Nelson Mandela Leadership Academy - NMLA

“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela


Inspired by the vision of Africa’s leading icon and statesman, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, AU Watch’s Leadership Academy, in collaboration with Business World Africa, provides for talented and aspiring young African leaders, stateswomen and men between the ages of 18-30 years with training opportunities in leadership, ethics, and good governance. Based on Mandela’s ideals of sharing, tolerance, democracy and good governance, AU Watch aims to empower young Africans, wherever they are, to make positive contributions to their communities and the world at large.

“Over the years, I’ve spoken with hundreds of young African students and graduates who are eager to create change. They want to be entrepreneurial – to earn money through hard work and innovation, rather than connections and corruption. They want to be more ethical than the world they grew up in. But they often have a hard time seeing themselves as “leaders”, and they are uncertain as to where to begin.”

Why a Need For a Leadership Academy in Africa?



Very few will argue that Africa has deep-seated leadership challenge. The question of leadership is centre stage in many of the writings about Africa’s development challenges.Explaining such development challenges has continued to elude scholars.

However, with over fifty years of independence, the debate is increasingly focusing on Africa’s leadership as good explanation for a range of human rights violations and governance challenges. Many writers that have been over banging the gavel of slavery and (neo) colonialism are now forced to admit the uncomfortable truth, that whilst, the triple evils of slavery, colonialism and neo-colonialism continues to have deleterious effects on Africa, we Africans are now the authors of our own misfortune due to poor or even bad leadership. AU watch is of the view that the current poverty and underdevelopment of Africa have much to do with enabling conditions created by African leaders.

The Telegraph of 14 May 2002, summed it up well. In Africa, political mismanagement, corruption and disregard by the authorities for the bulk of the people have prevailed, indeed flourished, in the half century that has followed the first withdrawal of colonial rulers. What African leaders … have created in their countries are conditions that are distinctly unfavourable for the development of people’s abilities, motivations and political institutions. They have ruled their countries like medieval fiefdoms, looting their faltering economies and through shocking mismanagement creating hardships and famines for people who do not get the opportunity to vote them out.

The catastrophe of bad leadership has created the impression that the African is incapable of finding African solutions to the problems affecting the continent, and this is not only a product of colonialism or neo-colonialism. The Nelson Mandela Leadership Academy’s multidisciplinary programming helps aspiring interns and young professionals take their leadership capabilities and AU policy knowledge to the next level. Nelson Mandela Leadership Academy’s goal is to foster growth and collaboration within all AU Member States and institutions of higher learning as well as to help prepare employees for challenges and opportunities in their future careers.


Through leadership training and coaching, the Nelson Mandela Leadership Academy seeks to be in the vanguard of assisting the AU and AUMS to realize the vision of “an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the international arena.” It envisions an “Africa whose development is people-driven, relying on the potential of African people, especially its women and youth, and caring for children: strengthening the role of Africa’s women through ensuring gender equality and parity in all spheres of life (political, economic and social); creating opportunities for Africa’s youth for self-realization … (Aspiration 6 from Agenda 2063)“

To assist the AU and AUMS to achieve the Africa of 2063 – that is an integrated continent of consistent wealth creation, inclusivity and a pole of tolerance and leading to a pole of global growth and transformationby developing a network of leaders in every African country who will work together for the realization of Agenda 2063.

Our Culture &Values

Having the right values at the heart of BBR is essential to our success. Our culture and values help us fulfil our purpose.

Our culture

Talented, committed and responsible people from diverse backgrounds are essential for us to fulfil our purpose of reimagining anAfrica that we all want.

Our Values

Success Starts Here!
Our values are part of our DNA. They guide the way we work with our business partners, within our communities and with each other.

Resourcefulness is the fuel that keeps our feet close to the fire. Thinkers and writers who see possibilities, not problems; entrepreneurs who see challenges, not limitations. Savvy professionals who get things done and find ways to make things work. Support heroes who believe, dream and defy the odds. To be resourceful is to come up with solutions, not excuses.

Entrepreneurial Spirit & Ambition:
We never rest on our achievements. Developing Africa is a challenging. We recognise that we must adapt constantly in a fast-changing world.We believe everyone can develop their own entrepreneurial spirit. That is why we have made it a core value. We combine this with the value of resourcefulness because we expect our students to follow through on their best ideas and make them happen.

We care deeply about our impact. We want to make a difference and an impact to society and those we touch. We have a sense of responsibility which goes beyond our job

We believe in the power of people. Grand accomplishments are never achieved alone. We have learned that cooperation helps you to achieve your goals. We, therefore, structure everything we do in such a way that, because we are constantly cooperating with others, they are continually open to helping to achieve the organisation’s goals. We listen, learn and we share, aiming to build capacity both among our colleagues and beyond. Our work enables dialogue and creates space for people to think, speak and participate.

Curiosity and Rebellion:                                                                                                                                                          We are rebellious and idealistic at heart. We aspire to be kind and responsible to our environment and society, while being an inspiration for others.

We value and encourage creativity.                                                                                                                                    We understand that progress is driven by the inquisitive and the curious. We recognise that creativity exists in many forms, with ideas brimming at every level, from “shoot for the moon” ambitions, right down to our daily work. We embrace innovation and act we courage. We are not afraid to challenge established norms, pursuing the right outcomes, knowing it is rarely easy. We want our people to have the courage to stand up for their ideas and challenge the status quo. Creativity can often mean simply looking at things in a different way and our collaborative culture allows us to build on ideas and continually improve the work that we do.

Authenticity & Innovation:
Innovation is at the heart of what we do. We strive to support, learn from and value the contributions of all colleagues. We encourage people to experiment and take smart risks. Our aim is to foster creative thinking that leads to practical solutions to the challenges of Africa. We strive for an organisation in which innovation is rewarded, diversity is embraced and both success and failure are shared.

