I had been dreaming about attending a high-ranked university for ages. The interaction with brilliant professors, lecturers, the smell of old books in a library, and the social aspect of university life have always fascinated me.
After graduating from my local university in my native country - Congo, I decided to gain some real-world experience by working instead of going straight for a master’s degree. Six years passed since I graduated, and I yearned to build a strong career in the Software Engineering industry. I wanted to realize my dream, and I decided to apply for a Master in Data Science in the UK. Fortunately, I got an offer from the University of Essex, thanks for the Chevening Scholarship. For those who don’t know I am currently doing my master at that university, my experience about it are mixed but that is out of the scope of this blog 🤪.
As a Software Engineer, there are different ways to learn. I have gone through all of them: tutorials, coding Bootcamp, Youtube videos, MOOC, personnel projects, and the academic way. Nevertheless, I can attest, that as long as we live in today’s world and economy, a high-ranked university is still the best, the most legit, and the most credible way to learn and acquire new skills, especially when it comes to research. I am not opening the old debate on the best way to learn as a Software Engineer, and it is beyond the scope of this blog. Instead, I will share some opportunities for young talented graduates from the continent in general and DRCongo particularly, on attending high-ranked universities globally.
As a young African growing up in DRCongo, there are fewer options for good universities than someone born and raised in Europe or North America.
Fortunately, there have been initiatives to improve inclusivity for people from developing countries or of disadvantaged backgrounds in academia over the past decade.
Following up on a recent discussion with an old friend of mine in a WhatsApp group, I decided to put some options young graduates with a similar background as me can access to get a good master’s in computer science or related field.
I will talk about some of them below, and the list is not exhaustive. In conclusion, I will share some of my tips to get opportunities in my career.
The CMU Africa is an extension of the main CMU, which is one of the best computer science universities in the world. In 2011, following up on a recent partnership with the (African Bank of Development)BAD and the World Bank, CMU has decided to open its door in Rwanda to bring high-quality education to Africa. It is the only U.S. research university offering its master’s degrees with a full-time faculty, staff, and operations in Africa.
Since 2018, I have been interacting with CMU graduates from all over Africa. I can attest it is one of the best masters out there. CMU is the pillar of the Rwanda and East African tech scene. Their graduates are working for top-notch tech companies locally. Some of my CMU Alumni friends are working for Google, IBM, or doing Ph.D. in the main CMU campus or Oxford.
Here are some of the alumni from the university I got a chance to interact with :
- Oluwafunmilola Kesa, Software Engineer at Microsoft, Vancouver Canada
- Daniel Omeiza, Ph.D. Student at University of Oxford, Oxford UK
- Azeez Oluwafemi, Research Engineer at Borealis AI, Vancouver Canada.
- Joan Kirunga , Senior Data Scientist at BBox, Kigali Rwanda
- Victor Akinwande, Phd Student, at the main CMU in Pennsylvania, USA
What are the costs:
I have met some students who got scholarships from the Rwandan government if they are Rwandans or the prestigious Mastercard Scholarship. According to their website, the tuition fees can range from 8k to 16k USD per year. If you have a good track of leadership and community-building experience, you can easily find a scholarship that funds your studies at CMU Africa.
In 2019, with a partnership with Google and Facebook, Moustapha Cisse launched the African Master of Machine Intelligence.
AMMI is a one-year master’s to help passionate young Africans access cutting-edge research on Artificial Intelligence without leaving the country and going through the hassle of a student visa. I have seen top researchers from (University College of London) UCL or Google lecturing at the university. In 2019, I had a chance to meet Marc Peter Deisenroth, who was lecturing at the university. He wrote one of the best books on Mathematic of Machine Learning.
The final goal of the university is to produce talent for the Google office in Accra. I can attest I know some of their graduates who joined the Google Accra office and are doing well. I also know others who went for Ph.D. in top universities in Europe.
Here are some alums from Congo I had a chance to interact with :
- Muhigiri Chiruza Alain, The guy is one of those smart people who don’t have an online profile, I am sure he is doing well, maybe doing a Ph.D. at Standford or somewhere.
- Salomon Kabongo, Phd Student at L3S Research, Leipzig Germany
What are the costs :
The program is highly competitive and only takes the best talent. Its acceptance rate, which is six percent, makes it one of the most prestigious masters in Africa. Fortunately, it is free; Google and Facebook cover your tuition fees. If you are one of those guys who could easily get 72 % in undergrad, you have a solid background in Mathematics and Computer Science, and you are passionate about Machine Learning, you should give this program a try.
The program has been there for more than 30 years and provides African leaders the chance to study at any British university of their choice fully funded. Suppose you manage to get a place in one of the best UK universities for Machine Learning or Data Science, Chevening will cover your tuition fees.
I can guarantee, that if you have dreamt about studying at one of the best British Universities, you can try this scholarship. As a Chevening scholar, I can attest that this is one of the best scholarships you can get if you are admitted to a good university. It gives you access to a good network of computer scientists and people from different backgrounds.
Chevening alumni are currently among the best leaders in their respective countries.
Some Alums I have interacted with :
Mbithe Nzomo, Doctoral Researcher, University of Cape Town, South Africa
And the list goes on, there handful of Cheveners who did Computer Science and are doing well in life. Head to this link to learn more about them.
What are the costs :
It is a fully-funded scholarship, and you don’t need to pay anything. You are only required to have two years of work experience and good leadership background. As part of the application process, you will have to write four essays. These are your leadership and Networking skills, your course of studies, and your career plan. The application process is lengthy, but it is worth it. To be honest with you, it is one of the best scholarships in the world as long as you get a place to a good university in UK. One quack, is that part of the terms and conditions of the scholarship you have to return to your home country for at least two years.
Those are the top three programs any African Engineer who wants to go for a master’s in Computer science can think about. The list is not exhaustive; there are more programs out there, especially South African universities. I am still collecting information about them. Should I get more time and energy in the future, I will post them in part two of this series. I will share more advice on how to get access to top research papers in the world without attending a university. Additionally, I will share some undergraduate universities you can dream about. Until my next feature, stay safe, take care, and see you in part two of this series.