Launched in 2021, the Mastercard Foundation – EARTH University Fellowship Program supports promising young graduates in their professional development as leaders for sustainable agricultural and rural development in Africa. The Fellowship seeks to provide them with meaningful, win-win opportunities in employment and entrepreneurship through which they can accelerate impact in their families, communities, and countries. Naboth Bwambale, Director of the Fellowship Program, tells us about this initiative:
How does the Program work?
The first cohort has been expanded to include 17 Fellows given the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Fellows, 8 women and 9 men, hail from seven countries: Uganda, Somaliland, Zambia, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Cameroon, and Rwanda. With their extensive knowledge and local understanding of their communities, Fellows will contribute to agricultural and entrepreneurial initiatives to help young people across Africa thrive.
How did the Mastercard Foundation – EARTH University Fellowship Program start and what are its objectives?
The Fellowship Program’s primary objective is to facilitate effective transitions for graduates from EARTH University back to Africa and into the professional realm as agents of change on the continent. As part of this, we wanted to build upon the entrepreneurship curriculum at EARTH and link young entrepreneurs with incubators where they can transform their ideas into enterprises that are tangible, scalable, and sustainable for their home communities. Another objective we have for this program is to enhance our learning and understanding about how to best promote effective transitions for university graduates who are eager to return home and apply all that they have learned to transform their local communities and countries for the better
Who can apply?
Current fourth year students and graduates from the previous two academic classes of EARTH University are currently eligible to apply. Beginning in 2023, we will also begin accepting applications from recent graduates from other Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program partner universities. The application process generally opens in May of each year and closes at the end of June. All interested Fellows complete an online application which is reviewed by our selection committee, which includes our Fellowship team together with external evaluators with entrepreneurship experience. Fellowship placements begin between January and March of each year for a period of 12 months.
How have you had to adapt the Fellowship Program to the COVID-19 situation and today´s virtual environment?
With the onset of the pandemic we had to quickly adapt to the virtual world. With Zoom, we’ve been able to coordinate all of our activities including selecting Fellows, identifying prospective host partners, and establishing partnerships with multiple institutions. We’ve embraced online platforms and come up with different programs to engage with our Fellows and partners, including the mentorship program as well as tools to help us evaluate our progress and to ensure strong communication among Fellows, host partners, and the program team.
Finally, what has been your personal experience working on the Fellowship Program?
Having gone through that difficult experience of finding employment after school myself, facilitating that transition of young professionals was a great opportunity where I felt I was a perfect fit. To give these graduates that opportunity to explore their potential and to get to hear feedback – it’s gratifying. Some of our host partners have already confirmed they are interested in extending offers to our Fellows to continue as employees of their organizations, which is one of the ultimate goals of the Fellowship Program. It’s something that I find so satisfying. We’ve really been a team in working together, brainstorming on a weekly basis what we need to do, what we find as challenges, and how we navigate through. This teamwork has been key.
The Fellowship Program is part of EARTH Futures, a global center for solutions at EARTH University that aims to transform rural areas for the better. EARTH Futures structures its efforts around 2 main pillars:
Over the next 10 years, we aim to impact the lives of millions of people in rural areas of Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean. Join us! http://earthfutures.earth/es/inicio/