Twenty-five entrepreneurs from 15 sub-Saharan Africa countries are spending six weeks in Oklahoma to learn about American businesses, especially those in the agriculture industry.
Oklahoma State University is in its third year of hosting the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, which began in 2014 and is the flagship program of the Youth African Leaders Initiative.
“The hope is they’ve learned some things about American approaches and values that perhaps will help them improve their business,” said Dr. M. Craig Edwards, an OSU professor in the Department of Agricultural Education, Communications and Leadership and the Mandela Washington Fellowship program administrator for OSU.
The Mandela Fellows — who leave Stillwater for a summit in Washington, D.C., on July 28 before returning home — have done community service, participated in leadership development and visited dozens of sites ranging from the Cherokee Heritage Center and the Meridian Technology Center to Ralph’s Packing Co. and the Stillwater Public Schools agriculture facility.
At the ag facility, Mandela Fellows toured the greenhouse, learned about curriculum and were able to pet several goats and sheep.
Agnes Kanjala, who works with farmers to increase livestock productivity in hopes of alleviating hunger and poverty in her homeland of Malawi, was impressed to learn that more than 200 Stillwater junior high and high school students are taking FFA classes.
“Youth in my country don’t see ag as something that is attractive,” Kanjala said.
She is working to change that, just as Joshua Musasizi of Uganda is. He is working to create a market for goods by connecting farmers to buyers.
Other businesses range from banana farming in Angola to grocery delivery in Ghana.
“Many of them have an interest in youth and community development in the context of agriculture,” Edwards said. “That fits us very well because my department prepares people for that, to work in youth and community development in the U.S., many times in rural areas.”
The program also gives OSU graduate assistants interested in international development the chance to learn from the Mandela Fellows while assisting them throughout the institute.
“As a faculty member, I’m always looking for funding that will support students,” Edwards said.
The Mandela Washington Fellowship is sponsored by the State Department and the International Research & Exchange Board, a nonprofit specializing in global education and development.
The program is hosted by the Spears School of Business and the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources.
MEDIA CONTACT: Dr. Craig Edwards | Mandela Washington Fellowship program administrator | 405-744-8141 | firstname.lastname@example.org