Mastercard Foundation Scholars Come Together for #BaobabSummit 2021  

Reimagine is defined as to imagine again or anew. As the global COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt our lives, we must use this time to rethink, rebuild, and reimagine our post-pandemic world.

The central theme of this year’s Baobab Summit, ‘Reimagining Our Realities’, explores how communities, changemakers, and organizations can adapt to the new realities of COVID-19 and unlock new possibilities.

The weeklong virtual Summit brought together Scholars from around the globe to connect and learn from each other, engage in thought-provoking discussions with topic experts, and celebrate and empower young leaders committed to social and economic transformation across the continent.

Two Scholars and this year’s Summit roving reporters, Marion Apio and Dorothy Nakaggwa share their Baobab Summit 2021 experience, key takeaways, and highlights.

Dorothy Nakaggwa’s reflections on #Baobab2021  

To Mastercard Foundation Scholars, in big and small ways, I hope the Summit inspired, empowered, and, above all, challenged you to go out and champion change in your community. For me, it certainly did.  

The energy everyone exuded—from the Scholars and emcees to the speakers and the organizing team—was contagious. It was a delightful reminder that we are all part of this vibrant and incredible Mastercard Foundation Community. 

The theme for this year’s Baobab Summit was “Reimagining our Realities”— a theme that communicated deeply to each one of us in various ways. The pandemic has wreaked havoc worldwide, and we are all trying to adapt to the changing times. We are exploring new ways of working, studying, and thriving in the pandemic and in the post-pandemic future. 

While kicking off the Summit, Reeta Roy, President and CEO of the Mastercard Foundation, encouraged all of us to immerse ourselves in our own process of reimagining. And as we sat behind our screens and listened to Africa’s leading trailblazers and session facilitators, I believe we all picked up “something” that is pushing us to re-think challenges and imagine new possibilities. 

Throughout the  Summit, the most resounding question in my mind was, “how can I reimagine my realities as a young, educated, African woman?” While I do not completely have an answer to that question, here are three things I took away from the Summit, which are reshaping my approach to uncertainties and transforming me into a better leader. 

Building and embracing community is essential  

Dr Musonda Mumba started off Day 1 with a powerful message on the importance of building and embracing community. A memorable quote from her speech was, “Create your community — a community of trust, a community of giving, and a community of sharing.” 

We are all part of something bigger than ourselves, and therefore must strive to cultivate meaningful connections. This rich and diverse Baobab Community is here, and we must appreciate and embrace it. 

Community building is about looking out for each other, offering support, sharing experiences, and exchanging ideas. Doing these things creates room for us to become better leaders in our personal lives, our communities, and the African continent. 

Engage your curiosity  

My favorite transformative leadership session during the Summit was about Essential Mindsets and Skills for the ‘Real World’, facilitated by Maame Afon. Partly, it was because of Maame’s invigorating energy, and secondly the topic she was addressing. 

In these chaotic times, more than ever, we need to nurture, cultivate, and embrace certain mindsets. A key mindset she emphasized was curiosity. “If you can’t be curious with yourself, it’ll be difficult to be curious about other things”, said Maame. 

Deliberately cultivating curiosity about ourselves and the world around us can help us manage uncertainties in productive, adaptive, and even exciting ways. So, don’t tamp down your curiosity! 

Show up with courage  

The one piece of advice every speaker left us with was: be bold and go for it. “The only known is uncertainty, but uncertainty doesn’t have to be a scary place”, said Reeta Roy. 

We need to be brave and show up with courage every day; that is how we will make progress in our lives and our communities. 

Overall, the Summit was inspiring, educative, and entertaining. I would like to shout a big thank you to the Mastercard Foundation, the organizing team, and everyone who made this summit a worthwhile experience for all of us. It was a great opportunity to reconnect, realise, relearn, redesign, and reimagine our realities with such incredible individuals. 

Thank you! 

By Dorothy NAKAGGWA , Mastercard Foundation Alumna at Makerere University, Class of 2020.

