Developing Africa’s next-generation leaders: Mastercard Foundation changes UP students’ lives through scholarship programme

Posted on February 24, 2020

A group of postgraduate University of Pretoria (UP) students from various African countries were recently awarded the annual Mastercard Foundation Scholarship at an event attended by Vice-Chancellor and Principal of UP Professor Tawana Kupe; Professor Norman Duncan, Vice-Principal: Academic; deans and deputy deans of the various faculties at the University; and members of management of the Mastercard Foundation Scholarship.

The scholarship has entered the seventh year of its 10-year partnership with UP (2014–2023), and has since provided bursaries to the value of $21 million (about R315 million). The partnership began as a means to assist academically talented but financially disadvantaged youth from all over Africa to study at UP. The university is one of only two South African universities selected by the foundation to provide financial assistance to African students.

This year the Mastercard Foundation Scholarship was awarded to students in the Faculties of Economic and Management Sciences; Engineering, Built Environment and Information Technology; Humanities; Natural and Agricultural Sciences; and Law. The recipients are from various African countries including Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Uganda and Zimbabwe.


Sudanese recipient Mohamed Mirghni.

“I hope I will be able to reflect what I have learnt from UP through this scholarship back to my community in Sudan, particularly in environmental issues,” said Sudanese recipient Mohamed Mirghni, a master’s student in Agricultural Economics.

The scholarship was founded on the premise that all young people, no matter their starting point in life, should have the opportunity to obtain quality education and pursue their aspirations. Its goal is to develop a cohort of transformational leaders that will support social transformation and economic growth in Africa. Thus far, 309 students –102 undergraduates and 207 postgraduates – have been awarded the scholarship.

Prof Kupe urged recipients to work towards achieving their goals in order to contribute to creating a better Africa by playing their part in addressing the continent’s deficits. “Every individual on the continent has a responsibility to develop it. No one can do it for you; the Mastercard Foundation has given you the opportunity to do this. There is a huge expectation on you to deliver.” He added that students should aim to not only to attain a good qualification but to also be fully rounded graduates: “People who are sensitive to their social environment, who are socially responsive and responsible, who are ethical in that they give back from what they have been given”.

Of the 309 students to date, 143 have graduated. Some have continued to study and others are making a difference in the workplace.

“I believe in Africa reclaiming ownership of its resources,” said recipient Elma Akob, a Communications Management honours student from Cameroon. “So after I complete my studies, I would like to work in the African Union to ensure that this happens. I believe that the Mastercard Foundation will help me to achieve my goal.”  

- Author Ruvimbo Musiyarira

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