For the third year Oklahoma State University will host young entrepreneurs from across Africa for the Mandela Washington Fellowship Institute for Young African Leaders. Hosted by the Spears School of Business and the College of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources (CASNR), 25 Mandela Washington Fellows will spend six weeks this summer at OSU attending classes and leadership programs and interacting with Oklahoma entrepreneurs for practical know-how about how U.S. businesses work.
“These are young entrepreneurs in their countries, women and men aged 18 to 35, who have already started businesses or are in the process,” said Dr. Craig Watters, a clinical associate professor in entrepreneurship and director of The Riata Institute for Global Social Entrepreneurship who serves as the fellowship’s OSU academic director. “These are all small businesses and most of these entrepreneurs have never seen their ventures in the context of industry and target markets and competition and growth, so they’re coming here to learn business practices.”
The Mandela Washington Fellowship is sponsored by the U.S. State Department and the International Research & Exchange Board (IREX), a nonprofit specializing in global education and development. In addition to the 25 participants visiting OSU, 675 other Africans leaders from 49 countries will spend time at more than two dozen other educational institutions across the U.S. beginning in June.
Dr. M. Craig Edwards, an OSU professor in the Department of Agricultural Education, Communications and Leadership, is the Mandela Washington Fellowship program administrator for OSU.
Because of the fellowship’s emphasis on entrepreneurship and the participants’ focus on ag and food production, the institute at OSU is a natural partnership between Spears Business and its Riata Center for Entrepreneurship and CASNR.
Mandela Washington fellows at OSU will take classes on topics ranging from business plans to operating ecotourism ventures and will tour various Oklahoma State facilities and other area organizations and businesses. The participants will meet Oklahoma business owners and entrepreneurs through the Stillwater Chamber of Commerce and the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma. They’ll even attend a rodeo.
“We in turn will learn about their customs and cultures and about the complicated politics of Africa and how that affects their businesses,” Watters said. “That will be a big part of how OSU students and faculty will benefit from interacting with these young leaders.”