Mastercard Foundation withholds funding for African Development University over serious allegations against its leadership

The Mastercard Foundation is withholding financial support for one of Africa’s non-profit universities. The decision by the Foundation followed serious allegations of sexual harassment and financial mismanagement against the leadership of the Niamey-based tertiary institution modelled after the Ashesi University in Ghana.

In a statement on March 18, 2023, The Mastercard Foundation says it is aware of the serious allegations related to leadership practices at the African Development University, without elaborating.

But Ghana Business News has found that the allegations bother on sexual harassment and financial mismanagement made against the founder. Some of the allegations have been made on social media by a former employee, Amadou Cissoko, who fearing for his life after making public some of the allegations, had resigned his job and fled Niger for his own safety.

According to Mastercard Foundation, it is is deeply concerned by the issues raised and has commissioned an independent investigation to establish the facts and inform its next steps.

“The Foundation’s priority is to ensure the safety and wellbeing of Mastercard Foundation Scholars and the student body. The Foundation has asked that the African Development University pause the recruitment of a new cohort of Mastercard Foundation Scholars until our investigation is complete and the well-being of the student body is assured.

The Foundation remains committed to positively impacting the communities and young people reached through our programmes,” it said in the statement.

The Mastercard Foundation’s funding forms the bulk of financial support for the not-for-profit institution founded in 2017.

Kader Kaneye

The allegations are largely against the founder, Kader Kaneye.

When Ghana Business News wrote to him for his reaction, an official of the institution, Adamou Zada wrote back: “Our president and founder is currently not available. But we can assure you that we are committed to fully cooperating with the relevant authorities and doing everything in our power to ensure the transparency and integrity of the investigation process.

We are determined to maintain the highest standards of ethics and integrity, and we are confident that the ongoing investigations will help clarify the situation.”

Even though Ashesi University only served as an advisor to the institution since 2017, information available to Ghana Business News indicated that Ashesi did visit the University to speak to the authorities when it was made aware of the allegations.

In response to enquiries by Ghana Business News, authorities at Ashesi said Mr. Cissoko did reach out to Ashesi, and also visited campus on February 22, 2023.

Ashesi said it also sent a team to the University to speak with their management and staff and shared its observations from that visit with the Board of Directors as well as a few mutual partners of the University and Ashesi University.

Ashesi said it has further recommended the commissioning of an independent audit to establish the facts.

The importance of Mastercard Foundation’s financial support has been noted on the University’s website.

The University writes on its website that some 159 institutions have participated in Education Collaborative activities to date, with 116,000 students being the direct beneficiaries of reforms and programmes focused on strengthening learning and career outcomes. Thanks to a significant partnership with the Mastercard Foundation, the Education Collaborative aims to have reached over 1,000,000 students by 2030 – an ambitious goal for all stakeholders involved. 

By Emmanuel K Dogbevi
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