Launched in 2012, the Programme began as a $500 million initiative to develop the next generation of leaders who would drive social and economic transformation.
The Programme 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.
The Mastercard Foundation Scholars Programme had supported nearly 40,000 young people and by 2030 will double its reach to 100,000 young people, primarily in Africa.
Initially, the Programme aimed to support 15,000 young people.
Over the last decade, the Mastercard Foundation has deployed $1.7 billion through the
initiative to benefit nearly 40,000 young people, over 72 per cent of whom are young women.
To date, 18,544 young people have graduated from secondary and higher education.
Mr Reeta Roy, President and CEO of the Mastercard Foundation said, “Through a network of extraordinary partners, the Scholars Programme is enabling thousands of bright and deserving young people to access quality
education and develop as leaders who give back to their communities and help to improve the lives of others.”
He said the Mastercard Foundation Scholars and Alumni were leaders and innovators; activists and entrepreneurs; tackling everything from climate change to health inequity. Their collective impact will be felt for generations to come.
According to a 2020/2021 survey
of a sample of Alumni from the Programme, 87 per cent of secondary-school graduates and 71 per cent of University graduates are employed. Where Alumni have become entrepreneurs, they have collectively created over 16,000 jobs.
In addition, 40 per cent of University graduates said they were now supporting the education of their siblings.
Importantly, Mastercard Foundation Scholars unanimously express a strong commitment to giving back to their communities, which is a core principle of the Programme. During their education, 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 has always been about being a better version of yourself so that you can go back to your
community and help others,” Dr Joanna Gunab, a Medical Doctor said.
Dr Gunab, who is a young woman living with a disability, also runs an initiative to support students with basic school necessities.
Madam Faith Kipkemboi, another Alumni of the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Programme from Kenya founded a community-based organization, Cactus Mama, to deliver evidence-based, high-
quality, and affordable mental health services in remote areas, especially for women.
The Mastercard Foundation Scholars Programme began with a strong focus on secondary education, working with partners such as CAMFED, BRAC, Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE), the African Leadership Academy (ALA), and the Equity Group Foundation (Wings to Fly) to provide young people with access to high school and improve
completion rates —particularly for girls.
As more African countries adopt free secondary education policies, the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Programme has focused its attention on higher education, where tertiary enrollment rates across the continent remain low.
At the same time, the Mastercard Foundation is continuing to improve quality, relevance, and
inclusion in secondary education to prepare young people for the world of work.
Madam Ann Cotton, the Founder and Trustee of CAMFED International, said, “Our partnership with the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Programme is exceptional and has enabled us to fulfil our vision for the post-secondary school years.”
“Every child matters and the Foundation looks at justice in the
broadest possible sense, from the most impoverished [and] marginalized child to the most powerful institution with whom they work. And there is authenticity at every point on that trajectory,” she said.
The Mastercard Foundation Scholars Programme 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 percent of this network.
Over the next decade, the Programme will double its reach to support a total of 100,000 young people, 70 per cent of whom will be young women. It will also dedicate more attention to the inclusion of disabled and forcibly displaced young people.
Moving 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.