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Mastercard Foundation Scholarship Programme Celebrates a Decade Dedicated to Developing Young Leaders

Mastercard Foundation Scholarship Programme Celebrates a Decade Dedicated to Developing Young Leaders

The Mastercard Foundation Scholarship Program has benefited nearly 40,000 young people and by 2030 will double its number to 100,000 young people, primarily in Africa.

The Mastercard Foundation celebrates the ten-year anniversary of the Mastercard Foundation Scholarship Programme. Launched in 2012, the Program began as a USD$500 million initiative to develop the next generation of leaders who would drive social and economic transformation. The Program identifies talented young people from economically disadvantaged and hard-to-reach communities, primarily in Africa, and supports their secondary and higher education as well as leadership development. Initially, the Program aimed to serve 15,000 young people. Over the past decade, Mastercard Foundation has disbursed USD$1.7 billion through the initiative to benefit approximately 40,000 young people, of which over 72% are women. To date, 18,544 young people have completed high school and tertiary education.
“Through a network of extraordinary partners, the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program enables thousands of bright, deserving young people to access quality education and develop as leaders who give back to their communities and help improve the lives of others. Mastercard Foundation Scholars and alumni are leaders and innovators; activists and entrepreneurs; addressing everything from climate change to health inequality. Their collective impact will be felt for generations to come,” says Reeta Roy, president and CEO of the Mastercard Foundation.
According to a 2020/2021 survey of a sample of Programme alumni, 87% of high school graduates and 71% of university graduates are employed. Where alumni have become entrepreneurs, they have collectively created over 16,000 jobs. In addition, 40% of university graduates say they now support their siblings’ education. Importantly, Mastercard Foundation grantees unanimously express a strong commitment to giving back to their communities, and it is a core principle of the Programme. During their training, each person creates or participates in a project, which addresses a specific challenge in their communities.
“Throughout my journey as a Mastercard Foundation Scholar, it was always about being a better version of yourself so that you could go back to your community and help others,” says Joanna Gunab, now a practicing physician in Northern Ghana. Joanna, a young woman with a disability, also runs an initiative to support students with basic school needs.
Another Alumnus of the Mastercard Foundation Scholarship Programme, Faith Kipkemboi, is driving transformation in her native Kenya. She founded a community organisation, Cactus Mama, to provide evidence-based, high-quality and accessible mental health services in remote areas, especially for women. “We hope to create a better Kenya; a healthier Kenya,” she says.
The Mastercard Foundation Scholarship Program, began with a strong emphasis on secondary education, in collaboration with partners such as: the CAMFED, BRAC, Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE), the African Leadership Academy (ALA), and the Equity Group Foundation (Wings to Fly) to ensure young people have access to secondary education and improve completion percentages – particularly for girls.
As more African countries adopt free secondary education policies, the Mastercard Foundation Scholarship Program has focused its attention on higher education, where higher education enrolment rates across the continent remain low. At the same time, the Mastercard Foundation continues to improve the quality, relevance and inclusiveness of secondary education to prepare young people for the world of work.
“Our partnership with the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program is exceptional and has allowed us to fulfill our vision for the post-secondary school years,” says Ann Cotton, Founder and Trustee of CAMFED International. “Every child matters and the Foundation looks at justice in the broadest possible sense, from the most impoverished [and] marginalised child to the most powerful institution it works with. And there is authenticity at every point of that trajectory.”
The Mastercard Foundation Scholarship Programme has grown into a network of over 40 pan-African and global partners working together to drive inclusion in education. African organisations account for over 45% of this network.

Over the next decade, the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program will double its reach to support a total of 100,000 young people, 70% of whom will be young women. It will also devote more attention to the inclusion of disabled and forcibly displaced youth.
The Mastercard Foundation will also continue to support the network of higher education partners to promote innovation and entrepreneurship in ways that enable decent work for young people in Africa. This is in line with the Young Africa Works Foundation strategy, which aims to enable 30 million young people across the continent to access decent and rewarding work by 2030.

