Canada honours Mandela’s legacy with scholarships to develop future African leaders

In honouring the life and legacy of the late Nelson Mandela, Canada didn't come South Africa this week bearing only condolences.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced Wednesday the creation of new scholarship programs to foster development of a professional public service in African nations and studies in areas that were important to South Africa's transcendent leader.

“Nelson Mandela believed that education, more than anything else, improved the chances of leading a better life,” Harper said in announcing the scholarships in Pretoria after leading the Canadian delegation to view Mandela's body lying in state.

The African Leaders of Tomorrow Scholarships Fund is aimed at at giving African public-sector professionals early in their careers a chance to study in Canada.

[ Related: Canadian delegation to South Africa has deep ties to Nelson Mandela ]

The bureaucracies in many post-colonial African countries are plagued by endemic corruption and a lack of professionalism.

In Canada, young public servants would "learn best practices in governance, public policy and administration, helping them to become effective leaders, as well as positioning them to enhance prosperity and reduce poverty on the continent," said a news release from the Prime Minister's Office.

Candidates would study in Canada for one to two years, with women given special consideration to encourage the advancement of female leaders in Africa.

Details of the program and who will administer it are to be worked out next year. It will be funded by up to $5 million over five years from the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development, which will be matched by the private MasterCard Foundation, a Toronto-based charity that supports activities in Africa’s education sector.

No new federal money is being used, a Harper spokesman told CBC News. Funding will come from the existing international development budget.

The PMO's backgrounder on the new scholarships noted African students are also eligible for other federally funded graduate-level scholarships, including the Canadian Francophonie Scholarship Program, the Banting Postdoctoral Scholarships and the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships.

[ Related: Harper, Canadian delegation pay last respects to Mandela ]

Harper also announced the Canada Graduate Scholarships to Honour Nelson Mandela, which will be open to Canadian students pursuing master's or doctoral degrees in social sciences and humanities. Their research would have to focus on at least one of four themes: national unity; democracy, freedom and human rights; leadership; and children's participation in society.

Starting in 2015, up to 20 recipients would receive $17,500 for one year at the masters level and $35,000 annually for three years to pursue doctoral studies.

Harper said it was "gratifying that gifted Canadian students will benefit from new scholarships that will allow them to study national unity, democracy, freedom and human rights – goals that the great South African leader championed so tirelessly during his remarkable life.”