The MasterCard Foundation:10,000 of Africa's brightest are empowered with new Regional Centers

Reeta Roy* picAs President Obama said in his closing remarks at last week’s U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, Africa is rising. I share his point-of-view and optimism. The continent is home to nearly 600 million people under the age of 30, who will influence and change their societies as they go through life. Whether it is education and agricultural development or financial inclusion and employment, we should expect this generation to change the conversation on just about everything. Thus, at The MasterCard Foundation, we see a window of opportunity to invest now in these young people, who will ‎be Africa’s future innovators, entrepreneurs, educators, scientists and political leaders. They need more than skills. Equally important are mentoring, capital, leadership development and social networks.  So, we were thrilled last week when President Obama called out our Foundation’s partnership with the White House to expand the Young African Leaders Initiative and establish regional leadership centers in Ghana, Kenya, Senegal and South Africa to serve and support young people. Throughout the week, I heard the President’s belief in the promise of this generation echoed in multiple discussions.  Ambassador Dr. Richard Sezibera, Secretary General of the East African Community, spoke about EAC’s work to create a common higher education area and set common standards to facilitate the free movement of talent across the five countries in the region.”How could we help?” I asked.  He replied, “Invest in modern vocational education and skills development for young people.” Professor Calestous Juma and leaders of the National Academy of Sciences from Nigeria, Tanzania and Ethiopia elevated the importance of applying science and technology to solve persistent development challenges.  All of them urged us to  invest in science education. Presidents Kenyatta, Kagame and Kikwete promoted private sector development of agriculture, financial services and manufacturing sectors. All of them encouraged job creation for young people. Reeta_WiteHouse-300x300I was also honoured to participate in the First Spouses Summit ‎hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama and Ms. Laura Bush.  Our conversations focused on the impact of investing in the education of Africa’s women and girls, an issue that is close to my heart and a meaningful part of our work at the Foundation. Mrs. Obama noted that young people are looking to us for inspiration and guidance.  She urged us to listen to them as well as to create space for them to lead.  Most impressive, were the many young people we met during the week, who are dedicated to building a more equitable society through girls’ education, enterprise development and technology. Just as Washington, D.C. was lit up last week by an unprecedented African Summit, I’d like to think that all of us who are working for more inclusive societies and inclusive economies were also lit up with inspiration and a sense of hope for the future of Africa’s rise. This is a time when the young and not-so-young dare to dream about what is possible. Africa is rising, but we must do more than simply acknowledge its evolution.  We must evolve with it.  In the way we engage with the people we serve, and by developing a new narrative about our work on the continent – one that is based on a shared vision and support to ensure the next generation of young people in Africa have a bright and sustainable future. *Reeta Roy is President and CEO of The MasterCard Foundation.]]>

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