Jim Leech Mastercard Foundation Fellowship on Entrepreneurship

For African students and recent graduates who want to solve pressing problems and bring entrepreneurial ideas to life.

The Jim Leech Mastercard Foundation Fellowship on Entrepreneurship gives African students and recent graduates the opportunity to access training, resources, financial support and a network of mentors to develop their entrepreneurial skills and start building their own venture. The 8-month program develops the exceptional entrepreneurial skillset and mindset of leaders to drive social and financial impact.

Applications for the 2024 cohort are now closed. Applications for the 2025 cohort will open in October 2024.

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Having gone through the program, I feel highly polished as an entrepreneur and more confident in my skills and ability to build a successful enterprise and navigate the adversities that come with that.

Joan Bayega, Co-founder of DMB Translation Services, 2022 Fellow
Makerere University

Program Benefits

We provide participants who demonstrate a willingness to learn, take risks, and commit themselves fully with the best that our innovation centre has to offer.

  • Business bootcamp delivered by Queen’s University faculty and industry leaders who bring decades of combined entrepreneurship and C-Suite experience
  • The Disciplined Entrepreneurship framework, a proven step-by-step framework for scalable startups developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Pitch coaching and mastery
  • Live workshops on marketing, goal setting, and recruiting are held throughout the program
  • Opportunity to earn micro-credentials on Entrepreneurship awarded by Queen's University for successful completion the courses

  • Liaise with mentors and speakers leading innovation and entrepreneurship in North America
  • Access a Global Network of Queen’s entrepreneurial alumni
  • Join a cohort of thousands of like-minded students and recent grads from across Africa
  • Fellows are matched to industry leaders and entrepreneurs in the final phase of the program
  • Receive feedback at important startup milestones

Our Mentors include: 

Christine Kamala, founder of Christie's Crisp
Kora Sabi Janvier, founder of Allo Veto
Oluwasegun Oluwaleti, founder of Water Boy
Duncan Asamoah, founder of Mr. Neat Company

and many others

  • Up to 60 Fellows will be selected in the final phase to receive a stipend of $500 CAD
  • Opportunities to pitch for prizes of up to $15,000 CAD in the pitch competition at the end of the program
  • Opportunities to travel to the Dunin-Deshpande Queen's Innovation Centre to build lasting connections that will help your further your business venture

We believe we do our best work when we tackle problems from diverse perspectives.

We are committed to eliminating barriers to entrepreneurship and making the program inclusive to as many people as possible. We are constantly iterating and improving the courses in response to user needs.

Examples include:

  • In 2020-2022, 60% of the cohort identified as women, and we strongly encourage women to apply to the program as we recognize the additional barriers women face when accessing employment or venturing into entrepreneurship.
  • In 2021-2022, the courses were adapted to be accessible by those with limited internet access, from downloading content to language support for French speaking students
  • All Queen's University badges earned in the course are free of cost and all badges and certificates are available online so that students can retrieve them anywhere, at any time, and easily share the details of their achievements. The certificates and badges have a unique ID that will be kept as a permanent record using Blockchain technology.
  • Each participant receives direct access to a program coach to provide support and a group of over 15 mentors in the completion of the course.

Although intensive, the program is brilliantly structured to help busy entrepreneurs successfully go through the rigorous training schedule. One of the most beneficial elements of the program is access to a network of experienced coaches and mentors we can rely on for practical advice relating to our enterprises.

Victor Boafo, Founder of EntoFarms, 2022 Fellow
Kwame Nkrumah University of Science & Technology

Who We're Looking For

We accept students and recent graduates from all academic disciplines, and from any African post-secondary institution. Whether you are already working on a business or you are looking to start something new, we can help you.

We are looking for participants who are committed to developing their entrepreneurial mindset and taking advantage of the resources provided to develop their own enterprise. The program is delivered virtually and can be completed at any pace, however the most committed participants will commit at least 10 hours per week. In order to progress through the program phases, participants will submit assignments online, adhering to strict deadlines.

