The year is quickly drawing to a close and 2021 has been another momentous year for the MRF. I feel very proud of all that the team has achieved in spite of the challenges of our second year of “the new normal”. A major highlight was the launch of the Äänit Prize, balanced by a continued commitment to innovation within our core offering, our Leadership Development Programme.
Äänit Prize for alumni a great success
Our “big reveal” for 2021 was the new Äänit Prize, which supports socially impactful ventures in Africa that are both for profit and non-profit. The pilot selections ran smoothly, and after a tough competition we were delighted to announce Esethu Cenga (South Africa & UCT, 2016) as the first-ever winner of $80 000 in late October. Learn more about the talented pool of finalists and their ventures in key areas of impact - ranging from educational technology to sustainable fashion and public health – on our website.
Graduation and the culmination of the second-year programme
The Class of 2021 has had a unique in-residence experience: it was only in mid-November that this cohort met face to face for the first time in Cape Town. The focus was on developing appreciation and insight into entrepreneurship and celebrating the scholars’ resilience after an almost entirely virtual year. Other highlights included exploring Stretch Collaboration, visiting the Sustainability Institute and hearing from alumni. Professor Ndebele and I were able to share our leadership journeys with the cohort during the graduation ceremony, which was much enjoyed by all.
The second year programme ended in late October. Interdisciplinary teams presented their proposed solutions to a panel of experts. We are proud of the level of commitment and innovation demonstrated by their interventions which seek to address social protection, youth unemployment and gender inequality.
Alumni affairs & thought leadership roundup
The COP 26 climate negotiations sparked action in the alumni sphere in Q4. Both Colin Besaans (South Africa & UCT 2017) and Willard Mapulunga (Zambia & UCT 2018) made us proud by participating in COP itself, and a small interest group of alumni convened recently to build relationships and explore possibilities for collaboration. The MRF also co-hosted a screening of Climate Emergency Interactive, a filmed aimed at building agency, in partnership with the Sustainability Institute.
On the 24th of November alumni gathered online for an informal year-end event to welcome graduating scholars. The evening was co-hosted by alumni and offered something for everyone. Attendees left feeling connected and energised for the final stretch of 2021.
Meet the Class of 2022
Selection season is one of the busiest and best times of the year at the MRF. Every year I am moved and inspired by the incredible stories of young leaders from across the continent. This year the process was once again virtual. We are delighted to introduce the Class of 2022 – I highly recommend exploring their bios, which will leave you feeling hopeful about Africa’s future.
Wishing all our supporters a peaceful and safe festive season.
Warmly, Judy Sikuza CEO The Mandela Rhodes Foundation