By James Wright, Special to the

Four years ago, President Obama created the Mandela Washington Fellowship. The program brings young African leaders to the United States to learn about leadership and other professional endeavors.

One of the universities selected to participate in the program was Howard University. This summer, Howard continued its involvement by hosting a class of 25 leaders from countries across Africa.

The Mandela Washington Fellows Howard University contingent. . (Courtesy Photo)

“We, at Howard, are one of the few universities that have participated in the program each year since its inception,” Dr. Lucinda A. Acquaye-Doyle, the program manager, told the AFRO. She noted that Howard is involved “with global leadership on the African continent” and has educated scores of Africans throughout its 152-year history. Acquaye-Doyle said the only other Historically Black school participating is Clark Atlanta University.

The fellowship is named for the late South African President Nelson Mandela, the first Black man to lead his country. The 2018 class arrived in mid-June for five weeks of intensive executive leadership training, networking and skills building that was followed by a three-day summit in the District that all 700 fellows from various universities across the country attended.

The Mandela Washington Fellowship is a Young African Leaders Initiative program of the U.S. government, with the support of the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and IREX, a U.S. non-governmental agency. It was believed that the program would be cancelled when President Trump took office in 2017 because the president hasn’t shown a real interest in African affairs.

“That is not the case,” Acquaye said. “We are still here.”

The AFRO talked to two Mandela fellows, Luthando Jama from South Africa and James Awenati Amugsi of Ghana. Jama, a dentist from the Free State who got her degree from the University of Pretoria and is pursuing a MBA at the top-ranked Gordon Institute of Business Science, said her time at Howard University was fruitful.

“I am interested in practicing my profession in the rural areas of my country,” Jama told the AFRO. “I want to improve the oral health of my people and educate them on how to improve in their lives.”

Amugsi is a nurse who practices in the northern part of Ghana, which is also largely rural. He aspires to be a physician’s assistant. Amugsi told the AFRO that the fellowship at Howard has helped him also. “The Mandela Fellowship has given me the opportunity to improve my leadership skills and network with other fellows from Africa,” he said. “Howard University is a great university and the people have been hospitable to me. Howard has made us feel at home.”

Amugsi plans to go back to Ghana to help improve the health system and support the positive development of youth.

Both Jama and Amugsi say the world’s future lies in Africa and it is the “hope of the world.” However, they both make it clear that outside interference is not welcome. “We can solve our own problems,” Amugsi said.