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Empowering the gems in Africa – for Africa

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Empowering the gems in Africa – for Africa

The Mandela Rhodes Foundation (MRF) Scholarship is in its 21st year, with applications for the 2025 academic year opening on 14 March 2024. Mandela Rhodes Scholar cohorts consist of a diverse group of graduates from nearly 40 countries across the African continent. The programme has grown over the years and to date almost 700 students have received MRF scholarships.

Published 12 March 2024

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Many MRF alumni have gone on to have impactful careers, advancing the Africa envisioned by President Nelson Mandela, who wanted to ‘close the circle of history’ by founding this initiative.

How it began

The MRF was founded in 2003 when the Rhodes Trust approached Mr Mandela with a proposal for a partnership to help redress inequalities from the past through education and leadership development opportunities for promising young leaders from across the African continent. This collaboration between the iconic leader Mr Mandela and the  Rhodes Trust seemed incongruous. But the objective was clear. Mr Mandela’s message, expressed clearly in the Mandela Rhodes partnership, was for all parties from all walks of life to work together to strive for social justice.

The MRF is looking for the next emerging gems in Africa, who want to use their skills and leadership qualities to serve the African continent. The scholarship offers these young leaders (aged between 19 and 29) a life-changing opportunity for personal growth, via a prestigious postgraduate scholarship and Leadership Development Programme.

“Our programme” says CEO, Judy Sikuza, herself an MRF graduate (2007), “is built on Nelson Mandela’s belief that leadership begins with inner transformation and our founding principles of reconciliation, education, entrepreneurship and leadership. There are many success stories from the scholarship programme, leaders who are contributing to his vision.”

Alex de Voux is one of the graduates selected for the first scholarship year in 2005, where she earned a BSc Honours in Infectious Diseases and Immunology. After qualifying she worked as a Senior Epidemiologist for the South African Field Epidemiology Training Programme (SAFETP) and as an Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) Officer at the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In September 2019 she returned to South Africa, completed her doctorate and joined the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) in Johannesburg.

She says, “being selected as an MRF Scholar accelerated my career growth by nurturing leadership and personal management skills. This unique mentorship, distinct from academic and research training, proved essential for effective leadership in my career. It enabled me to stay grounded and connected to colleagues, making demanding work enjoyable. I credit the MRF for instilling the value of empathetic leadership, crucial in South Africa's diverse context, benefiting young aspiring researchers and scholars.”

How it works

The MRF provides a highly competitive postgraduate scholarship, for young African graduates to study either Honours or Masters in South Africa at a recognised public higher education institution in South Africa. The first-year leadership development programme focuses on acquiring learning related to leadership competencies and the second-year programme, for two-year master’s students, focuses on putting that learning into practice.

“The purpose of the MRF is to build exceptional leadership capacity in Africa. To this end, we find, fund and empower young Africans who aspire to use their talents to serve their societies and our continent,” explains Sikuza.

The scholarship helps develop competence through 21st century leadership skills, capabilities and knowledge sets. Building courage, by developing resilience while taking these future leaders on a journey of self-acceptance, increasing their ability to access their inner resources as they seek to make a transformative impact in the world. The graduates are supported through lifelong alumni activities, providing ongoing leadership development opportunities and a public platform for thought leadership.

Who can apply?

The Mandela Rhodes Scholarship is highly competitive and has stringent criteria for a student’s possible inclusion. You need to be a citizen of an African country, between the ages of 19 and 29 and, by 1 January 2025, have an undergraduate degree with excellent academic results (above 70% or upper-second class Honours) and be able to study at a postgraduate level in English.

Applications for 2025 open on 14 March and close on 21 April 2024.

Click here to apply.

Education is both a gift and a tool for the advancement of human development, to the benefit of all.

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For media inquiries, please contact:

Ben Rycroft
External Relations Director


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