Young African leaders gather at IUPUI for collaboration, inspiration

The exchange of ideas and perspectives has become a summer tradition between Indiana University and the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders.

For the past four years, the program ushered in by the Office of International Development and the Office of International Affairs at IUPUI has brought 25 young professionals from Africa to spend weeks at IUPUI before visiting Indiana University Bloomington. This year's fellows were based at IUPUI from June 19 to July 5 and will be in Bloomington July 5-27. Their U.S. tour finishes with a visit to Washington, D.C., where they will take part in networking and panel discussions with U.S. leaders from the public, private and nonprofit sectors.

For many of the fellows, it's their first trip to the United States. While here, they collaborate and network with their IUPUI counterparts, engage in academic coursework, and soak up Hoosier hospitality. The fellows take executive-leadership style seminars from the Kelley School of Business, O’Neill School of Public Affairs and Lilly School of Philanthropy as well.

The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State with funding provided by the U.S. government and administered by IREX, a global development and education organization. Find more information online about the Mandela Washington Fellowship and join the conversation at #YALI2019.

Meet some of the 2019 Mandela Washington fellows:

Annah RuwanikaView print quality image

Annah Ruwanika, Zimbabwe

Expertise: Marketing, financial services.

Career highlights: Social media coordinator for Special Olympics Zimbabwe, master's degree from Edinburgh Business School.

On becoming a Mandela Washington fellow: "It's a really big honor because the program is training young leaders from Africa so that we can grow, develop and bring back what we learn to our homes. It makes sure we make an impact."

Elton Djon GoncalvesView print quality image

Elton Djon Goncalves, Cape Verde

Expertise: Community development, management and administration.

Career highlights: Secretary general for the Cape Verdian Paralympic Committee, national director of Special Olympics of Cape Verde.

On meeting his Indiana counterparts: "I think this will be great for me because Indiana is one of the sports states in America. I'm looking forward to meeting more people, learning as much as possible and trying to adapt the knowledge for back home -- implement it into my community, try to engage people."

Andrianiaina Sitraka RatsimbaView print quality image

Andrianiaina Sitraka Ratsimba, Madagascar

Expertise: Business development, digital marketing, enterprise management, online business.

Career highlights: Learned six languages, master's degree from University of Science and Technology Beijing.

On what he hopes to gain from his Mandela Washington Fellowship experience: "I'm currently working as a digital marketer, but I'd like to focus more on business and entrepreneurship. We just created The First Toastmasters Club of Madagascar. It's important to develop people's confidence, and we do it in the club by overcoming fear. We are helping people speak in front of other people, especially in English."

Adesola AjayiView print quality image

Adesola Ajayi, Nigeria

Expertise: Education, rehabilitation, and capacity-building among disabled communities.

Career highlights: Educator and mentor of rural school children, law degree from the University of Lagos, Nigerian Bar Association member.

Justice for the visually impaired: A visually impaired lawyer is not just for comic books and Netflix series. Ajayi has almost a decade of experience in education, rehabilitation and capacity-building for disabled communities in Nigeria. By mastering Braille at a young age, he became the only person in his family to learn to read.

On why Ajayi chose law: "It was all about making a change. I saw that out of all the laws and acts we have in our country, there weren't any provisions for persons with disabilities. There wasn't anybody to litigate on their behalf. Advocacy for this area was poor. I said, 'Maybe with this condition in this field, I'll be able to defend -- make a change for the benefit of -- persons with disabilities.'"

Jackie BombomaView print quality image

Jackie Bomboma, United Republic of Tanzania

Expertise: Community development.

Career highlight: Started Young Strong Mothers Foundation in Morogoro, Tanzania.

May 20: Bomboma gave birth to her daughter on May 20, 2002, alone in a forest. The mental and physical anguish from the experience made May 20 a date full of mixed emotions and stressful memories. Then, on May 20, 2019, she received her travel visa to allow her entry into the United States. Coupled with her daughter's 17th birthday, the date is becoming a more positive day for her.

On her first trip to the United States: "It's very beautiful. I used to see a lot of things in movies about America, and a lot of things I learned -- like English -- I learned from the movies. I was so excited to see the things I saw in movies in real life. It's been so amazing. Each and every second of being here is so amazing."

On her work with young mothers in Tanzania: "Since 2016, we've helped about 760 young mothers with education, training, job training and job placement. The mothers also learn about issues in gender, human rights, nutrition for their babies, hygiene, sexual and reproductive health -- life-skills education."

Photos by Tim Brouk, Indiana University