JANS – The closing reception concluding the Mandela Washington Fellowship, organized by the faculty and staff of Jackson State University’s College of Business, began with high energy as the 25 fellows entered the room dancing, singing, and chanting “mother Africa.” Everyone in the audience reacted with the same level of enthusiasm with applauding, cheering, and chanting along, including JSU Acting President Elayne Hayes-Anthony, Ph.D.
“I’ve received call, emails, and letters talking about the enrichment of the fellowship program and how you have enriched our community here at JSU, in the city of Jackson, and throughout the state,” said Hayes-Anthony during her opening statement. “I am so impressed with all you have accomplished here and in your respective countries. I look forward to what you will do as a result of your time and connections made at JSU, in Jackson, and the state of Mississippi.
Assistant Professor of Accounting Lydia Didia, Ph.D. served as the administrative director for the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders at the JSU Leadership in Business Institute. She expressed gratitude to all the host families, businesses, volunteers, and policy makers who contributed to the program.
“It was an invigorating six weeks, and the Mandela Washington Fellows truly experienced Mississippi hospitality. A big thank you to all who contributed to their incredible experience,” expressed Didia. “The fellows are now part of the JSU connection and constitute a big asset for Americans willing to do business in Africa, a big emerging market.”
During the closing, the fellows gave final heartfelt reflections of their experience in the program along with their time in Mississippi.
“These last six weeks have been inspiring, challenging, energizing, but above all, eye-opening,” shared Sebastian Daniels from Cape Town, South Africa. “It opened my eyes to America’s technological advancement, strength of its currency, and the power of its government.”
Daniels spoke about being shocked by similarities of the effects of racial inequalities in his country and the state of Mississippi.
“I’ve also seen things that surprised me, like the imminent existence of white flight, infrastructure decay, and inequality,” he said.
The majority of the fellows have careers in agriculture, with many owning farms or agricultural processing companies. During week four of the institute, the fellows met with Senior Director of Quality Assurance and Food Safety Retail Unit Alicia Walker, Ph.D., who shared information with them about the operations of Wayne-Sanderson Farms, the third largest poultry company in the country.
“For me to be able to give them information to help them make their processes more innovative in their countries is an awesome experience,” said Walker. “There aren’t many African Americans in the field of agriculture, so to hear others from other countries with a strong interest in it, it lit a fuel in me.”
For the second year, JSU is the only Mississippi institution to serve as a host for the U.S. Department of State program established in 2014 and funded by the U.S. Government and administered by the International Research and Exchanges Board.
The emerging business leaders and entrepreneurs from various countries in Sub-Saharan Africa completed a six-week Leadership Institute administered by JSU faculty.
“I hope you have made new acquaintances, friends, and networking opportunities that you can take back and build on what you already started,” expressed College of Business Dean Fidelis Ikem, Ph.D. “I would hope to live long enough to hear some of your names as the next Bill Gates of Africa and the business leaders that will create jobs and build communities.”
Following the completion of the Leadership Institute at JSU, the fellows traveled to Washington, D.C. for the remainder of the fellowship before returning to their respective countries.