‘A once-in-a-lifetime experience that money cannot buy’

2015-10-20 09:44
Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders alumini Candice Potgieter and Hlanganani Gumbi have encouraged young leaders to enter this year’s programme.

Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders alumini Candice Potgieter and Hlanganani Gumbi have encouraged young leaders to enter this year’s programme. (Ian Carbutt)

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Pietermaritzburg - Being a Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders alumnus is an experience Pietermaritzburg-born Candice Potgieter would not trade for anything.

The fellowship is the flagship programme of President Barack Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative that empowers young people through academic coursework, leadership training and networking.

Potgieter encouraged young leaders to apply for 2016 as applications had opened at the beginning of this month and close on November 11.

The programme will give 1 000 young leaders from Sub-Saharan African the opportunity to hone their skills at a United States higher education institution.

Mark Carr, public affairs officer at the U.S. Consulate in Durban, said they decided to double the number of fellowships from this year’s 500 because of the interest shown by young people.

“In South Africa alone, we already have about 1 500 applications for next year,” he said.

Upon completion of the programme, participants are expected to apply their leadership skills and training to benefit their country, community or a school.

They receive training in public management, civic leadership, or business and entrepreneurship.

Potgieter, who participated in the 2014 programme, said the fellowship represented “a once-in-a-lifetime experience that money cannot buy”.

“I would not trade it for anything”.

The chief executive officer of the KZN science centre which promotes science and maths, she said she would always cherish the six months she spent in Washington. “It allowed me to see what the world is like,” she said.

Potgieter said she would not forget the day she met U.S. first lady Michelle Obama, who addressed them in a town hall. 2015 alumnus Hlanganani Gumbi, of Mthunzini, said the programme gave him the opportunity to meet people who are doing “big things”.

The Democratic Alliance MPL said he met people including Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, a member of the Democratic Party.

Gumbi, whose 2014 application was unsuccessful, said re-applying for the 2015 programme was worth it.

“What I really like about the programme is that it is tailored to meet each individual’s needs.

“Because I was doing Public Management, I was based in the office of a mayor who was the mentor in charge of the African programme,” he said.

Having recently returned from a six-month stint at Howard University, Washington, Gumbi said he would jump at the opportunity to go back

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