The Power of Us

Reflections on 2020

The winds of 2020 made us stronger. They taught us to believe in ourselves. Our collective selves. The global pandemic made us more agile and responsive to each other, revealing anew the resilience of the human spirit. As we came together to address it, we overcame challenges to achieve things we would not have imagined possible.

Like many organizations, our foundation began the year with plans, which the pandemic quickly upended.  So, like others, we adapted. We adjusted to working and leading remotely. We learned to listen and connect more deeply within our organization and with our partners. And alongside many others in Africa and Canada, we moved swiftly to support frontline health workers, sustain micro and small businesses, and enable students to continue learning.

We weren’t alone. We were inspired by the incredible response of others. African leaders who moved quickly to implement a historic pan-African COVID-19 plan; to negotiate a temporary moratorium on debt servicing while they, led by the Africa Center for Disease Control, developed and launched an online platform for the purchase of medical supplies—tests, oxygen concentrators and ventilators. Young coders in Kenya who built a contactless food distribution system. Young scientists in Ghana who began developing a rapid COVID-19 test. Indigenous leaders in Canada who acted swiftly to close borders, even as grassroots movements sprung up to coordinate the procurement and delivery of PPE while adopting a holistic approach to enabling community wellness.

These combined actions saved lives and livelihoods. And they were all connected. We and our partners were humbled to contribute to the impact. Through the delivery of 1.4 million test kits and training of over 60,000 community healthcare workers across Africa. Through the production of nearly 2 million PPEs products. Through a pan-African public awareness campaign that disseminated critical health information to those most at risk of infection. And through efforts to enable e-learning for 800,000 students.

Collectively, our partners helped sustain thousands of small businesses, which in turn saved hundreds of thousands of jobs.  On top of this, we worked alongside other funders, the Food and Agriculture Organization, and regional agencies to address another crisis, a locust infestation in East Africa, and help avert the loss of over $690 million worth of crops.

These efforts demonstrate the silver lining of 2020. We have seen what we can achieve when we work together, bringing our unique strengths to bear on monumental challenges. But this kind of partnership takes trust. Trust that is hard-earned—forged through openness, clear communication, generosity, and keeping our word. Trust between leaders and communities and among partners.

Advancing and building this trust is what makes our future strong. And it guarantees that the plans we had and still have—plans to build inclusive, prosperous societies—will never permanently be disrupted. If anything, disruption will only propel them forward.

For the Mastercard Foundation, 2021 will be a year of forging forward with our mission while reimagining  how to enable 30 million young people, in particular young women, to access dignified and fulfilling work in a changing economic landscape. As we do, we are optimistic. There is every reason to be. The work of building trust is alive and well. People are helping each other. Business leaders are innovating to keep employees and customers safe and productive. Governments are moving ahead to rebuild their economies. The global scientific community has developed multiple, effective vaccines and health workers are already immunizing citizens in several countries. All hands are on deck. And that’s good news because 2020 has already demonstrated the formidable power of a very simple concept. Us.