The original distribution of the Rhodes Scholarships reflected Cecil Rhodes’ vision of a global society centred around the British Empire, and the echoes of our imperialist founder have meant that racism and other forms of exclusion have played a significant role in the history of the Rhodes Trust. Today, thanks to our strategic focus of diversifying the Scholarship and the generosity of many donors, the Rhodes Scholarships have become more truly global. But there is still much work to be done to promote greater equity in their distribution within and across constituencies.
As of 2020, nineteen Scholarships are awarded annually to students from Africa through six constituencies: East Africa, Kenya, Southern Africa (including South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia and eSwatini), West Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe. African students outside these constituencies are eligible through our new Global Scholarship, established in 2018. An Ethiopian Scholar was selected in the first Global cohort and a Scholar from Cameroon will join us in 2021. Our goal is to expand the number of fully endowed Scholarships across the African continent to 32, with an initial focus on raising endowment to support more Scholarships in West and East Africa, funded in perpetuity. In recent months we have raised over £5M to fully endow a second West African Rhodes Scholarship and secure initial funding toward a third.
Today, all of us around the world are called to join the struggle for equality and inclusion of all peoples of diverse backgrounds and identities, to eradicate systemic racism and to confront legacies of slavery, imperialism, and White supremacy. Our mission and complicated legacy drive us to play a proactive role in this work and our reputation as the world's most distinguished academic scholarship rests not on the controversial life of our founder but on the enormous contribution Scholars have made to the world.
In this spirit, Africa Day represents an opportunity to acknowledge the difficult and complex history that the Rhodes Scholarship has with Africa, but also an opportunity to highlight some of the many extraordinary examples of impact and leadership by African Rhodes Scholars.
Africa Impact Finance Initiative (Africa IFI)
The Africa Impact Finance Initiative (Africa IFI) was founded in 2020 by Rhodes Scholars in residence to help support the initiative, passion, and hard work of African people in Africa. Africa IFI is a small, Oxford-based charity that connects donors to impactful projects on the African continent, in the fields of education and technology.
Africa IFI have recently awarded their first round of grants, having received 37 applications from 9 African countries. The winning organisation is Faith Foundation, working to reduce poverty in Zimbabwe through empowering and supporting individuals and families living in poverty. The grant will support Faith Foundation’s Empowered Period Campaign which empowers and educates girls and young women about menstrual health and hygiene.
Africa IFI is the brain child of the Rhodes Scholar Africa Forum (RSAF) which previously raised funds for approximately 2 grants per year. Beginning in 2020 with 9 grants, Africa IFI’s mission is to expand the scope of this contribution so that in the next 3 years they will be able to give 15 grants a year. Africa IFI is currently fundraising to support the expansion of their grants. Find out more about Africa IFI and support their mission: https://www.africaifi.org/donate
Faith Foundation - winner of Africa IFI's first round of grants
Founded in 2018 by Rhodes Scholar Dr Vuyane Mhlomi (South Africa-at-Large & St Edmund Hall 2014), Zikho Pali and Rob Cornish, Quro Medical has created an innovative digital healthcare model which makes healthcare more accessible and affordable for patients. The use of technology allows medical care and monitoring service to be delivered to patients safely in the comfort of their own homes.
A team of clinical professionals treats and monitors patients remotely, typically over the course of three to five days. This has been particularly critical during the COVID-19 pandemic as it has allowed patients to receive high quality care at home while restricting contact with other people and reducing stress on hospitals and front-line healthcare workers.
Ushering in a new era of innovation in South Africa’s healthcare landscape, Quro Medical is set to use the power of artificial intelligence and machine learning to not only detect but anticipate which patients are likely to fall into trouble. In April 2021, Quro Medical was successful in securing $1.1 million in seed funding which will help the startup begin to scale across South Africa and look to expand to the whole continent. Alongside Dr Mhlomi, Rhodes Scholar John Lazar (South Africa-at-Large & Balliol 1983) is Chair of Quro Medical.
Dr Vuyane Mhlomi and Zikho Pali, co-founders of Quro Medical
Dr Toluwalase Awoyemi (Nigeria & Christ Church 2018)
Dr Toluwalase Awoyemi (Nigeria & Christ Church 2018) is a Rhodes Scholar in residence, currently studying a DPhil in Women's and Reproductive Health at the University of Oxford. Growing up in Osun State, Nigeria, Dr Awoyemi began to flourish academically towards the end of his secondary school with the support of his father and family, and went on to leave medical school at the University of Ibadan with 20 academic awards.
As a student, Dr Awoyemi began volunteering for CHECK Medical Missions, coordinating the academic arm of the charity and organising a conference for 200 undergraduates in the region, with seminars focusing on leadership, employment and medical school. In 2017, Dr Awoyemi co-founded his NGO, The Ganglion Initiative (TGI). TGI provides career mentoring, scholarship schemes and advice about university admissions to young people in Nigeria’s public secondary schools and has, so far, impacted over 8,000 young people.
Dr Awoyemi’s PhD research focuses on reproductive health, specifically aiming to understand why some babies are born prematurely and why a significant number of women develop hypertension while pregnant. Dr Awoyemi is also involved in the access and outreach programme at the University of Oxford as a UNIQ+ mentor, working to increase the representation of ethnic minority students at Oxford. In 2020, Dr Awoyemi was awarded the Africa 35.35 award as one of the 35 most inspiring change makers in Africa and the diaspora, named in the Oxford BHM 100 list, and awarded the Rare Rising Star Award as one of the UK’s Top 10 Black Students along with fellow Rhodes Scholar Ruth Nyabuto (Kenya & Linacre 2018).
Dr Toluwalase Awoyemi