We take responsibility for our actions and proactively demonstrate that we work with and on behalf of others. We perform consistently to standards and seek to achieve and inspire excellence. We are dedicated to continually drawing from our experience, sharing knowledge and applying it to improve our work.

What We Do

Are You A High-Schooler Who Wants To Learn More About African Politics, Leadership And International Development?

Are you looking to challenge yourself and develop your leadership and advocacy skills? Apply to the Nelson Mandela Leadership Academy (NMLA)! We’re looking to train motivated, driven high school students in leadership, advocacy, and civic engagement.

It is a week-long Summit where a group of 50-60 valuable young talent from around the continent – schools, companies, NGOs, universities and other forward-thinking organisations are joined by world leaders, acting as Counsellors. At the Summit, delegates debate, formulate and share innovative solutions for the pressing issues the region faces.They will build a network and execute a Leadership Development Project to help their community.

The next NMLA will take place in Banjul, The Gambia on 20 October through 27 October 2020. Applications will open February and applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis until all spots are filled.

Who can be a Mandela Ambassador?

Mandela delegates are 18-30 years old who have demonstrated leadership ability and a commitment to effecting positive change. Many have already had an impact in their home countries on a range of issues, including the role of business in society, transparency in business and government, the impact of climate change, global health and hunger relief.
If you think you meet the requirements, we welcome you to apply to attend the 2020 Summit by creating a candidate profile. If your profile is approved it will be displayed on Nelson Mandela Leadership website and you can seek the necessary funding to attend the Summit.
At the Summit Closing Ceremony, delegates graduate as Nelson Mandela Ambassadors, joining a network of young leaders who are creating positive change around Africa.

What Will You Get Out of The NMLA?

You’ll discover your leadership style and build on your strengths while diving into international, regional and domestic topics that relate to Agenda 2063, governance, Sustainable Development Goals and business development. You’ll examine what your role is in creating effective change in your community and on a regional scale.

NMLA is just the start! Attending this program means you are committed to working with AU Watch for one year. Our goal is to give young people like yourself the tools to build projects in your own community. This project will be 100 percent yours, and we will provide the training and mentorship you need to make it happen.

After each Summit, the delegates, who are then known as Mandela Ambassadors, work on their own initiatives or lend the power of the Nelson Mandela network to those initiatives already in existence. For those in employment, many return to their companies and set about creating change from within, energising their corporate environment

How is it funded?

Delegates’ expenses to attend a Summit may be funded by private citizens, companies, NGOs, education establishments and public bodies.


More information about how to fund a delegate can be found here.

The cost for each delegate attending the Summit encompasses travel within the host city, accommodation, meals, access to laptops, desktops and mobile devices, venue costs, chaperones and satellite and wireless connectivity.

The 2020 delegate fee is £1,975 – Click here to see what is included.

Financial Aid may be available through a separate application, please contact the AU Watch Office for more details. The NMLA will take place at a University of The Gambia.

Please contact [email protected] if you have any questions.


How To Prepare For the NMLA?

This experience will allow you to build lifelong friendships and provide the opportunity to learn, refine, and apply critical leadership and communication skills. There is no assignment or research that needs to do beforehand, but getting familiar with Agenda 2063 will help you brainstorm ideas for your Leadership Development Project and prepare for the discussions and workshops.

Start talking to your parents, neighbours, teachers and community members about what the needs of your community are and who your project might impact. Throughout the year you’ll be working with an AU Watch Youth Advisory Board (YAB) mentor, and they will help you develop your idea and execute the project.

NMLA Photography Scholarships Available!

Five scholarships are available for individuals who will photograph workshops, activities, and candid moments during the NMLA. The scholarship recipients must commit to taking a series of photographs during the majority of the NMLA sessions/workshops—this will not limit or restrict participation in activities.

Equipment will be provided by AU Watch for photographers to use.

Click here to complete the application form and submit a 10-picture portfolio here by February 15, 2020.

Where Will the Next Summit Be Held?

The Nelson Mandela Leadership Summit 2020 will take place in The Gambia from 20 to 27 October 2020.


Africa is Open For Business

AU Watch is of the view that Africa is open for business and investments, especially from more prosperous Africans.  These days, thousands of foreign-educated lawyers, businessmen, and architects from the Diaspora are leaving good corporate jobs to return home with their skills and their dynamism to open up businesses – it’s about creating wealth, and not necessarily reducing poverty. Africa is not a victim in need of saving: it’s a land of opportunity. We need to create leaders, innovators and entrepreneurs. We can continue the endless cycle of aidand dependency, or we can create jobs, develop indigenous capacity, and build a sustainable future. Have you noticed that some of our brightest minds have simply become bureaucrats and NGO workers when they should be scientists, entrepreneurs or some sort of wealth creators?

Idriss Mohammed, a financier who wants to raise a private equity fund for Sub-Saharan Africa, put it succinctly, if you make Africans rich, they’ll be less poor.” “Forget making poverty history. I want to make Africans rich”, he said. Audacious, blasphemous, foolhardy—possibly—but is that not the philosophy that has enabled China to lift millions out of poverty, in only a few decades, and become a magnet for foreign investment.

The Nelson Mandela Academy programs assist Africa’s brightest minds to be thinkers and creators of wealth. After 60 years of independence the only people that have really benefited from Africa’s vast resources and billions of dollars of aid are the corrupt African governments and the international development industry.

At NMLA, we believe that the only way Africa will develop and create wealth is if it can attract both local and foreign capital, trade its goods with other African countries and on the world market, like every other economically successful country does. No country will ever be rich on the yearly receipt of aids.


About Agenda 2063

2020 Curriculum

Meet the Staff