Student Learning

MasterCard Foundation Scholars from Africa hope to return home to make a difference

Photo credit – Wendy D
UBC MasterCard Foundation Scholars (both graduate and undergraduate scholars are in the photo). Photo: Wendy D


Growing up in Uganda with a father who was a teacher, Eddie Amaitum saw first hand the transformative power of education. But when Eddie and his four siblings were orphaned in 2004, he was faced with the reality that he could not afford to attend university.

That’s when he began supporting himself by packaging honey and through several other entrepreneurship ventures, using the income he earned to pay for his studies. Seeking to share what he had learned and empower other youth, he co-published a book titled “Glow Within” and founded Achieve Uganda, a community program focused on supporting underprivileged young people through entrepreneurship.

Eddie is one of an expected 112 students from Africa who are living and working at UBC thanks to a $25 million grant from the MasterCard Foundation. The program supports academically talented yet economically disadvantaged students from Africa as they pursue degrees at some of the world’s top universities. It’s all part of an initiative to foster a new generation of leaders that will contribute to the growth, development and transformation of their communities.

In addition to their curricula engagement, the Scholars will be mentored, engaged in leadership capacity building, participate in local and international community service learning, and take up summer internships in Africa to foster their interest and capacity to return to Africa to give back to their communities.

Eddie is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts undergraduate degree at UBC and hopes to set up a company to contribute to his country’s economy and support youth through job creation and skills building.

“I believe education is a crucial part of [solving] the big challenges facing Africa, including unemployment and poverty,” he says. “It will play a critical role in economic transformation on the continent.”

In recent years, Africa has experienced unprecedented economic progress and political resurgence. More than 60 per cent of its population is under the age of 25, making it the youngest continent. Yet, Sub-Saharan Africa is the region with the lowest enrolment rates in secondary and tertiary education.

Students selected for The MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program are provided with opportunities to realize their full potential. They receive holistic financial, academic, and emotional support as they transition from secondary to university education and into the workforce.

The MasterCard Foundation grant was the largest contribution to student support of UBC’s start an evolution campaign. Eddie says that the support has afforded him the opportunity to obtain a world-class education, and he hopes to create a ripple effect by having a positive impact in his community.

“It has helped me to view the challenges on the continent in enlightened, informed and global perspective,” he says. “I hope to create change.”