Africademics

Africademics is a career platform, volunteer network and scholarship service for students and early career researchers in and from Africa.

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Eligibility

  • Yes, I fulfill all of the eligibility criteria.

Initiative's representative name

Lena Gronbach

Initiative's representative date of birth

03 January 1990

Initiative’s representative gender

  • Woman

Headquarters: where are you based?

Germany, Baden-Württemberg, Nürtingen/ South Africa, Western Cape Province, Cape Town

Where are you making a difference?

All sub-Saharan African countries

Website or social media url(s)

https://www.facebook.com/africademicscommunity/ (Facebook), https://africademics.com/ (website), https://twitter.com/africademics (Twitter), https://www.linkedin.com/company/africademics (LinkedIn)

When was your organisation founded?

12/2019

Focus areas

  • Reskilling and upskilling the workforce
  • Creating digital tools

Project Stage

  • Start-Up (first few activities have happened)

Yearly Budget: How much capital do you need to accomplish your proposed project?

  • $10k - $50k

Organisation Type

  • For-profit

1. Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this to succeed

I came up with the idea for Africademics during the long and tedious search for a scholarship to fund my PhD studies. During my search, I realized that there is a wealth of scholarships, training courses, leadership academies and other opportunities for students and young researchers based in Africa or of African descent. Yet, few of my fellow students and colleagues seemed to be aware of these opportunities, despite their pressing need for funding and support in order to realize their dreams and potential. When I finally managed to secure funding for my studies, I knew that I wanted to do something to give the same opportunity to as many of my fellow students and aspiring academics on the continent as possible - and Africademics was born!

2. The problem: What problem surrounding employability or financial capability are you helping to solve?

The key issue I aim to address is the large information gap that affects students and early career researchers in African countries. Most universities do not have the capacity, funding or knowledge to identify and share scholarships - especially those offered by other institutions - and other career opportunities with their students. As a result, students fail to reach their full potential, despite the existence of numerous opportunities.

3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

Africademics aims to establish a central career platform for students and early career researchers in and from Africa, thus supporting access to funding for tertiary education and professional development across all fields of study. The venture consists of three key components: 1) A scholarship and funding database focusing on opportunities for African youth and/or for applicants based in Africa. Opportunities are also shared via social media (especially the Facebook page and Twitter) and disemminated to a growing network of African partner universities and institutions. 2) A volunteer network that spans the entire continent. Volunteers will assist in identifying funding and career opportunities at their institutions and in their countries and share them with the network. They will also act as ambassadors, liaise with local partners and universities and, at a later stage, act as multipliers and conduct workshops for local students. 3) Personal scholarship consultations and application support (paid and/or pro bono where possible). This includes assistance with identifying suitable funding opportunities, preparing the application documents, dealing with administrative aspects etc

4. How are you innovating or using unique approaches to solving the problem?

Africademics not only uses a digital platform, social media and whatsapp to reach out to its target group, but combines this with a personal approach through the volunteer network. Unlike other career and funding platforms, which merely share information and content, Africademics aims to involve and empower students, young researchers and future leaders by getting them involved in the project. Moreover, through its personal scholarship and application consultation service, it addresses the difficulties many students face when dealing with complex application requirements and procedures. In short, Africademics combines the sharing of valuable information through digital technologies with a personal approach aimed at empowering Africa's youth

5. Employability: how is your organization or project teaching people to develop the skills that they need to survive in the future job market?

Africademics improves access to tertiary education and career development opportunities by sharing information about scholarships, funding, training courses, fellowships and other educational opportunities for African youth. Access to education, especially beyond high school level, remains one of the biggest obstacles across the developing world and is compounded by the high cost of private tertiary education and the often low quality of public alternatives. Africademics aims to close the gap between the need for funding, information and educational resources in many African countries, and the availability of numerous opportunities at both the global and local level. Moreover, it offers additional opportunities for networking, skills development and informal learning through its volunteer network and the training and mentoring provided to its volunteers.

5a. Please describe which future-oriented skills your organization is focused on fostering and how you have measured / plan to measure progress

By enhancing access to tertiary education opportunities, Africademics aims to build skills across a broad range of areas and subjects. The main focus of our project lies on supporting and empowering the next generation of African scientists, researchers and scholars, as well as highly skilled professionals in all fields, including STEM and general leadership development. Progress will be measured in terms of the number of participants reached, both in terms of successful funding applications or participation in career development programmes and in terms of active Africademics volunteers.

6. Financial capability: how is your organization or project creating innovative solutions that arm people with ability to optimize their current and future financial health

While this is not the primary aim of our venture, providing people with access to scholarships and funding opportunities for their education sets them up for a more successful future in terms of career opportunities and income generation. Africademics thus also has an indirect positive impact on people's financial health, both by giving them access to funding for their education and by providing them with the opportunity to earn higher incomes in the future.

6a. Please describe what aspect of financial capability your organization is focused on fostering and how you have measured / plan to measure progress.

n/a

7. Marketplace: Who else is addressing the same problem? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Different career and scholarship platforms offer scholarship and funding information, including for African applicants. In addition, individual foundations, universities and organizations publish scholarships and other opportunities individually and/or via mailing lists or their own networks. However, existing scholarship platforms do not offer personalized assistance with the application process and do not offer opportunities for personal involvement (and thus empowerment) via volunteering. Moreover, they often publish opportunities very close to the application deadline.

8. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

Since the launch of our Facebook page in September 2019, a total of 350 scholarships and career opportunities have been shared with our followers, and our follower base has grown to almost 11,000 followers. We have launched our website and started posting content, including career advice and useful resources for African students and researchers. We launched our first call for volunteers in early January and close to 100 potential volunteers from 25 African countries have already signed up. We have started a whatsapp group for our volunteers and will hold a virtual introduction and briefing meeting at the end of January. We are also busy reaching out to all major African universities and their career offices (ca. 50 institutions for now), as well as to other universities across the globe that are offering funding for African students.

9. Financial Sustainability Plan. Can you tell us about you plan to fund your project and how that plan will be sustainable in the short, medium, and long term?

Due to the predominantly digital nature of our business, the costs are currently very low and limited to website hosting, social media advertising, and the cost of registering the business. The business is thus currently funded by its owner, which will be possible for another 6-12 months, depending on how quickly the next steps will be implemented. On the long run, the plan is to fund the project through the fees charged for personal scholarship and study abroad consultations, personal assistance with scholarship and university applications, and other related services (translations, proofreading and editing etc.). Workshops and talks at universities and other research institutions are another envisaged source of income.

10. Team

Africademics is currently managed by its owner. She is a PhD student at the University of Cape Town, holds a business degree, is a certified translator, and has worked in several relevant fields such as marketing, youth exchange, academic administration, event management, tourism and volunteer management. It is envisaged to add up to five core team members, ideally located in different parts of Africa, to assist with local outreach and specific tasks such as website design, fundraising etc.

Help Us Support Diversity! Are you a member of an under-served , under-represented, or marginalized group in your country of residence? (yes/no) (this question is optional – if you choose to fill it out, the response will not be shared with your fellow contestants)

  • Gender

If you selected “yes” to any of the categories above, please explain how being a member of this group has impacted you and your work?

Both within and outside of Academia, women continue to struggle to achieve the same recognition, opportunities, salaries and status as their male counterparts. Throughout my academic journey, I have always noticed the lack of female professors, PhD students and postdoctoral fellows, especially in African countries. Empowering women in academia is thus one of the core aims of Africademics.

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Ashoka page or contact

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