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Mastercard Foundation invests in the future of African youth

Everyone deserves the opportunity to learn and prosper. 

Working with visionary organisations, the Mastercard Foundation is one of the world’s largest enablers of providing access to dignified and fulfilling work for young people in Africa and Indigenous communities in Canada. 

“We want a world where young people are included and are thriving and their leadership and contributions matter,” says Mastercard Foundation. “A future where young people are driving transformative change and achieving their full potential.”

Bringing together the private sector, donors, young people, and civil society, Mastercard Foundation is a developer of effective ecosystems and infrastructure, as well as a supporter of policies and an environment where young people can find work and entrepreneurs can succeed and grow.  

Education, women and employment

Working in 33 countries across Africa, the Mastercard Foundation has a three-step long-term plan for its operating areas:

  1. Improve the quality of education and vocational training to equip young people with the skills employers need
  2. Leverage technology to connect employers and job seekers, as well as drive growth
  3. Enable entrepreneurs and small businesses to expand through access to financial services

“We expect to work in a diverse group of countries with high levels of young people living in poverty who are vulnerably employed. These countries will have an enabling environment for growth, job creation, education and skills development, and an ability to influence within regions. We will also prioritise working with African organisations,” explains the Mastercard Foundation.

To date, the foundation has improved the lives of more than 50 million people, unifying its work around the single most complex challenge young people face in Africa – unemployment. 

Enabling young women to ‘own their futures’

Providing secondary education, financial literacy, and entrepreneurship opportunities, the foundation helps more than one million young women from disadvantaged backgrounds and rural communities gain access to vital skills. 

”This magnificent investment [US$10mn] by the Mastercard Foundation will enable Camfed to expand opportunities for girls and young women,” says Ann Cotton, Camfed’s Executive Director.  “Together, we will help a new generation of young women to access vital skills in financial literacy and entrepreneurship which will empower them to own their own futures.” 

First launched in 2011, Camfed’s program enables a continuum of support during school and post-school years, enabling young women to complete secondary education, gain financial knowledge, and test new approaches to launch innovative and diverse businesses in their rural communities. 

“Camfed’s holistic approach enables young women to become leaders of change and role models who re-invest back into their communities,” notes Reeta Roy, President and CEO of The MasterCard Foundation. 

Giving women a platform in agriculture

Backing an initiative established by Alluvial Agriculture, the foundation enables training and financial support for women in Nigeria to become tractor owner-operators. 

“For too long, women have been excluded from agricultural finance and mechanisation, despite the fact that they are the backbone of our industry,” says Dimieari Von Kemedi, co-founder and managing director of Alluvial Agriculture. “Our program is an important step in addressing this imbalance.” 

Mastercard Foundation invests in the future of African youth

The initiative began in 2021, with training provided by a joint venture between Tata International and Alluvial Agriculture. Providing female-led farms with John Deere tractors, a percentage of fees earned are used to repay the tractor loan. Based on expected earnings new female-led businesses are expected to own between 20 and 50 tractors by 2028.

“The Mastercard Foundation is very excited about this partnership as it is an opportunity to drive inclusive growth for women in farming,” says Chidinma Lawanson, Nigeria’s Country Head at Mastercard Foundation.

Entrepreneurial skills and fostering a network ecosystem of support

In a bid to support more than 300,000 young adults, the foundation has partnered with Digital Opportunity Trust (DOT) to provide access to entrepreneurial skills and foster a network ecosystem of support. 

“Young people have the potential to be at the forefront of innovation and entrepreneurship in high-growth sectors such as technology, climate-smart agriculture, and renewable energy. Women and girls, in particular, can play a crucial role as powerful agents of change in their communities, contributing to economic growth and social progress,” says the Mastercard Foundation. 

Dubbed The ‘Going Beyond – Partnering for a Youth-Led Future’ project, the two organisations will scale DOT’s evidence-based, peer-to-peer model in four African countries (Côte d’Ivoire, Malawi, Zambia, and Tanzania). Scaling DOT’s model will ensure comprehensive digital and business skills training, leadership development, coaching, peer-to-peer learning, and networking.

Reeta Roy, President and CEO, of Mastercard Foundation says: “Going Beyond is designed to envision young people as leaders in their communities, and we believe that a combination of YLO capacity building, locally appropriate 21st-century skills, entrepreneurship, and MSME support will be an effective means of bringing this vision to life while addressing youth employment in the four countries this project will be executed in.

“In addition, Going Beyond’s work, which is also in line with the Young Africa Works strategy, will help young women and men find dignified and meaningful work.” 

Social venture challenge and climate action

Providing a pathway to action for socially responsible young leaders, the Mastercard Foundation in partnership with The Resolution Project offers entrepreneurial and socially responsible Scholars with a pathway to bolster their social enterprises and deepen community impact. 

“Africa’s young leaders are brimming with ideas, energy, and a desire to have a positive impact on their communities. But few have the tools, resources, and access to the mentorship they need to successfully launch social venture projects in their communities,” notes the foundation. 

Competing in a multi-step competition designed to recognise and celebrate young leaders committed to social change in Africa and beyond, Social Venture Challenge (SVC) – since 2016 – has awarded more than US$581,200 to 267 Mastercard Foundation Scholars. With the support of The Resolution Project, Fellows have gone on to positively impact more than 904,792 people across Africa to date. 

The Social Venture Challenge 2023

Now in its eighth year, SVC has selected 37 young African social entrepreneurs as winners of the challenge that provides seed funding, mentorship, and access to a network of global changemakers.

Duaa Mohamed, Lead, of Transformative Leadership Programs at the Mastercard Foundation, says: “Congratulations to the 2023 Resolution Project Social Venture Challenge winners! Over the past eight years, in partnership with the Resolution Project, the Social Venture Challenge has showcased the immense potential of Mastercard Foundation Scholars dedicated to community impact. 

“It’s not just about recognising their achievements, but also acknowledging the profound influence these projects will have on their communities.”

Green technology and youth employment 

Examining the gaps and opportunities of green technology programmes to engage and benefit Africa’s youth, the Mastercard Foundation’s report – ‘Green technology and youth employment potential in Africa: A continental scoping report’ – shines a light on how African governments can seize these opportunities to spur green technology growth and youth employment.

“With climate change posing a major challenge to African economies, governments have been implementing policies and programmes to address its impacts. These are particularly focused on the energy and agriculture sectors, which will need to undergo significant changes to adapt to climate change. Green technologies offer opportunities for job creation and increased entrepreneurial activity in these sectors,” highlights the foundation.

An opportunity waiting to be harnessed, the continent could benefit from green tech initiatives given the high levels of youth unemployment and their potential for innovation and entrepreneurship. 

 Dr Eunice Muthengi, Director of Program and Strategic Research at the Mastercard Foundation, says: “While climate change presents significant risks to Africa’s development agenda, the required green transition also presents a unique opportunity. This report highlights that greater policy dialogue to support Africa’s green tech industry can contribute toward improving young people’s access to jobs that are not only dignified and fulfilling, but that are also environmentally sustainable.” 

In particular, information and communication technologies (ICTs), hold significant promise for developing climate-smart solutions for greener economies. 

The report was presented and discussed by a panel of experts, including Dr Fadekunayo Adeniyi from the African Development Bank, Mwayi Kampesi from Planet Green Africa, and Chiemela Anosike from Solaris GreenTech Hub on November 8, 2023.