The Mastercard Foundation - EARTH University Fellowship Program

Norman Mugisha

Country: Rwanda
Track: Entreprenuership
Project: Young African Business Booster
Host company/organization: LEAPR

About position: At YABB, Norman helps rural youth across Sub-Saharan Africa to overcome unemployment and poverty. Due to the pandemic, he created an E-Commerce platform called Afri-Farmers Market which aims at helping local farmers access stable market and fair prices.  Elevator pitch

Following graduation, Norman relocated to California to complete a post-graduate internship for six months in animal production and the commercialization of agricultural products. In 2019, he was a Schwarzman Scholar at Tsinghua University in China, where he studied economics and business. After his graduate studies and Fellowship, he plans to return to Rwanda to start his own entrepreneurial food processing company. “Two other EARTH students from Rwanda will start this business with me. We will call it ‘I Feed the World.’ We want to train local farmers to help them increase their productivity. Then we will buy what they harvest and use their products for our business. We plan to start with peanut butter and chips. I really want to create jobs, share what I have learned, and improve people´s lives.”

Norman learned about entrepreneurship when he opened a sorghum business during his second year at EARTH. Though his team faced unexpected challenges due to climate conditions, his team found innovative solutions, offering farm tours to EARTH visitors to raise funds and pay back their loans. With innovative thinking, their team was even able to make a profit at the business’s end.

Norman’s business experience gave him the tools he needed to design his graduation project, Design of a Capacity-building Program for Promoting the Creation of Businesses by Young People in Rwanda. He wants to implement this project back home to help youth in sub-Saharan Africa create their own jobs and overcome poverty. “I am doing this project with another EARTH student from Zambia. We want to offer a training program for entrepreneurial skills. We plan to interview and select youth, teach them about practical business, help them design business ideas, look for potential partners and funds, then follow up. Our idea is to start with a prototype in Rwanda, and then expand to other countries.”

Norman is a born leader. He believes that people should have the initiative to act and the courage to take risks. He led the Scholar´s Council when he was in first year, and then became President of the student government the following year. “I was the first African candidate for student government at EARTH. People told me I would not get the votes, but I wanted to try and prove them wrong. I won, and this has motivated other African students to form their parties and participate in student politics.”

Norman´s professional experience in his fourth year was very rewarding: he chose to work in community development and volunteer in a nearby community in Guácimo every week.

My passion is helping people to achieve their dreams. I have had the opportunity to interact with eight local farmers to help them start their own business. I am teaching them about adding value to their products by showing them how to process chips, find a market, give a name to their business, and form associations. – Norman

To his sponsors at the Mastercard Foundation, he says, “I am very grateful for your support throughout this journey of shaping my career. Your scholarship has helped me earn credentials and skills in agriculture and enhanced my passion for being an agent of change to contribute and give back to my community for a better and prosperous world. Thank you Mastercard Foundation. Thank you EARTH University!”



For more information about the Fellowship Program and about being a Host Partner, please contact us.