Fifteen Rwandan Leaders selected for the fourth YALI Mandela Washington Fellowship

U.S. Ambassador to Rwanda Erica J. Barks-Ruggles with Young Rwandan Leaders selected to participate in the fourth annual Young African Leadership Initiative.

The U.S. Embassy is proud to announce that 15 dynamic and experienced young Rwandans, have been invited to participate in the fourth annual Young African Leadership Initiative (YALI) Mandela Washington Fellowship. The Mandela Washington Fellowship is the flagship program of the Young African Leaders Initiative. It is composed of academic coursework, leadership training, and networking. These outstanding Rwandans will travel to the U.S. for a six- week program hosted by American colleges and universities.

The 15 Rwandan recipients were selected from more than 1,000 applicants and represent a diverse group of leaders already making important contributions in their communities in the areas of business, public administration, and civic leadership.

Through this initiative, they will be part of 1,000 young leaders from Sub-Saharan Africa for institutes focused on public management, business and entrepreneurship, civic leadership, and for the second year, a specialized institute on energy.

The Mandela Washington Fellowship and the larger YALI program has become the model for exchanges in Southeast Asia, the Americas, and in Europe. They include the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI), Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI) and the Young Transatlantic Innovation Leaders Initiative (YTILI). Since the inaugural of Young African Leadership Initiative (YALI) Washington Fellowship held last 2014, 27 Rwandans have been awarded this prestigious Fellowship.

For More information about the Young African Leaders Initative and the Mandela Washington Fellowship, please visit
And learn more about the past years Rwandan Fellows.

2017 Cohort of Rwandan Mandela Washington Fellowship

  1. Josephine Nkurunziza

Up until recently, Josephine worked with Girl Hub, in partnership with the Ministry of Health, as a Monitoring and Learning Specialist. She has extensive training and experience working on gender issues through previous collaboration with CARE International and FAWE, with a particular focus on maternal health, child nutrition, and early childhood development. Josephine is passionate about ensuring the results of monitoring and evaluation reports are shared with local communities, rather than remaining in elite Kigali circles. In her spare time, she volunteers with three NGOs mentoring young women and promoting girls’ empowerment. Josephine was selected for the Civic Leadership tract. She was also approved for the additional 6 week professional development internship.

2. Esther Kunda

Esther is a tech enthusiast with a passion for generating solutions that empower communities. Currently working as an Education Support Manager for Intel on the deployment of ICT in education in Rwanda, she works to shape the next generation of Rwandans by focusing on digital inclusion. Esther is passionate about encouraging young girls to join ICT as a career and volunteers with Girls in ICT Rwanda and Fawe Rwanda. Her dream is to build a research and development center for girls to build prototypes and implement the ideas they have for solving problems in their own community. Esther will be in the Business & Entrepreneurship.

3. Patrick Mugiraneza

Patrick is the co-founder of Agriyouth Rwanda Initiative, a youth-led organization that uses agriculture to help young people create jobs for themselves and their communities. In addition to his NGO, Patrick is a lecturer at the University of Rwanda. Patrick is passionate about sustainable agriculture and food security issues and uses both his position at the University as well as his leadership of his NGO to tie youth empowerment, food security issues, and sustainable development for the future of Rwanda. In the 2017MWF, Patrick will be in the Civic Leadership track.

4. Israel Bimpe

Over the past three years, Mr. Bimpe has performed outreach to educate youth populations to increase awareness in the area of health and public communication. He has also served as a peer mentor for the past two years which includes YALI alumni. He aspires to serve his country and community as a policy maker with a focus on the challenge of ‘high price’ medications. Mr. Bimpe also has served in a leadership capacity with both the International Pharmaceutical Student’s Federation (IPSF) and National Pharmacy Council (NPC). He was selected for the Public Management track and will receive the additional 6 week professional development experience internship.

5. Sylvie  SANGWA

Sylvie is owner and managing director of SYBASH Ltd, a sustainable agriculture firm. She is currently guiding and managing her staff through a new endeavor to Rwanda—free range eggs. She has overcome many barriers to introduce this innovative idea to the Rwandan market and has a clear plan for introducing complimentary sustainable agriculture products in her business.

Sylvie also volunteers in her spare time with an organization that provides care and financial assistance to poor, hospitalized individuals and their families. Sylvie has very specific goals in what she wants to learn from spending time with an organization that does community and/or sustainable agriculture and will have the opportunities to implement the knowledge gained immediately upon return to Rwanda. Although she focuses on free-range eggs, she is also beginning to grow tropical fruit. In the 2017 MWF, Sylvie will be in the Business & Entrepreneurship track.