The program content is delivered in English. Mentorship may be offered in English and French. Assignments and pitches must be completed in English. Prospective fellows who are unable to speak or write English are still encouraged to apply and form teams with someone who can fulfill all the requirements of the program in English. Prospective fellows may also work with their local university to come up with a strategy to make sure they are able to access university resources that will help them navigate the challenge related to language ability.

The experience has been surreal, immersive, amazing, and far beyond my expectations. It has been a journey of grit and hard work, learning and hands-on practice, guidance and mentorship, support and hope. The greatest lesson for me has been to always do things well because you never know where it will lead you.

Ewaoluwa Olasoji, Founder of Lotanna, 2022 Fellow
Obafemi Awolowo University

Program Timeline 

Phase 1: Explore (January-February)

1000+ exceptional candidates receive access to a curated list of online entrepreneurship courses and work through the first 11 steps of the Disciplined Entrepreneurship framework workbook. Candidates have several months to demonstrate their commitment to the entrepreneurial process by completing the training and progressing on their ideas' respective milestones.

Guiding Questions:

  • Who is my customer?
  • What can I do for them?


  • Make observations through interviews or some other means
  • Clearly define and validate the problem you are solving by speaking to end users
  • Validate or invalidate key assumptions which are the basis of creating the solution you want to work on
  • Ideate – generate solutions to the problem you are solving
  • Create a journey map of your end users’ experience using your solution

Phase 2: Ignite (March-April)

180+ finalists with an outstanding commitment to the entrepreneurship process, who will have excelled at the milestones set out in phase one will be selected to join this phase. Under this phase, they will continue to go through an additional curated list of additional online entrepreneurship courses and work through the remaining steps of the Disciplined Entrepreneurship framework's workbook. At the end of this phase, the participants will pitch their ideas, competing for the fellowship, and the most advanced and promising business ideas will become the finalists who receive the fellowship.

Guiding Questions:

  • How does your end user acquire your solution? 
  • How will this be funded or become financially sustainable?


  • Develop channels to market and reach out to any necessary partners
  • Create a business model or a plan for funding your solution
  • Prototype your solution in the simplest way possible that still allows you to generate meaningful feedback from end users
  • Validate all critical assumptions by creating experiments and test your solution using your prototype

Phase 3: Launch and Fellowship (May-August)

Up to 60 Fellows will be selected to join DDQIC's summer incubation program. During this phase, Fellows will get the opportunity to work on their ideas, access seed funding, and participate in weekly 3-2-1 pitch presentations about the work they are doing as they transform their ideas into scalable startups. In addition, Fellows will receive a $500 stipend and dedicated coaches and mentors from DDQIC’s Global Network of industry experts and entrepreneurs. Fellows will have the opportunity to compete in a pitch competition for more seed funding at the end of the program.

Guiding Questions:

  • How do you execute your solution? 
  • How can you scale it?


  • Pilot your solution in a more real life scenario
  • Generate expressions of interest, end users, or customers
  • Create a plan to scale

Graduation (August)

Startup entrepreneurs (Fellows) will complete their incubation program at the end of August. After graduation, Fellows will continue to receive post-incubation services, support, and pitch competition opportunities as part of DDQIC’s network.

High-performing Fellows will be invited to participate as ambassadors and mentors for future Jim Leech Mastercard Foundation Fellowships as well.

Program Outcomes

DDQIC conducts interviews and surveys to evaluate the program and collect feedback.

84% of the 2023 participants stated that their venture has hired at least 1 youth since starting the program.

97% of 2022 Fellows thought the program was "very" or "extremely" helpful in helping them further their venture.

100% increase in participants indicating they have paying users or customers from pre-program to post-program.

Primary Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) addressed:
Goal 1: No Poverty
Goal 3: Good Health & Wellbeing
Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth

Jim Leech Mastercard Foundation Fellowship Final Impact Report 2023

Meet the Fellows

Joan Bayega, founder of DMB Translation Services

2022 Fellow from Makerere University, Uganda

DMB Translation Services Ltd is a social enterprise working to inspire inclusive societies by creating affordable and modern assistive technologies for persons with disabilities.

