NGF Staff Oluwatosin Oke Gets Mandela Washington Fellowship

The Mandela Washington Fellowship is the flagship program of the U.S. Government’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) delivered annually. Since 2014, nearly 5,100 young leaders from every country in Sub-Saharan Africa have participated in the Fellowship.

About the Fellowship

The Mandela Washington Fellowship is the flagship program of the U.S. Government’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) delivered annually. Since 2014, nearly 5,100 young leaders from every country in Sub-Saharan Africa have participated in the Fellowship.

The Fellows, between the ages of 25 and 35, are accomplished leaders and have established records of promoting innovation and positive impact in their communities and countries.

The Fellowship’s selection process is very competitive and open to all Young African leaders who meet the following criteria: Proven record of leadership and accomplishment in business, civic engagement, or public service. A demonstrated commitment to public or community service, volunteerism, or mentorship.

The ability to work cooperatively in diverse groups and to respect the opinions of others. Strong social and communication skills. An energetic, positive attitude. A demonstrated knowledge of, interest in, and professional experience in the preferred sector/track; and A commitment to return to Africa and apply leadership skills and training to benefit the applicant’s country and/or community after they return home.

How did you hear about the Fellowship?

I first learned about the Mandela Washington Fellowship in 2018 from a former colleague while working with DAWN Commission in2018, a regional development commission for the Southwest States (Ogun, Oyo, Ondo, Osun, Ekiti, and Lagos State) in Nigeria.

Although I applied then, I was not selected as a finalist for the fellowship, perhaps my experience at the time was inadequate and not of national impact, even though I had worked to support various interventions that advanced economic cooperation, integration, and competitiveness amongst the southwestern States.

In addition, I had also supported a few civic engagements and the advancement of government citizens' partnerships across the 6 States.

Mandela Fellowship 20221

How did you feel about not making it in 2018 and how was the journey from there on?

I appreciated the experience even though I didn’t make it to the final list in 2018. I understood the need to build on my experience working with the public and private sector, embrace purposeful mentorship, and pursue impact wherever I find myself.

In 2020, I joined the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) Secretariat, the technical and policy hub of the Forum as a Senior Project Officer. The decision to pursue a career with the NGF was borne out of my desire to broaden my experience and support far-reaching macro-fiscal reforms with nationalistic economic and socio-economic impact.

As a Senior Project Officer, I support the NGF States Fiscal Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability (SFTAS) Technical Assistance Project, working with States actors across MDAs and 36 States on various Public Financial Management (PFM) reforms.

I work collaboratively with subject matter experts in budgeting and financial reporting, revenue and expenditure management, audit and procurement reforms, and capacity-building activities.

Over the last two years, reform efforts I contributed to, have transformed fiscal transparency and accountability at the subnational level with dividends in form of greater value for Money in government procurement, enabling an environment for ease of doing business, greater efficiency in government expenditure through better cash management and blockage of revenue leakages, etc.

Working with the NGFS, I got to interact with various State and non-State actors including government functionaries, MDAs at both federal and State-level, CSOs, and development partners with mutual interests in advancing fiscal reforms to enable government guarantees inclusive governance and better service delivery to citizens.

This has broadened my network with reform enablers who with the right mix of incentive, opportunity, advocacy, and engagement can advance desired changes in governance.

I also volunteer with iEngage Hub, a not-for-profit organization that provides advocacy and builds citizens’ capacity to engage the government constructively and effectively.

Focus includes citizens' awareness of governance reforms, how it affects them, their rights to engage government, pathways to change, and varying impacts.

These experiences strengthened my resolve to reapply to the fellowship. I reapplied during the 2021/2022 application window, spotlighting the additional experience and impact-based projects I had undertaken.

After a keenly competed selection process with over 35,000 applicants, I was selected to take part in the fellowship round held in June/ July 2022.
I consider the fellowship to be a veritable platform to further develop my technical and leadership competencies in governance and Civic Engagement.

I am delighted to be selected for the Public Management Track of the Fellowship at Texas Tech University and I hope to bring on board skills I hone during the fellowship, as well as share adaptable experiences I find beneficial to the NGF and the country.

What specific skills and experiences do you look forward to gaining from the fellowship and how do you see yourself contributing back to your country?

As an advocate for collaborative governance and public value creation, the Mandela Washington Fellowship will afford me the opportunity to advance my skills in leadership, reform programming, policy analysis, evaluation, and advocacy, as well as collaborative economic development frameworks and strategies, especially at the sub-national level.

These skills will help me to better interrogate Nigeria’s governance and development intricacies, and how to navigate core policy problems requiring multi-stakeholder engagement and active citizen participation.

Advancing these skills will increase my job performance at the NGFS which requires me to constantly engage with public sector stakeholders, either on policy advocacies or in technical capacity-building activities.

These, in addition to my occasional voluntary work in advancing civic engagement under the platform of iEngage Hub, will add up to support the drive for inclusive and sustainable development in Nigeria.




By Isioma Ononye,
Social Media Officer

Featured Video