Corporate scholarships for higher education on the rise

Corporate bodies in the East Africa region are back awarding higher education scholarships to bright students after a lull of many years. The funding is contributing to the acquisition of high-level skills by students and a guarantee of job placement after graduation.

The companies – mostly foreign multinationals with business interests across the world – are seeking to sponsor students in courses of their choice and in universities they handpick.

The greatest advantage for successful applicants is the guarantee of a job after graduation, in a reputable company. While some benefactors are asking for minimum entry qualifications into local universities, others are insisting on top marks before they will consider an application.

Some of the companies involved

Leading the way is East African Breweries, the region’s largest beer maker and also one its biggest companies.

It is offering 10 undergraduate scholarships to students who achieve ‘A’ grades, for the 2013-14 year to study courses in, among other fields, commerce, business, information technology, food science and engineering.

Scholarships for students taking courses in commerce, business and information technology will join Strathmore University in Nairobi, a private institution reputed to be the region’s leader in those fields. Students pursuing food science and engineering will be free to a join a university of their choice.

Leading drugs multinational Sanofi Aventis, a firm trading in Africa and worldwide and with its head office in Switzerland, is offering a similar number of postgraduate scholarships.

Those selected will study masters in pharmacy degrees at Keel University in the United Kingdom, with an option for practical experience at the firm’s subsidiary in the country.

Students interested must apply through the education placement company Uniserv, which will interview shortlisted applicants, and must have distinguished themselves in the fields of pharmacy or medicine.

For its part CFC-Stanbic Bank, a Kenyan subsidiary of South Africa’s Stanbic, is offering five places to local school-leavers to undertake courses in commerce and ICT at the universities of Strathmore or Nairobi.

One of the newest major firms in the region is the UK’s Tullow Oil – an exploration and prospecting firm that has struck oil in northern Kenya and is searching for gas reserves in Tanzania.

Barely five years old in East Africa, the company is offering 10 full-time study opportunities, in the fields of engineering, ICT, commerce, mining sciences and business journalism. The scholarships are at masters level and will benefit those with a few years of work experience.

Successful applicants will study in either France (for French speakers) or the UK (for English speakers).

For a long time Equity Bank has been the only company in the region offering scholarship to students, whom it mentors from first year in high school through to university. The bank’s programme is offered to bright students from poor families and the funder does not insist on either employing or choosing courses for them.

Scholarship schemes guaranteeing employment were in vogue in the 1980s, but later disappeared as the economies of most countries started underperforming, registering stagnant or negative growth.

All countries in East Africa are now registering healthy growth and firms are making ‘super-profits’, encouraging them to invest in high-level skills for staff.