The 2023 cohort spent six weeks at Rutgers learning about such things as small business development, venture capital, and entrepreneurship.

Mandela Washington Fellows gain U.S. perspectives on business issues, leadership

Each summer, Rutgers Business School welcomes a group of young professionals from Africa who have been selected to study business and to expand their networks in the U.S. as part of the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders.

The six-week-long Business Leadership Institute at Rutgers is sponsored by the U.S. State Department as part of its Young African Leaders Initiative. It is led by Kevin Lyons, a professor of professional practice and director of the Public Private Community Partnership at Rutgers Business School, and Johanna Bernstein, assistant dean of global programs at Rutgers Global.

The 25 fellows attending the 2023 institute were entrepreneurs, engineers, pharmacists, architects, finance executives, experts in agribusiness and renewable energy from Angola to Zambia. They were also mentors, STEM trailblazers, community organizers working to empower youth, women, and advocates for environmental sustainability, and affordable housing.

Since 2016, Lyons and Magda Comeau, senior program administrator for the Public Private Community Partnership, have successfully developed and integrated business, entrepreneurship, arts, culture, economic and social impact into the six-week program. Read about previous cohorts of Mandela Fellows at Rutgers and how the program continued during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We have provided 200 sub-Saharan African young professionals a Rutgers Business School experience which has resulted in the launch and expansion of hundreds of successful business ventures on the African Continent while also furthering the professional education of our Rutgers Mandela Fellow alumni,” Lyons said.

- Susan Todd

The 2023 Mandela Washington Fellows at Rutgers

Rutgers University President Jonathan Holloway greeting some of the Mandela Washington Fellows.
The 25 Mandela Washington Fellows arrived at Rutgers in late June. Among the early networking sessions they attended was one hosted by Rutgers University President Jonathan Holloway.
The 2023 cohort of Mandela Washington Fellows posing on the Revolutionary sculpture from the university's 250th anniversary.
The fellows attended dozens of lectures and events on a wide range of business topics, including sustainability and social responsibility. They spent time on the Rutgers Campus, but also took off-campus visits and traveled into New York City and Washington D.C. as part of the fellowship program. Here, they posed for a group photo around the Revolutionary sculpture created for the university's 250th anniversary in 2016.
The Mandela Fellows networking in Brooklyn.
Networking and making connections was a major activity for the young professionals from Africa. This photo was taken during a visit to Brooklyn where the fellows met with and pitched to philanthropist Neal Rosenthal and his partner venture capital agencies.
Etta Madete, an architect from Kenya and CEO of affordable housing developer, Zima Homes, works with students in a summer supply chain management program.
The Washington Mandela fellows spent a morning in June working alongside high school students who participated in Rutgers Business School's summer supply chain management program. The morning included a lecture by Professor Kevin Lyons, who also leads the fellowship's six-week-long Business Leadership Institute. One of the fellows, Etta Madete, an architect and CEO of affordable housing developer Zima Homes in Kenya, works with students on a hackathon styled assignment that challenged them to develop ideas for producing agriculture in Newark.
The Mandela Fellows visiting Audible's cathedral office building in Newark.
During a tour of Newark's downtown business and arts district, the Rutgers Mandela Washington Fellows got a look inside a cathedral that Audible renovated into work space before the pandemic. The space is an expansion of Audible's nearby offices at 1 Washington Park.
A photo from the farewell dinner for the Rutgers Mandela Washington Fellows in July.
Kevin Lyons, professor of professional practice and director of the Public Private Community Partnership at Rutgers Business School, (second from left) and Magda Comeau, the partnership's senior program administrator, pose with five of the young professionals from Africa during a farewell dinner in late July. The fellows are from far left: Syvanna Gbollie (Liberia), in the center of group, Rachid Rouamba (Burkina Faso), Katchella Moustapha (Niger), Abigail Gumpo (Zimbabwe) and far right, Michael Rukamakama (Democratic Republic of Congo). When the fellows left New Brunswick, they traveled to Washington D.C., where the fellowship culminated.

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