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For B-School Hopefuls in Africa, a Helping Hand

The Johannesburg skyline

Photograph by David Rogers/Getty Images

The Johannesburg skyline

Three U.S. business schools plan to offer fellowships to African students hoping to get their MBAs—and that includes a major financial commitment by the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

Stanford says it will award up to eight fellowships annually starting in 2014 as part of a pilot project expected to continue for three to five years. Each fellowship will cover tuition and fees of about $140,000 for the two-year program. Applicants must be citizens of an African country and be admitted to the MBA program, which last year accepted just 7 percent of all applicants. All fellowship recipients must agree to return to Africa within two years of completing their MBAs and work there for at least two years.

In announcing the fellowships, Stanford noted that Africa is home to six of the world’s 10 fastest-growing economies but accounts for just 2 percent of global trade. “There are both great opportunities for economic development as well as management challenges,” says Dean Garth Saloner, who grew up in South Africa. “We are committed to supporting the education of promising high-potential leaders who will make a difference in the continent’s future.”

This is not Stanford’s first foray into Africa. In 2011, the school launched the Stanford Institute for Innovation in Developing Economies to train on-the-ground entrepreneurs to scale their businesses and create jobs. The program’s first “innovation hub” will be introduced in West Africa this summer. Each year a substantial number of Stanford MBAs work in Africa. In the summer of 2012, 10 percent of Stanford MBA students traveled to the continent for jobs or internships or to start businesses, according to Barbara Buell, director of communications.

Two other schools also recently announced 2014 fellowships for African students. The Thunderbird School of Global Management and Vanderbilt’s Owen Graduate School of Management have each said they will provide one full-tuition scholarship through the Foundation for African Leadership in Business. The goal of the foundation—which started in 2010 as a class project of four MBA classmates from three continents at IE Business School in Madrid—is to promote economic development in Africa.

The Thunderbird and Owen fellowships are for African applicants who intend to invest their time and resources in socially responsible initiatives after graduation.

“Only four out of every 1 million Africans pursues an MBA,” said Suzanne O’Brien, executive director of the foundation, in a statement. “The continent longs for leaders with the right training. We are changing the world by empowering Africa’s next generation of leaders.”

Join the discussion on the Bloomberg Businessweek Business School Forum, visit us on Facebook, and follow @BWbschools on Twitter.

Lavelle is an associate editor for Bloomberg Businessweek.

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