Mandela Washington Fellows visited Maricopa County to learn about public management practices.
The 25 fellows are from 19 different African counties.
“These are the up and coming super stars from across Africa who have distinguished themselves in government, medicine, the private sector and nonprofits,” said Maricopa County Chairman Bill Gates, District 3. “They are now taking six weeks to come over and learn more about Arizona.”
The Arizona State University Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions works with the U.S. Department of State international exchange program to teach the fellows about U.S. government models, so that they can take that information back to their communities.
Maria Gift Nakanyala is from Namibia where she teaches high school and manages a program that informs teenage girls about their rights.
“I want to find ways to sustain the program I’m running back at home, and I feel like the fellowship offers a platform and an opportunity for me to learn such skills,” said Nakanyala.
The fellows visited with Maricopa County Manager Joy Rich and other leaders to learn about city, county, and state government structures.
“As the nation’s fastest growing county, we are constantly evolving, and we discussed how a county of our size can work together to serve the public,” said Maricopa County Manager Joy Rich.
The fellows also attended a Maricopa County formal board meeting.
“Back in my home country you don’t have a system where people can see board members give back to the community,” said Blaise Baguma, a program manager in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). “This is the kind of accountability that we need to have in our country is where people can come express themselves, their needs and expectations and get feedback from their authorities,” said Baguma.
Cephas Avoka is a medical doctor and public advocate in Ghana.
“It’s been really amazing the past few days learning how the government works in the county,” said Avoka. “It’s really good to see how everyone tries to work with a common goal, like trying to improve or elevate the conditions of people in Maricopa County and everyone tries to work towards achieving that goal.”
Avoka said he was inspired by what he saw during the board meeting.
“I was just reading the mission statement that was on the agenda that really touched me that they work for the people, and everyone up there knows that they have been elected to serve the people and not their own interests. That is definitely something that I am taking back home,” said Avoka.
Learn more about the 2019 Mandela Washington Fellows here.