Joan was awarded $15,000 PRIZE WINNER & $10,000 IN-KIND Brand consulting in the Dunin-Deshpande Summer Pitch Competition.

Watch their Pitch

Fadzai Muramba, Founder of Strictly Diabetic

2022 Fellow from University of Cape Town, Zimbabwe

Strictly Diabetic helps type 2 diabetics manage their blood sugar levels at a minimal cost to prevent diabetic-related complications in the future. Their services include an online community platform and a 28-day program.

Fadzai was awarded $15,000 PRIZE WINNER & 5 hrs pro bono brand consulting in the Dunin-Deshpande Summer Pitch Competition.

Watch their Pitch

Prince Archimedes, Founder of Canva Soap

2022 Fellow from Mbarara University, Uganda

Canva Soap makes both liquid and bar soap for people who have difficulty accessing health products and are victims of the negative impacts of poor health.

Prince was awarded $5,000 PRIZE WINNER & 5 hrs pro bono brand consulting at the Dunin-Deshpande Summer Pitch Competition.

Watch their Pitch

Reitumetse Kholumo, Founder of Kwela Brews

2022 Fellow from University of Cape Town, South Africa

Kwela Brews helps homebrewers of traditional African beer produce their product efficiently and safely by providing a low-cost brewing machine and safe and affordable brewing ingredients for their brewing needs.

Reitumetse was awarded $10,000 in the Dunin-Deshpande Summer Pitch Competition.

Watch their Pitch

Fellows' Success Stories

2023 Final Report

Read about the enterprises and impacts achieved by the 2023 Fellows.

Download the Report

Judith Onza Eyoa

Judith Onza Eyoa, inspired by her father's struggle to find suitable shoes for his walking disability, founded "AfriShoe Uganda" at the age of 25 with the support of the Jim Leech Mastercard Foundation Fellowship. This venture crafts affordable, durable, and customized footwear for individuals with walking disabilities in Uganda, using locally available materials.

Read the Article

Enoch Muwangezi

Enoch Muwangezi not only runs Ugabrush, but its parent company, Deploy Resource Africa, which oversees ventures that create eco-friendly products as they provide employment opportunities to the youths in the community.

Deploy Resource Africa

Eunice Kloe

Since August 2021, BidiGreen Ghana, a smokeless charcoal production and distribution company in Ghana, has grown their team, mostly comprised of women, to increase the production and distribution of its charcoal briquettes.

BidiGreen Profile on RnD Africa

Dennis Ssekimpi

Hya Bioplastics is changing the packaging landscape in Africa through its innovative and patent-pending process that re-engineers plant fibers to produce bioplastics. Hya Bioplastics used the $10,000 seed funding from the DDQIC Summer Pitch Competition to help scale production from 500 to 10,000 units daily. To date, Hya Bioplastics has raised $125L in investments, grants, prizes and awards.

Hya Bioplastic 2021 Year in Review

Titose Chembezi

Titose Chembezi joined the 2021 JL MCF program to grow Altery, a digital platform that uses an innovative approach for SMEs and the informal sector to access credit. Titose won $10,000 at the Summer Pitch Competition, along with several other prizes to grow her company.  

Since finishing the program, Titose is frequently featured on FinTech panels, won the Mandela Washington Fellowship, presents her research at conferences, and is becoming a leading figure in South Africa’s FinTech industry.

Titose has shifted focus to Nautilus, which provides strong, hardware-enforced, and remotely attestable guarantees of data and execution confidentiality. They help clients execute code over highly sensitive datasets without exposing the data while providing strong ownership, control, and privacy guarantees for data owners.  

"The Final Pitch Competition experience was great exposure for me because it was the first time my team and I got to compete with ventures from Canada and won a prize. It taught me to move past the stigma that startups from the African continent may not be competent enough compared to the West and also gave me the courage to see the world as my oasis." 

Applicant and Student Resources

Visit the Frequently Asked Questions webpage to learn answers to common queries about the application process and program details.