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Sept. 27, 2012

MSU, The MasterCard Foundation partner on $500 million African scholars program

With 50-plus years of engagement in Africa, Michigan State University will partner with The MasterCard Foundation on its $500 million education initiative, The MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program, to provide talented, yet financially disadvantaged youth – especially those from Africa – with access to high-quality education.

MSU is the only institution in Michigan – and the Midwest – to join the program, which is part of a global network of institutions. The university will receive $45 million in funding from the foundation to support 185 scholars throughout the nine-year program, which includes 100 four-year undergraduates and 85 master’s degree students. MSU will host the most scholars among the six U.S. partner institutions and welcomed the first cohort of scholars this fall with four graduate and two undergraduate students.

“Michigan State and The MasterCard Foundation both recognize that Africa is approaching an important inflection point,” said MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon. “Africa now hosts seven of the world’s 10 fastest-growing national economies and is the world’s youngest continent demographically. That offers remarkable potential for innovation, and the scholars program will add leverage by building Africa’s educational capacity.”

But the region still lags the world in secondary and higher education completion rates, and in order to sustain the continent’s rapid growth, it’s essential that its young people have the skills needed to participate in a competitive global economy, Simon said.

The MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program offers a comprehensive package to students, which includes financial, academic and social support, as well as access to networks to make successful transitions to further education or the workforce in Africa, said Reeta Roy, president and CEO of The MasterCard Foundation. Scholars at MSU will build experiences, values and competencies that are critical to success in the global economy, enabling them to give back to their communities and home countries.

“I want to work in the public health sector because there are some loopholes and gaps that need to be filled,” said Barbara Kotei, a MasterCard Foundation Scholar at MSU. “The ideas that I bring to the table, the education, the perseverance and the drive might help people see these gaps.”

Kotei, who’s from Ghana, is a member of The Honors College majoring in biochemistry and hopes to use her education to improve Ghana’s public health system.

“An education does more than liberate people from poverty; it is the foundation of social and economic progress,” said Roy, who announced the program at a United Nations Special Session Wednesday. “The MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program is a network of extraordinary educational institutions, nongovernmental organizations and young people. Together, they will contribute to the emergence of a more equitable, dynamic and prosperous Africa.”

MSU joins a global network of institutions that were selected for their shared values, academic excellence, nurturing environment and programs relevant to growth sectors in Africa, Roy said.

The university will employ a network coordinator to organize annual conferences for scholars. In addition, MSU will support the creation of The MasterCard Foundation Scholars and Alumni network, connecting students across the program and building a community of next-generation leaders who are committed to service.

With 2,500 African alumni, and involvement in projects in at least 32 African nations during the last 50 years, MSU will provide strong support to MasterCard Foundation Scholars and all African students, Simon said. The university has 24 formal partnerships with organizations and institutions in Africa. In 1960, MSU established an African Studies Center, which now provides instruction in more than a dozen African languages. To learn more about MSU in Africa, go here:

Partners currently involved in The MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program include: American University of Beirut – Faculty of Health Sciences; Arizona State University; Ashesi University; Duke University; EARTH University; MSU; Stanford University; University of California-Berkeley; and Wellesley College. The program also includes a partnership with African Leadership Academy to develop an African-based careers network for scholars to access internships and jobs across the continent.

The MasterCard Foundation advances microfinance and youth learning to promote financial inclusion and prosperity. Through collaboration with committed partners in 49 countries, the foundation is helping people living in poverty to access opportunities to learn and prosper. An independent, private foundation based in Toronto, Canada, it was established through the generosity of MasterCard Worldwide at the time of the company’s initial public offering in 2006.

By: Kristen Parker