Recently graduated Mastercard Scholar Norman Mugisha came to EARTH University from Rwanda, where he attended Cornerstone Leadership Academy, a secondary institution designed to raise up future African leaders with a shared vision of positively transforming their communities and nations. Norman grew up in a rural community where he was raised primarily by his grandmother. The chance to attend Cornerstone gave him a wider view of the world and a heart for giving back to his community.
It was at Cornerstone where Norman first learned about and decided to apply to EARTH. He has made the most of his four years here at EARTH, serving as student council president and working on various innovative initiatives and projects. Norman completed his one-year EARTH professional experience project in agribusiness at a local Costa Rican community farm, helping the farm come up with stable business ideas. He did marketing research, developed a business plan, and introduced add value ideas to increase the income the farm receives from its products. The small farm, like many of its kind, has been in the tough position of waiting for intermediaries to buy their products and give them any price they want. With Norman’s help, the farm is now meeting with financial and government institutions in hopes of building a food processing laboratory to process their yield into more profitable products such as chips and dried products.
For his EARTH graduation project, Norman co-founded a Rwanda-based NGO called the Young African Business Booster (YABB).
YABB’s goal is to reduce youth poverty and migration by increasing employment opportunities for youth in sub-Saharan Africa. A central cause for poverty and migration among rural youth in sub-Saharan Africa is the lack of employment. Rural youth are increasingly struggling to find productive work that allows them to earn a decent income. Over 92 percent of employed youth are working poor. Youth are also overrepresented among the extremely poor. YABB’s mission is to train young people to develop sustainable business ideas and use the resources they have within their own communities—to teach them to innovate with new technologies and become entrepreneurs in agriculture.
The students will get training in theoretical and practical business formation, developing business plans, presenting business ideas for funding, and implementation. When YABB is fully implemented, the organization will select high school graduates who are highly interested in starting their own businesses and willing to take part in creating positive change in their community. Norman’s graduation project won the EARTH award for best project in the sector of Technology in Agriculture.
A few days before his graduation, Norman learned he was selected as a Schwarzman Scholar, soon to join 147 young leaders from around the world at Schwarzman College at Tsinghua University in Beijing. Set on the campus of one of China’s most prestigious universities, the highly selective graduate fellowship opened in 2016 with the goal of training the next generation of global leaders and deepening their understanding of China’s place in global affairs. Students pursue a fully-funded one-year master’s degree in Global Affairs with concentrations in policy, economics and business, or international studies. They spend the year immersed in an international community of thinkers, innovators and senior leaders in business, politics and society. This year 2,887 candidates applied from China, the United States, and around the world. Just over 400 semi-finalists were interviewed and a final 147 selected. Norman was thrilled when he learned he had been accepted into the program. “When I went to New York for the interviews they explained the profile of the candidates. I thought, this is complicated. This might not be mine. I couldn’t believe it when I was selected. I am so excited!”
Norman first heard about the Schwarzman Scholars program through an email sent to students by EARTH professors. My passion has always been being an agent of change—to see how we can end poverty and hunger in small communities. At EARTH I have been able to work and share project ideas with students from around the world.”
Drawing on his experience developing agribusiness ideas on a small farm in Costa Rica and what he has learned in his classes at EARTH, Norman is now eager to increase his business knowledge through the master’s degree program. He plans to return to his community to implement his NGO and create new agribusiness models and initiatives to transform his country. After you talk with Norman and see the excitement in his eyes and the enthusiasm he has for being an agent of change, it is easy to believe his dream will come true.