bachelor's degree in Agriculture with a specialization in Land and Water Management. For 12 years now, she has been an active national and global youth leader and volunteer in the climate and sustainability spaces. She is often called to be a speaker and resource person such as for the Conferences of Youth, Climate Justice Conference, YALI Climate Conference, Commonwealth, African podcasts, YALDA, and YOUNGO. She was an in-person YALI RLC SA fellow in Civic Leadership. Anusha has occupied many leadership roles, including a Coordinator of Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) chapter, and she is currently the contact point for the Nationally Determined Contributions Working Group of YOUNGO UNFCCC. She has been selected to represent the voices of youth of SIDS at the COP 28. She is also a fervent artist. After the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Anusha aims to apply the knowledge and skills gained to set up a Youth Climate Council in Mauritius, to include youth in policy and decision making.
Eunice Shapange has more than three years of experience in urban planning. Eunice is a junior technical adviser at GIZ-Namibia under the Inclusive and Sustainable Urban Development Project, focusing on improving the housing and living conditions of people in informal settlements. She participated in the pilot of the Flexible Land Tenure System project in Freedom Square, Gobabis. Eunice holds a master's degree in Town and Regional Planning. She is motivated to change public office bearers' perceptions of community contributions and to empower communities through self-driven initiatives and opportunities to change their environments for the better. She hopes to someday see decision-makers and communities work together to change perceptions and policies affecting the development and planning of towns and cities in Namibia. After completing the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, Eunice plans to establish a nonprofit organization to teach local authorities sustainable community participatory approaches to informal settlement planning and community contributions. She hopes to empower communities in informal settlements to share knowledge and skills through exchange programs under the same nonprofit. She also hopes to contribute to the literacy rates of Namibian children through collaboration with the Nali Reads book club.
Ruth Sulaimon holds a university degree in medicine and has five years of experience in the medical field, including an internship in Luanda, Angola. Currently, Ruth is a medical doctor at Simão Mendes National Hospital in Guinea-Bissau, diagnosing and giving life-saving treatment to neonates in the neonatology intensive care unit with breathing disorders, birth defects, infections, and other medical conditions. Previously, Ruth served as both medical director and administrator of a 25-person team and the only medical doctor at Centro Saúde de Fulacunda (Health Center of Fulacunda), in a southernmost rural area of Guinea-Bissau. Ruth mentors community teens by using drama, music, and a book she is writing titled Veja Através Dele (See Through His Eyes), a guide to navigating life holistically. After completing the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, she plans to adapt the skills, resources, and networks she acquired to Guinea-Bissau's public management practices. She will encourage community partnerships through volunteer work to support the growth and success of local public health initiatives. Ruth's long-term goals are to be on the cutting edge of medical knowledge, to become a pediatrician, to increase her interpersonal and communication skills, and to volunteer more.
Louise Tekapso Pohdie Bonix
Louise Tekapso Pohdie Bonix has more than four years of experience in civil engineering. Currently, she is chief of service at FEICOM, the Special Council Support Fund for Mutual Assistance, focusing on the follow-up and monitoring of revenue-generating investments intended for regional and local authorities. She was a follow-up engineer in Participatory Slum Upgrading projects and has organized conferences and seminars in Cameroon as a Women's Entrepreneurship Day Ambassador. Louise holds a master's degree in civil engineering and is dedicated to local development. She is passionate about artfully engaging all trades and skills to ensure the provision of services that contribute to the population's well-being. She aspires to see everyone, especially children, have equal access to all the opportunities the world has to offer. Her goal is to build people by building cities. After completing the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, she plans to implement the good practices learned from the local governance structure of the United States in her daily activities and also share them with the national actors of public management and governance through the institution in which she serves.
Yaye Wane has more than seven years of experience in crops productions and agronomy. Currently, Wane is the green support entrepreneur manager at Concree and focuses on developing the offer and implementation of green support programs in agriculture. Yaye feels a deep connection to nature and addresses topics such as biodiversity and adaptation to climate change. She has been a laureate of the One Planet Fellowship since 2019 and is involved in cases involving homeless children. Yaye holds a master's degree in Crops Production and Agronomy and is currently pursuing a doctorate in Sustainable Agriculture with a specialization in Soil Management and Agro-Ecological Practices. She is passionate about contributing to the resilience of African farmers. After completing the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, Yaye plans to use her experience to have an impact on the agricultural community. As a researcher, she plans to bring sustainable solutions for food self-sufficiency in Senegal and Africa.