6. Christelle Umuhoza

After losing her parents during the genocide and its aftermath, Christelle created Umuhoza, a local NGO to help adolescent girls heal from their trauma through art and music therapy. She was the first member of her family to graduate from university and currently works with World Relief Rwanda on a nationwide UNICEF-funded program to combat childhood malnutrition. Christelle also volunteers in her spare time with a company which teaches art and design to local youth.  She was selected for the Civic Leadership track.

7. Kenneth Nkusi

After completing his studies, Kenneth has been working in humanitarian architecture for the last two years. As part of a local architectural firm, Kenneth designs and implements civic focused buildings including schools and hospitals. Taking challenges as opportunities for creative solutions, Kenneth takes an active role in advocating for improved infrastructure in the country and works closely with community leadership to plan inclusive spaces. In addition to his professional work, he also conducts art classes for children with an aim to encourage and maintain creativity as children grow up into young adults. He hopes to open an art school for underserved populations. Kenneth was selected for the Business & Entrepreneurship track.

8. Josiane Isingizwe

Josiane is driven with a desire to help her country to import and export high quality products and sees her role as an Estate Manager with the Rwanda Standards Board as a way to use her civil engineering degree to accomplish this goal and eventually promote local construction manufactures on the international market. In addition to her professional work, she co-founded a local NGO “Acts-of-Gratitude” which provides scholarships to secondary school students. Josiane was selected for Public Management.

9. Martin Habinshuti

Martin is a field coordinator for the Rwandan Men’s Resource Center which is the only organization in Rwanda that specifically targets men to combat gender-based violence and encourages boys and young men to be part of the solution to end GBV. Additionally, Martin is the founder and CEO of the NGO KEEPCARE Rwanda, whose purpose is to work with unwed teen mothers through mental health counseling and other assistance.  Martin was selected for the Civic Leadership track. He hopes to learn from the fellowship how. American communities integrate faith-based, civic, and government organizations into the fight against GBV

10. Larissa Uwase

Larissa is the co-founder and COO of CARL Group, a company that promotes nutrition, value addition, and processing of locally grown crops in Rwanda. The CARL Group works with small scale farmers to produce products from orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, a common, but undervalued vegetable in Rwanda. The business aims to address malnutrition and stunting among Rwanda’s rural youth. In addition to her business, Larissa participates in local government by serving as youth coordinator at the sector level (200k—400k individuals). Larissa will be in the Business & Entrepreneurship track.

11. Dams Mutagoma

Damas is a Human Rights and Treaty Body Reporting Specialist in the Ministry of Justice. He covers all human rights issues and he is responsible specifically for issues related to international justice and judicial cooperation. In his role he develops and evaluates policies and strategies for protection and promotion of Human Rights, and collaborates with different arms of the government and civil society to plan and draft related laws. Mr. Damas was selected for the Public Management track.

12. Christa Giraso

Christa is a passionate environmental designer and holds a Bachelor’s degree in environmental design. She is the lead designer in construction with the Rwandan brand of the international NGO One-Acre Fund. In addition to leading design projects that protect the environment, she leads a team of 20 professionals and over 200 construction site workers. She strongly believes in the individual’s ability to impact their environment and serves as a mentor to other young Rwandan women to create a positive future. Christa was approved to participate in the Business & Entrepreneurship track.

13. Janvier Uwayezu

Janvier is a biologist who, with a group of his classmates founded Rwanda Biosolution Ltd, when the scientist recognized limited options for themselves and found the bio-waste-to-energy sector an area of opportunity for them to marry their professional interests with a relevant need in their community—increased access to affordable energy. He works in many areas across this start-up and one activity he has to undertake is pitch their services to local community leaders. He has had to overcome the misunderstanding and fears around bio-waste energy as many leaders thought the company would introduce new diseases to their communities. In addition to his company, he also teaches biology and volunteers as a first responder with the Rwanda Red Cross Society. Janvier was selected for the Business & Entrepreneurship track.

14. Denyse Uwineza

Denyse is both an entrepreneur and gender activist who uses her degrees in computer science and gender and development to develop technical solutions to contribute to Rwanda’s sustainable development and empower poor women living in rural areas. Her company URU Tech Ltd specializes in software development, IT consultancy and web design. In addition to leading URU Tech Ltd, she co-founded and leads Youth Alliance for Climate Actions whose aim is to build resilience of both the environment and Rwanda’s youth. Denyse was selected for the Business & Entrepreneurship track.

15. Janvier Kabananiye

Janvier works for the Ministry of Infrastructure and Energy as a Senior Engineer in Energy Distribution and Transmission where he works on strategic plans and policies, as well as monitoring and evaluation for the rural electrification project. In addition to his work with the Ministry, Janvier co-founded Rwanda Green Initiative, which aims to raise awareness among communities about climate change resilience and to help poor and rural communities overcome the negative impacts of climate change. Janvier was selected the Public Management track focused on energy policy.