When Barack Obama was elected and sworn in as 44th President of the United States of America on January 20, 2009, many black people, all over the world, celebrated. This was partly because he was the first black-American to assume high office and many black people, both in the US and Africa looked at him both with pride and hope. There was overwhelming hope that he will be able to craft favourable policies towards Africa. It is importantly to state that Obama’s dad was a Kenyan and he visited his relatives both as U.S. Senator and as President.

Although Obama’s record and legacy in the White House is debatable, what is clear is that one of his programmes, the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young Africans has been extremely successful. Started in 2004, nearly 4,400 young leaders from every country in Sub-Saharan Africa have participated in the Fellowship[1].

In Uganda, the fellowship started in 2014, and many young people have benefited from it. Overall, 149 Ugandans have benefited from the Mandela Washington Fellowship. The fellowship has 3 tracks: Public Management, Civic Leadership and Business. But in 2016 and 2017, there was the Energy track.

I applied for this fellowship in the last quarter of 2018 and I was selected in April 2019. I was selected to attend the civic leadership institute at University of Delaware, Newark. The preparation was hectic, with many online activities to complete before travel. On June 18, I set off from Entebbe International Airport, via Amsterdam, Atlanta and finally to Philadelphia. We were then picked from Philly (as it is called) by car and taken to UD (University of Delaware). The experience of the whole fellowship is awesome, and unforgettable. I learnt so much in 6 weeks and met so many people. I visited famous landmarks and places. In short, one of the best moments of my life.

In my view, I believe Obama’s idea of empowering young Africans, instead of donating millions of dollars to their countries, which end up being stolen, has produced lasting outcomes & impact on the continent. I am now, more than ever before, committed to working for my country and Africa. It has given me many connections, friends, and opportunities. The fellowship has given me skills, exposure, and energy to participate in development of my community & country. We have compiled this book to inspire other young people (especially in northern Uganda) to work hard, and to grab life-change opportunities like this.

[1] https://www.mandelawashingtonfellowship.org/about/