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The Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program Celebrates a Decade of Developing Young Leaders

The Mastercard Foundation Scholars program has supported nearly 40,000 young people and by 2030 will double its reach to 100,000 young people, primarily in Africa

A group of Mastercard Foundation Scholars express their excitement at the Baobab Summit 2022, in Kigali, Rwanda. The Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program – an education and leadership initiative that has directly impacted nearly 40,000 young people, primarily in Africa – celebrates a decade of transformative impact and learning this year.

KIGALI, Rwanda, September 15, 2022 -/African Media Agency (AMA)/- The Mastercard Foundation celebrates the 10th anniversary of the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program. Launched in 2012, the program began as a $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 and leadership development. Initially, the program aimed to support 15,000 young people. Over the past decade, The Mastercard Foundation has deployed $1.7 billion through the initiative to benefit nearly 40,000 young people, more than 72% of whom are young women. To date, 18,544 young people have graduated from secondary and higher education.

“Through a network of extraordinary partners, the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program enables thousands of bright and deserving young people to access a 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; tackling everything from climate change to health inequalities. Their collective impact will be felt for generations to come,” said Reeta Roy, President and CEO of The Mastercard Foundation.

According to a 2020/2021 survey of a sample of program alumni, 87% of high school graduates and 71% of college graduates are employed. Where alumni have become entrepreneurs, they have collectively created more than 16,000 jobs. Additionally, 40% of college graduates say they now support their siblings’ education. Importantly, Mastercard Foundation Scholars unanimously express a strong commitment to giving back to their communities, which is a core tenet of the program. During their training, each person creates or participates in a project, which responds to a specific challenge in their community.

“Throughout my journey as a Mastercard Foundation Scholar, it has always been about being a better version of yourself so that you can return to your community and help others,” says Joanna Gunab, who is now a doctor and practicing in northern Ghana. Joana, a young woman living with a disability, also leads an initiative to support students with basic school necessities.

Another Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program alumnus, Faith Kipkemboi, is driving the transformation in her native Kenya. She founded a community organization, Cactus Mama, to provide evidence-based, high quality and affordable mental health services in remote areas, especially for women. “We hope to create a better Kenya; a healthier Kenya,” she says.

The Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program began with a strong focus on secondary education, working with partners such as CAMFED, BRAC, Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE), African Leadership Academy (ALA) and the Equity Group Foundation (Wings to Fly) to enable young people to access secondary school and improve completion rates, especially for girls.

As more African countries adopt free secondary education policies, the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program has focused its attention on higher education, where higher education enrollment rates across the continent remain weak. At the same time, The Mastercard Foundation continues to improve the quality, relevance and inclusion of secondary education to prepare young people for the world of work.

“Our partnership with the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program is exceptional and has enabled us to realize our vision for the post-secondary years,” said Ann Cotton, Founder and Trustee of CAMFED International. “Every child counts and the Foundation looks at justice in the broadest possible sense, of the most deprived [and] marginalized child to the most powerful institution they work with. And there is authenticity at every step of this trajectory.

The Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program has grown into a network of over 40 pan-African and global partners working together to drive inclusion in education. African organizations represent more than 45% of this network.

Over the next decade, the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program will double in scope to support a total of 100,000 young people, 70% of whom will be young women. It will also pay more attention to the inclusion of disabled and forcibly displaced young people.

Going forward, The Mastercard Foundation will also continue to support the network of higher education partners to promote innovation and entrepreneurship in ways that enable dignified work for young people in Africa. This is in line with the Foundation’s Young Africa Works strategy, which aims to enable 30 million young people across the continent to access dignified and fulfilling work by 2030.

Distributed by African Media Agency (AMA) on behalf of the Mastercard Foundation

About The Mastercard Foundation

The Mastercard Foundation works with visionary organizations to enable young people in Africa and Indigenous communities in Canada to access dignified and fulfilling work. It is one of the largest private foundations in the world whose mission is to advance learning and promote financial inclusion to create an inclusive and equitable world. It was created in 2006 thanks to the generosity of Mastercard when it became a public company. The Foundation is an independent organization and its policies, operations and program decisions are determined by its own Board of Directors and management team. It is a registered Canadian charity with offices in Toronto, Kigali, Accra, Nairobi, Kampala, Lagos, Dakar and Addis Ababa.

For more information and stories about the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program, please visit: Follow Mastercard Foundation on Twitter at: @MastercardFdn.


“You interview the fellows, they all wanted to do something not just for themselves but for others – others in their family, others in their community… They are very driven by a selfless spirit. And I think that’s the power of this transformative approach. I really don’t think there’s a better way than to invest in young people.

—Susan Davis, Founding Chair and CEO, BRAC USA

“Where do I hope the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program will be in 10 years? I hope it will have such a vibrant alumni network that first-class Scholars choose to invest in the success of the incoming cohort. This is the only thing we have to achieve. If we are successful, we will have a metaphor that does not work in most of Africa, but we will have a snowball that will come down and gain in size as you go.

—Chris Bradford, Founder and President, African Leadership Academy

“The Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program has been a great way for EARTH University to raise awareness about climate change issues, especially in rural areas and around agriculture, in Africa. Prior to the Mastercard Foundation Scholars program, we had a small percentage of African students in our program who faced different, but related, challenges related to climate change compared to Latin America. And for us, it has been a great opportunity to learn more about other realities and also to contribute to the reflection and learning of the past decades.

—Arturo Condo, President of EARTH University

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

—Professor Michael Crow, President of Arizona State University

“The Mastercard Foundation put together this program which really put everyone on a level playing field and was a complete game-changer for students who needed (if needed) support. It was very clear to the Mastercard Foundation that the students – the young people – were the North Star.

—Patrick Awuah, President and Founder of Ashesi University

Being a scholar means that I am a transformative 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 Scholar at the American University of Beirut.

“In addition to having access to listening ears, the comprehensiveness of the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program has played an immense role in who I have become. By not having to worry about food, the cost of life and books, I had enough quality time to prepare for life after graduation. [I took advantage of] take full advantage of Ashesi’s diverse culture by associating with international students. I have also benefited greatly from fellow development initiatives, such as the Summer Internship Fund, which sponsored my first internship. Through internships and interaction with my colleagues at Ashesi, I have learned to meaningfully engage in professional conversations and adapt to new cultures. Goldman Sachs hired me largely for these qualities, not for my technical skills.

—Maxwell Aladago, graduate of Ashesi University, PhD candidate 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 achieved the education I have today, and I am forever indebted to everyone who helped me achieve my dream. As international organizations and African governments embark on developing strategies, policies and practices that will support progress against the SDGs, let us not forget that education is at the root of everything. And that a dream is what sustains us and keeps us engaged in building a bright future for those who come after us.

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

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

— Rahab Wangari, Graduate of Ashesi University and CMU-Africa, Founder of Hepta Analytics.


Wariko Waita

Program Communications Manager – Human Capital Development

[email protected]

Toni Tiemens

Corporate Communications Manager

[email protected]

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Source: African Media Agency (AMA)