About The Mastercard Foundation

The Mastercard Foundation works with visionary organizations to enable young people in Africa and in indigenous communities in Canada to access decent and rewarding work. It is one of the world’s largest private foundations with a mission to promote learning and encourage financial inclusion to create an inclusive and just world. It was established in 2006 through the generosity of Mastercard when it became a public company. The Foundation is an autonomous organisation and its policies, operations, and programme decisions are determined by its own Board of Directors and its senior leadership team. It is a registered Canadian charity with offices in Toronto, Kigali, Accra, Nairobi, Kampala, Lagos, Dakar and Addis Ababa.


“Interview the Scholars, they all wanted to do something not only for themselves, but for others – others in their family, others in their community…. They are very much motivated by an altruistic spirit. And I think that’s the power of this transformative approach. I don’t think there’s any better way than to invest in young people.”

  • SusanDavis, Founding President and CEO, BRAC USA

“Where do I hope the Mastercard Foundation Scholars program will be in the next 10 years? I hope, that it has an alumni network that is so vibrant to the point that early class scholars choose to invest in the success of the group going forward. This is the one thing we have to achieve. If we can get this right, we will have a metaphor that doesn’t work in most of Africa, but we will have a snowball sliding and gaining strength in size as it goes forward.”

  • Chris Bradford, Founder and President, African Leadership Academy

“The Mastercard Foundation Scholarship Program is a great way for EARTH University to raise awareness of climate change issues, especially in rural areas, and around agriculture, in Africa. Before the Mastercard Foundation Scholarship Program, we had a small percentage of African students in our program who were facing different, but connected, climate change challenges compared to Latin America. And for us, it is a great opportunity to gain experience about other realities and also to contribute to the thinking and learning of the past decades.”

  • Arturo Condo, President of EARTH University

“My hope for the Scholars Programme is that by 2030 we will have hundreds and hundreds of networks led across Africa that are transforming everything.”

  • Professor Michael Crow, President, Arizona State University

“The Mastercard Foundation created this Program that really put everyone on a level playing field, and completely changed the game for the students they (much needed) support. It was obvious to the Mastercard Foundation that the students – the youth – would be the North Star.”

See Also

  • Patrick Awuah, President and Founder, Ashesi University

Being an academic means that I am a transformational leader, dedicated to bringing about economic and social change in my home country, in my region, and across the African continent.

  • Godiolla Akimana is currently a Mastercard Foundation Fellow at the American University of Beirut.

“Apart from having access to hearing ears, the scope of the Mastercard Foundation Scholarship Programme played an immense role in who I became. By not having to worry about food, cost of living and books, I had enough quality time to prepare for postgraduate life. [I took advantage of] all the benefits of Ashesi’s diverse culture by hanging out with international students. I also benefited greatly from the academics’ development initiatives, such as the summer internship fund, which sponsored my first internship. Through internships and interaction with my colleagues at Ashesi, I learned to meaningfully engage in professional conversations and adapt to new cultures. Goldman Sachs employed me mostly because of these qualities, not my technical skills.”

  • Maxwell Aladago, an Ashesi University graduate, is a PhD student at Dartmouth College, where he is currently focusing on AI research to solve some of Africa’s most pressing challenges.

I always remember my privilege to have attained the education I have today, and I am forever indebted to all those who helped me achieve my dream. As international organisations and African governments embark on developing the strategies, policies and practices that will support progress against the SDGs, do not forget that education is at the foundation of it all. And that a dream is what sustains us and keeps us committed to building a bright future for those who will come after us.

  • Patricie Uwase, a graduate of the University of California Berkeley, Minister of State at the Ministry of Infrastructure in Rwanda.

Thanks to the Mastercard Foundation, I was able to achieve a world-class education not just once, but twice. This exposure opened doors for me where I met like-minded people who were excited about solving African problems. With these experiences, I launched my social enterprise, Hepta Analytics.

  • Rahab Wangari, Graduate of Ashesi University and (CMU-Africa), Founder of Hepta Analytics.


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