Design

Empowering the next generation of African leaders

Thousands of students from African countries pursue their education each year through the support of The MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program. Becoming a MasterCard Foundation Scholar can be a life-changing moment that opens up opportunities to study at top universities in Africa and around the world. Madit grew up in a farming community in South Sudan during a time of civil war. As a MasterCard Foundation Scholar, he is now studying business, economics, and public policy so that he can set up a college preparatory program in his home country after graduation. Stories like Madit’s are what make The MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program such a powerful and transformative program for the next generation of African leaders.

MasterCard Foundation Scholars are driven academically and dedicated to their education, but the experience of adapting to life at university can be daunting without a support system. The need for support continues after graduation as well. Many Scholars return home to lead change within their communities, but require connections to resources, collaboration with others and continued education to accomplish their goals.

Together with Arizona State University and The MasterCard Foundation, we set out to design a community that would support Scholars throughout their education and set them up for success long after graduation. The result was Baobab, a social learning platform that elevates scholarship into a source of lifelong learning and empowers the next generation of African leaders to create social change.


Named after “Africa’s Tree,” Baobab is a social learning platform where Scholars gather to share knowledge, exchange ideas and learn from each other. It fosters connection and collaboration within the Scholar community, provides a curated learning environment, and maximizes mentorship opportunities.

Throughout every step of the design process, Scholars provided direct input into what they were looking for and needed from Baobab, and we used their experiences studying at university and returning home to inform our design process. MasterCard Foundation Scholars expressed that the Baobab experience would need to prioritize conversation around real issues, make opportunities and mentors more accessible, and provide resources for continued learning. As a result, Baobab is built on principles of inclusivity, community, and connection. All of these design principles keep Scholars at the front and center of Baobab and give the platform purpose beyond the typical social network.

“Our cross-sector collaboration with Artefact and The MasterCard Foundation pushed the limits of a first-of-its-kind social learning platform. Together, we draw upon the strengths and expertise of a foundation, university, and design firm to create a global force for change.”

“Before Baobab, I was worried what would happen to me after the scholarship. Would I be able to continue my education? How will I stay connected to all the people I met during my scholarship? Now all that worry is gone. Students are sharing so many great opportunities with each other that I never knew were available, and we can stay connected with each other on Baobab.”

“My level of confidence and curiosity now has greatly improved. This semester I have answered and asked more questions just because I feel confident in airing my views. And Baobab had contributed to that!”