The Mastercard Foundation is providing UC Berkeley scholarships for African applicants through the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program.
According to a campus website, the scholarship fully supplements tuition, living expenses, housing, travel and visa expenses for qualifying students from Africa, as well as costs associated with cohort signature programs focusing on leadership and entrepreneurship. The program has produced 131 alumni to date, with 14 to 16 scholars selected each year, according to campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore.
“The Foundation initially contacted Berkeley in 2012 and invited Berkeley to apply to be a partner,” Gilmore said in an email. “A cross-campus committee convened to shape the program, deciding ultimately to base it in the Center for African Studies, with assistance from multiple campus partners.”
Initially scheduled to end in 2020, the program has now been extended to 2030, with applications accepted until fall 2028.
The scholarship is open to citizens of sub-Saharan African countries who apply for any eligible graduate degree program on campus, according to the campus website. The different programs cover a wide variety of disciplines, including STEM fields, humanities and arts, each of which has degree-specific requirements.
According to Gilmore, students are invited to the program by campus’s Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program from the pool of general graduate student applicants. The invitees are then interviewed remotely, and a committee makes the final selection of scholarship recipients.
“I took a keen interest in the MasterCard Foundation scholarship because they have made me, an African, a priority,” said Afungfege Evita, a filmmaker from Cameroon, in an email. “My background in documentaries and film doesn’t have a lot of Fully funded scholarship opportunities … with the J-school being included, it was and is a great opportunity.”
Evita explained that she previously applied to the program and made it to the interview stage, but will be applying again because of the quality of opportunities provided. She plans to do this despite the application fees, which she called a “great sacrifice” for low-income applicants.
The Mastercard Foundation’s decision to make the scholarship exclusive to sub-Saharan African citizens allows it to partner “with visionary organizations to increase financial inclusion and access to youth learning in Africa,” according to Gilmore.
UC Berkeley’s program is based in the Center for African Studies, which also helps to advertise it. Campus is also using both internal and external networks to find and encourage potential applicants.
“The MasterCard Foundation Scholarship invests in a community of youth leaders in diverse fields working to impact their communities and build the Africa they would love to see,” Evita said in an email. “The lifelong network, Internship opportunities, grants for project implementations, access to summer schools, and career mentorship opportunities are why every African would embrace the MCF scholarship.”