WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 01: U.S. President Barack Obama speaks to the media after meeting with House Speaker John Boehner at the White House, March 1, 2013 in Washington, DC. President Obama said that no agreement was reached with Republicans to avoid the sequester that will trigger automatic domestic and defense cuts. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

US President Barack Obama. He launched the fellowship in 2014.  (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

The Mandela Washington Fellowship 2016 applications open this week with the fellowship increasing the intake numbers from 500 to 1,000 participants.

The secretariat says that the selection process is conducted as a merit-based open competition. After the deadline, all eligible applications will be reviewed by a selection panel. Chosen semi-finalists will be interviewed by the U.S. embassies or consulates in their home countries.

In Kenya, this will be at the US Embassy in Gigiri.

The application for 2016 will be available online from October 1 through November 11, 2015.

In the guidelines, if one is selected for an interview, they must provide a copy of their passport (if available) or other government-issued photo identification to verify eligibility.

The secretariat says that applicants will not be discriminated against on the basis of race, colour, gender, religion, socio-economic status, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity. Those eligible to apply should be between the ages of 25 and 35 at the time of application submission, although exceptional applicants younger than 25 will be considered.

They must not be US citizens or permanent residents of the US. In addition, they must be eligible to receive a United States J-1 visa and are proficient in reading, writing, and speaking English.

Those interested in applying should have a proven record of leadership and accomplishment in public service, business and entrepreneurship, or civic engagement. They also must have a demonstrated commitment to public or community service, volunteerism, or mentorship.

The fellowship is also looking for those who can work cooperatively in diverse groups and respect the opinions of others, have strong social and communication skills and have an ‘energetic, positive attitude’.

Applicants must also have demonstrated knowledge, interest and professional experience in the sector/track selected.

And for any of the applicants who qualify, there should be a commitment to return to Africa and apply leadership skills and training to benefit the applicant’s country and community after they return home.

And for more on what is expected and how to win the competition, the fellowship says to check their tips on social media.

They had this on their Twitter account @YALINetwork.

For those who may not travel, the fellowship offers several opportunities including online courses which benefit the youth. Cynthia Nyongesa ‏on @cynthia_oprah

Another beneficiary Joseph Muteti Wambua, @JosephMutetiWam says:

Opportunities offered by the fellowship include free online training on various issues ranging from growing small businesses, improving networking skills and public speaking among others.

The fellowship offers online events every month where YALI Network members gather on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook for exclusive online events.

The fellowship also has spotlights and how-to guides every day.

There are also offline connections where interested parties continue with discussions offline and also host events. The networking helps members find like-minded leaders in their area and host events focused on the topics that matter most to them and their community.

The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders begun in 2014 and is the flagship programme of President Barack Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) that empowers young people through academic coursework, leadership training, and networking.

The fellowship provides outstanding young leaders from Sub-Saharan Africa with the opportunity to hone their skills at a US higher education institution with support for professional development after they return home.

More information on the 2016 Fellowship application is available online https://youngafricanleaders.state.gov/washington-fellowship/apply/.