African Science Initiative

Funding Opportunities for African Scientists - Vol.1

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Postgraduate education can be prohibitively expensive, especially when you want to travel far and wide in the quest for new experiences before settling down to build a career in science. But the good news is that you don’t have to pay from your pocket.

There are organizations out there that recognize the need to support early career African scientists with the hope that the training will impact the long-term developmental trajectory of the region. Of course, such training opportunities are also designed to strengthen the developmental, social and economic ties between Africa and the partnering developed countries, creating a win-win situation.

The Africa Academy of Sciences is also pushing for home-grown funding schemes, especially for early career scientists at the postdoctoral level. I will be compiling information on all available funding programs for African scientists who intent to pursue postgraduate (master’s and doctoral) and postdoctoral training.

For a start, I have described three major funding schemes for prospective Master’s students. Note that long-term planning is required to successfully apply for these schemes; the duration from starting the application process to the beginning of the Master’s program usually spans at least a year.

Some of our members here have successfully gone through these programs. As such, I appeal to them to provide any additional information that they think the prospective African applicants would need to look out for when preparing their applications. I will be adding more schemes in due course, so feel free to also bring to my attention those schemes that you have found most useful.

1. Swedish Institute Study Scholarships (SISS)

180 scholarships were awarded for full-time masters programs starting in 2018. Notably, more than 100 scholarships were awarded to Africans. We could expect similar numbers regarding programs starting in 2019. Note that you will need to first apply for admission to a Swedish University before applying for the scholarship. It is a particularly lucrative scheme for African scholars, catering for both tuition and living expenses. 

Some of the Master’s programs from the partnering universities are among the prestigious in the world. Moreover, there is an emphasis on the need for scholars to return home to apply the acquired skills.

Scope: A wide range of Master’s programs that could impact the attainment of sustainable development e.g. public health, technology, finance, economics and environmental science.

“The goal is to enable the scholarship holders to play an active role in the positive development of the societies in which they live. Ideal candidates are ambitious young professionals with academic qualifications, demonstrated work and leadership experience, ambition to make a difference by working with issues which contribute to a just and sustainable development in their country in a long-term perspective, and a clear idea of how a study programme in Sweden would benefit their country. Priority will be given to applicants choosing study programmes with an emphasis on gender equality, sustainable development, democracy, human rights or poverty reduction.”

Relevant dates: 

Applications for university admission: Mid-October to mid-January

Application for the Swedish Institute Study Scholarships(SISS): Early February

Notification for university admission: Early April

Announcements for SISS recepients: Late April

2. Wellcome Trust International Masters Scholarship

This scheme funded 5 fellows in 2017 and 10 fellows in 2016. Despite the few awards per year, I included it here because of its prestigious and generous nature. It caters for salaries/studentship stipend, research expenses and tution fees for a taught Master’s course (max GBP120,000). Normally, you would spend the first year doing a taught Master’s course followed by 18 months of additional research. Unlike most other Master’s scholarships, note that this is a fellowship whose administration mimics the more senior Wellcome Trust funded fellowships; you will be required to submit the application through an established administering institution. You are also required to get a sponsor/mentor in the administering institution with whom you write a research proposal on the work that you intent to do in the 18 months following the completion of the taught Master’s. This scheme works very well for research assistants who would like to advance their studies and already have a position within an established institution/group. 

Scope: Public health: 

“..research to improve the quality of health of everyone. This covers all aspects of science – from molecules and the cells vital to life, to the spread of diseases and vectors of disease around the world, to clinical and public health research.”

Relevant dates:

Application deadline: 19thApril 2019

Decision: July 2019

3.Commonwealth Master’s Scholarships

In total, the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission offers 800 scholarships annually. A substantial portion of these scholarships go to the support of Master’s training. Specifically for the Commonwealth Master’s Scholarships, the candidates first apply to various nominating bodies that are invited every year to submit a specific number of nominations. See links below for the lists of nominating bodies.

  1. National nominating agencies:
  2. Non-governmental and charitable organizations:

Scope: The scheme’s six main themes are science and technology, health systems, global prosperity, global peace, security and governance, resilience and response to crisis and access, inclusion and opportunity. 

“Commonwealth Master’s Scholarships enable talented and motivated individuals to gain the knowledge and skills required for sustainable development”

Key dates: 

Applying for nomination by designated nominating body: Contact the country-specific nominating body for details.

Deadline for submission of applications by nominees: 19th December 2018

Daniel Muema

This blog post has first been published on African Science Initiative.


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