In addition to city leadership, the fellows visited with delegations from Capitol Hill, the White House’s Executive Office Building, the U.S. Government Accountability Office, and several chambers of commerce. They also met with senators, ambassadors, business representatives, and nonprofit leaders, and they received a letter of welcome from President Trump.
At the conclusion of their leadership institute, members of the Virginia Tech cohort joined other program fellows in Washington, D.C., for the sixth annual Mandela Washington Fellowship Summit. There the fellows took part in networking and panel discussions with each other and with U.S. leaders.
These meetings provided an important opportunity for the fellows to recognize that challenges in government and civil leadership are universal, said Rosa Castillo Krewson, SPIA’s academic director for the 2019 Mandela Institute.
“One of the greatest outcomes of this program is that young African leaders learned that the United States also faces challenges similar to those on the African continent,” said Krewson. “They learned about the financial crisis and the factors that led to it, the challenges of poor management in a public office, and the checks and balances that need to be put in place to mitigate such situations from reoccurring. By building a strong community of public managers, we can develop a system beyond boundaries and beyond typical governance.”
Krewson added that SPIA faculty, students, and staff also benefited tremendously from the opportunity to engage with the fellows. “We owe them a great deal of gratitude for what they taught us about their cultures and challenges,” she said.
Many fellows echoed the program’s positive atmosphere of fellowship and cultural exchange as an affirmation of strength, potential, and collective knowledge between the African continent and the United States.
“For me, the program means hope,” said Viviane Laure Mamno Wafo, a university researcher in applied and gender economics from Dakar. “Hope that there is a great future for Africa when we invest in youth. I’m taking home a new culture of leadership and volunteering, two keys to achieving excellence.”