Fellowship opportunity offers African students entrepreneurial support

Image via Queen’s University.

University students from Africa have an opportunity to receive entrepreneurship training through the Jim Leech Mastercard Foundation Fellowship of Entrepreneurship for African Students at Queen’s University.

The Mastercard Foundation and the Dunin-Deshpande Queen’s Innovation Centre (DDQIC) have announced a partnership offering the free virtual entrepreneurship training, and an opportunity to receive startup funding to more than 1,000 students through the Fellowship.

The program launched in September 2020. It provides students and recent graduates from African universities within the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program the opportunity to apply to a free virtual entrepreneurship training program delivered by Queen’s University’s DDQIC Program, according to a release from the university. Through this program, award-winning faculty and some of the best innovators, policymakers, and business strategists collaborate to support students to become Jim Leech Mastercard Foundation Fellows, the university said.

During the 2020-2021 Academic year, 1,252 students participated, and more than 60 percent of the cohort were women, the university stated, recognizing the additional barriers women face when starting a business or seeking employment in Africa.

“The launch of the Jim Leech Mastercard Foundation Fellowship on Entrepreneurship for African Students last year was a proud moment,” said Jim Leech. “Seeing bright African students take advantage of this entrepreneurial training to initiate, strengthen, and bring their business goals to life is exciting and augurs well for Africa’s future. I look forward to seeing the new waves of talent come in with this year’s applicants.”

Prospective fellows receive access to a curated list of online entrepreneurship courses developed at DDQIC and work through the Disciplined Entrepreneurship Framework developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. According to the release, the fellowship is designed to address unemployment among post-secondary graduates by equipping thousands of students and recent graduates with sufficient entrepreneurial training to initiate and continue to grow their businesses.

Titose Chembezi of the University of Cape Town was a $5,000 winner at the DDQIC Summer Pitch Competition and said the pitch experience provided her with a boost of confidence. “It was the first time my team and I got to compete with ventures from Canada and won a prize. It taught me to move past the stigma that startups from the African continent may not be competent enough compared to the West and it also gave me the courage to see the world as my oasis,” she said.

The Mastercard Foundation created these fellowships through an endowed donation to Queen’s University in honour of Jim Leech, former Chair of the Board of Directors of the Mastercard Foundation and Chancellor Emeritus of Queen’s University (14th Chancellor). In 2014, Mr. Leech was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada for his contributions as an innovator in pension management, for his writings about retirement funding, and for his community involvement.

The applications for the upcoming academic year close on Friday, Dec. 10, 2021. Learn more about the Jim Leech Mastercard Foundation Fellowship and apply online.

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