Dorothy Nakaggwa is a Mastercard Foundation Alumna at Makerere University, and she graduated with a BSc. in Human Nutrition. She was in the first cohort of the Baobab Alumni in Residence Fellowship. Currently, Dorothy is a freelance copywriter and enjoys working with small brands, helping them establish an online presence.

Connect with Dorothy:
Twitter: @dcontentnomad


Marion Apio’s takeaways and highlights from the #BaobabSummit2021

Hosted virtually under the theme, “Reimagining Our Realities”, the Mastercard Foundation’s 5-day  #BaobabSummit2021 took place from 2nd–6th August, 2021. On the table for discussion were topics such as what the post-pandemic future will look like, how and why we can reimagine the role of technology in our lives, reimagine our priorities, preserve our mental health, and reimagine career choices to contribute to a dynamically changing world while considering what it takes to reimagine the future of work in Africa—and the role each one can play in bringing that future to life. 

The networking and fun Summit attracted over 500 attendees, with participation from countries like Kenya, Benin, Burundi, Uganda, Lebanon, Ghana, South Africa, Nigeria, Canada, USA and many other countries, among them Mastercard Foundation staff, Scholars, , and Partners, all committing to be part of a great opportunity for community building, networking, and inspiration; and also to play a transformative role in reimagining the realities in their  personal lives, communities and the continent.  

Day 1 of the Summit kicked off with an energizing and incredible song ‘Baobab Breaking Bounds’ by Contieh (feat. Felicia Francis) while emcees Katleho Mohono and Elma  Akob  hosted the virtual summit with Rose Sandra Musima on sign language.

In her Welcome Address, Reeta Roy, President and CEO of The Mastercard Foundation, reminded the Scholars and Alumni Community in attendance of the need for reimagination and adapting to change, because we live in an imperfect world. 

Reeta Roy, The Mastercard Foundation President & CEO

“We have all had to change, we have all had to adapt, but the only norm is uncertainty. Uncertainty doesn’t need to be a scary place. It doesn’t need to be fearful. But immersing yourself this week at this ‘Baobab Summit’ with each other and with the community is about our own process of reimagining. The pandemic in many ways revealed gaps we have known and gave us a chance to ask ourselves questions like, what our relationship to this world is, what our relationship to these inequities is like, and what our role in this story is” — Reeta Roy.  

Reeta Roy acknowledged that reimagining is difficult but very possible since humans have demonstrated over history that we are more than capable of changing, reinventing, and reimagining. “Relearning, readapting, and reimagining is something to hold on to. As young African leaders, it is also important to take a moment and think, ask yourselves, ‘when is this change necessary and how can we go about championing it?’ Remember, championing it with courage, instigating and demonstrating,” she concluded. 

From the poem recited on opening day by Gideon Asamoah to the key addresses, the key takeaways from the Baobab Summit 2021 were: change is inevitable; Covid-19 has come to stay; and young leaders who are taking on the challenge to transform communities need to embrace change, relearn, rethink, reimagine and adapt to the situation despite the uncertainties brought about by the pandemic and strongly invest in building powerful communities.  

Power of Community:  Dr. Musonda Mumba (Courtesy: Mastercard Foundation)

In an interview, Makerere University Baobab Ambassador, Aisha Nalumansi, shared that Dr. Musondo’s remarks about having hope despite the challenges we are encountering as youths, was quite encouraging. 

The second day of the Summit commenced with a poem by Koudou Eric, and the Scholars discussed the role this generation of leaders needs to play to drive change on the African continent—being that they are Africa’s biggest investment for today and not for the future. I cannot forget the idea that Africa is now and not in the future, and that the continent would greatly benefit from young leaders who think about it at this moment given the fact that it greatly benefits from a prolific youth population that are the continent’s agents for change. 

Written by Baobab Ambassador and Roving Reporter at the #BaobabSummit2021, Marion Apio.   

Marion is a graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Communication from Makerere University. Currently the Communications and Advocacy Lead at Pollicy – Uganda-based feminist organization working at the intersection of data, design, and technology. Marion is the founder of Girls Alive Uganda, a non-profit providing training, reusable sanitary towels, and support for high school girls.

Connect on Twitter:@MarionApio.