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Stanford B-School Launches African MBA Fellowship

The Stanford Graduate School of Business has announced plans to award up to eight full-tuition MBA fellowships to promising African students with financial need as part of its Stanford Africa MBA Fellowship initiative. The pilot program is expected to run for three to five years and will cover approximately $140,000 in tuition and fees for the two-year degree.

According to Stanford Graduate School of Business Dean Garth Saloner, who grew up in South Africa, the fellowship will encourage Africans who may not have considered a Stanford MBA to apply.  “Imagine if you’re a youngster in sub-Saharan African and you’re looking at the total cost of U.S. education…I think that’s just unbelievably daunting,” he says. “We’re going to offer some full-ride scholarships for students to see if we can attract some extraordinary young men and young women who otherwise wouldn’t be able to avail themselves to this opportunity.”

This isn’t the school’s first foray into Africa.  Some 10% of Stanford’s MBA students worked in Africa in the summer of 2012.  In 2011 the university opened the Stanford Institute for Innovation in Developing Economies (SEED) thanks to a $150 million gift by alum and Silicon Valley investor Robert King. The institute is commissioned with the lofty aim of stimulating, developing and researching innovations to grow businesses and to create jobs in developing countries. SEED will open its first innovation hub in West Africa this year. “What’s really distinctive about it is that we will operate on the ground – working through innovation hubs, working with these entrepreneurs and managers of growing enterprises to provide them with education, mentoring and coaching,” Saloner says.

The fellowship reflects a growing B-school focus on Africa. The continent boasts six of the world’s 10 fastest-growing economies and offers the highest level of return on direct foreign investment – promising prospects for the world’s future business leaders. Elite business schools are taking note and increasingly incorporating African trips and projects into their programs.  The business schools at both Oxford and Harvard, as well as Stanford, host annual Africa business forums, and many MBA institutions run Africa-oriented student groups.  In Stanford’s case, the new fellows can bring valuable knowledge of the continent to their classmates.  “African students in our program provide direct insight into an emerging global economy that is increasingly powerful in business,” Saloner says.

To qualify for the Stanford Africa MBA Fellowship, applicants must hold citizenship in a African country. Interestingly,  the fellowship requires students to return to the continent within two years of completing their MBAs. They must also spend two years in Africa  in roles that contribute to the continent’s development.  It’s clear Saloner has high hopes for the first generation of Stanford’s Africa MBA Fellows.  “We are committed to supporting the education of promising high-potential leaders who will make a difference in the continent’s future,” he says.