In Uganda, a country developing rapidly from two decades of war, but where many people don’t have access to bank accounts, a strong financial sector is essential to lifting people out of poverty.
So for Fiona Lakareber, a University of Manchester law student funded by donors through the Equity and Merit Scholarship programme, being able to study a course which has no equivalent in her home country is the chance of a lifetime to transform communities.
Uganda has rapidly developing economy, but a problem with regulatory compliance – the arm of the law that involves companies meeting the rules relevant to their area of work. In 2012 and 2014 prominent banks had their licences revoked for failing to adhere to regulations and it is precisely these institutions that fledgling businesses need to provide finance to create wealth and jobs.
Frustrated by the lack of specialist teaching in her home country, Fiona was forced to look further afield. The Equity and Merit Scholarship programme made it possible for her to apply to Manchester to study for a master’s in International Finance Law (LLM). She said: “None of Uganda’s universities offers an LLM in Finance and it is clear from my work in banking that there is poor understanding of regulatory obligations. As a result I realised that the course in Manchester could help me gain a better understanding of these issues.”
The tenth cohort of Equity and Merit Scholars has recently arrived at the University, each student joining from either Uganda, Tanzania or Rwanda. The scholarship programme aims to fill skills gaps in these countries and so, to qualify, each candidate must demonstrate how their degree will enable them to benefit their country when they return home.
In Fiona’s case, the degree is the start of big plans for her and Uganda. “I want to become managing director of a bank,” she says. “Currently only one of the country’s 25 banks is headed by a woman and 18 are led by expatriates. I also want to set up a consultancy to help financial institutions. I believe this would be unique not only in Uganda but in all of East Africa.”
Despite being kept awake at night by gunfire when she was younger, Fiona was an exceptional student at school and university but was unable to continue her education without the help of donors to The University of Manchester. Her Equity and Merit Scholarship is funded by a donor to the North American Foundation for The University of Manchester (NAFUM).
Fiona is keen to encourage others to do the same. “I would say that others should also pursue their dreams. For me the dream of becoming a financial lawyer is coming to fruition and I feel inspired to make a difference and touch other people’s lives.”
For me the dream of becoming a financial lawyer is coming to fruition and I feel inspired to make a difference and touch other people’s lives
Fiona’s story is the first in a series of four videos and articles to mark the tenth anniversary of the Equity and Merit Scholarship programme at Manchester. The scholarships are jointly funded by the University and its donors. The University covers the tuition fee in full and the generosity of donors covers students’ living costs, flights to the UK and visas.
Since it began, a total of 203 scholarships have been awarded to exceptional individuals who have demonstrated both academic excellence and a commitment to the economic or social development of their home communities.