Mandela Rhodes scholarships are highly competitive, with fewer than 30 scholarship being awarded each year since its inception in 2005 but Njamba Kapalu, a highly ambitious and hardworking student, currently pursuing his Masters at Wits Business School shares how he cracked the most competitive scholarship and has handed out some tips and tricks along the way. All because who can be a better advisor than the person who has attempted and cleared the exam?

Eligibility criteria – Anyone between the ages of 19 – 29 and should be a citizen of any African country and have a first degree with above-average academic results (70% or upper) are eligible to apply for the scholarship.  If you have ticked these boxes – congratulations! You have already met the requirements – Go ahead and apply for the scholarship – Explore and Apply — The Mandela Rhodes Scholarship | The Mandela Rhodes Foundation

The scholarship covers tuition fees, accommodation, meals, book allowance, general allowance and travel expenses. 

Recipients of the Mandela Rhodes Scholarship are students with outstanding academic achievements with leadership ability, entrepreneurial skills and a commitment to reconciliation.

Key takeaways from the interview:

The application process

Reasons for Njamba’s selection

Advice for future applicants


Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I love finance. Financial analysis and news actually excite me. Most important thing about me, though, is my faith in God which guides my decisions and life choices. With regards to accomplishments, The Mandela Rhodes Scholarship would be top of my list. Along with that would be graduating Cum Laude for my undergrad which I am very proud of.

Describe the application process

You are required to submit a 500 word essay on the particular topic for that year and another 500 word essay about yourself. This should be supported by 3 references. There are then 3 stages of selections before you are invited for an interview. Once successful you are awarded the scholarship.

Why do you think you were selected?

I think I was selected for my deep drive and passion for African excellence and I also added a balance with age and career experience.

Any failures or rejections along the way?

Oh yes, definitely,  I actually failed to make it through the first round when I applied in 2014 straight out of varsity. I think I had too much pride and thought too highly of myself and therefore didn’t apply with the fact in mind that it would be an honor to be awarded the scholarship.

Any advice you would like to give future applicants?

Think about what potential value you could bring to the cohort but also remember you are not a finished product. Coming across as a finished product makes it seem as if you are unteachable.  Show them you want to learn and give back to society but most importantly be moldable.

We at the scholarship track aim to bring awareness of the plethora of opportunities to your ears so you, like Njamba Kapalu, can take a chance and try your luck for the scholarship. Be fearless. Be adventurous but Never say Never. 

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