Carnegie Mellon University, MasterCard Foundation partner to train Africa’s future tech leaders

Carnegie Mellon University’s commitment to educate Africa’s next generation of technology leaders and entrepreneurs received a boost today with a US $10.8 million commitment from The MasterCard Foundation.

This new partnership, which will be established at Carnegie Mellon University’s College of Engineering program in Kigali, Rwanda, will benefit 125 academically talented but economically disadvantaged students from Sub-Saharan Africa as part of The MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program. Carnegie Mellon University will join a global network of 23 Scholars Program partners, comprising educational institutions that are committed to developing Africa’s young leaders. These Scholars will go on to use their knowledge and skills to lead change in their communities and contribute to meaningful transformation across the continent.

(TOP: left to right – James Garrett, Jr., Carnegie Mellon University, Dean of Engineering; Subra Suresh, Carnegie Mellon University; President Papias Musafiri Malimba, Government of Rwanda, Minister of Education and Jendayi Frazer, MasterCard Foundation, Board of Directors).

Since 2011, Carnegie Mellon University in Rwanda has contributed to enhancing the quality of the engineering workforce in Africa. This effort has addressed the critical shortage of information and communication technology (ICT) skills required for Africa to compete in the Fourth Industrial Revolution where physical, cyber and biological systems converge through information, computing and communication technologies to transform the lives and livelihoods of citizens around the world in unprecedented ways. The talented graduates of Carnegie Mellon in Rwanda play a strategic role in Africa’s trajectory, leveraging ICT to digitally leapfrog socio-economic development across the continent. With transformative support from The MasterCard Foundation, Carnegie Mellon will be able to multiply its impact on higher education and the ICT sector in Africa, as part of the Rwanda Government’s vision to create a Regional Center of Excellence in ICT and to serve as a technological hub for the region.

“We are excited to partner with Carnegie Mellon University in Rwanda, an exceptional institution committed to training the next generation of African engineers, innovators and entrepreneurs to meet pressing global challenges,” said Reeta Roy, President and CEO of The MasterCard Foundation. “Investment in STEM education is pivotal to Africa’s future and will ensure that African nations have the opportunity to identify, develop and deploy their wealth of talent.”

By offering globally recognized degree programs in ICT to 125 students from lower-income families in Africa, Carnegie Mellon will have impact in three ways: first, this Program will dramatically expand future career options for each of the Scholars; second, it will be an essential educational and research resource underpinning growth and development of the technology sector in Africa; and third, alumni and faculty will benefit from Carnegie Mellon’s resources for supporting entrepreneurship and innovation. The MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program at Carnegie Mellon University in Rwanda will attract a diverse mix of Scholars from Rwanda and the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa, with a priority on increasing the enrollment of women.

“With this generous support from The MasterCard Foundation, we can multiply the impact of our program in Rwanda and educate a new cohort of exceptional engineers who will become catalysts for Africa’s digital transformation,” said CMU President Subra Suresh. “CMU shares the Foundation’s commitment to elevating intellectual and economic vitality around the globe, especially in developing regions. Students attending Carnegie Mellon in Rwanda receive a world-class education that enables them to become leaders in Africa’s growing innovation ecosystem.”

The MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program will provide holistic student support, including comprehensive scholarships, leadership development, volunteerism and industry-driven career services – developing highly skilled, transformative leaders to catalyze Africa’s digital transformation. The Program will start in Fall 2016 and conclude in 2023, underscoring the importance of establishing long-term education programs in Africa. Research underway at Carnegie Mellon in Rwanda also takes a long-term approach. The faculty understand that to address Africa’s technology needs, students require time to analyze and solve problems in the context in which they occur. Research at Carnegie Mellon explores critical topics relevant to Africa: wireless networking, mobile applications, energy systems, cyber security, agriculture, financial services and telecommunications.

The partnership announcement was made on June 20th during Carnegie Mellon University’s graduation ceremony, when 24 students received master’s degrees in Information Technology and Electrical and Computer Engineering. CMU President Suresh, and Dr. Jendayi Frazer, a member of the Board of Directors of The MasterCard Foundation, attended the graduation ceremony. To date, the program has graduated 70 students hailing from Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda and the United States. The vast majority of these graduates are working in their home countries, making an impact in the private sector, government and academia, and the rest are pursuing the creation of startup companies as well as doctoral programs.

The College of Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, which runs the Engineering program in Rwanda, is a top-ranked engineering college that is known for our intentional focus on cross-disciplinary collaboration in research. The College is well-known for working on problems of both scientific and practical importance.
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