__Congratulations to the African Leadership Academy as it turns 10!
The most important things that happen in the world do not always grab headlines, or trend. They do not happen in palaces or State Houses. They do not even reach the discussions of parliament or cabinet. And yet when the true arc of history settles a time or period, you will be amazed at what is really remembered.
Great politicians talk of their “legacy,” the great things they did that people will remember. And yet the big things that happened whilst they were in office often had nothing to do with them. Most great scientific developments start small, or in an insignificant way, and yet eventually the scientist or inventor ends up being more famous than the ruler of his or her time.
Imagine the Wright brothers who invented the airplane. Who remembers the leader of America at the time?!
Born in Africa, Elon Musk’s rocket launch two weeks ago is one of those developments. He could be well on his way to occupying such a position in history, alongside the greatest of any age.
I often wonder what else is happening, perhaps in a corner of Africa, that will shake the world. If you know of something going on out there that you think the world and this FB platform should know about (and also #LionessMoms), please tell us. Meanwhile let me get us started…
Fred Swaniker was born in Ghana, to Ghanaian parents. His mother (a social worker and teacher by profession) was a #LionessMom who educated him in African countries like Gambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana. When Fred’s dad passed away, she decided to start a small school in Botswana and made Fred the first headmaster when he was only 18. This was Fred’s first experience with educational entrepreneurship.
Fred eventually went to the USA to study economics, and then business at Stanford Graduate School of Business in Silicon Valley (which by now you know is one of the best of the best universities in the world). Instead of remaining there to join companies like Google and Facebook which were created by some of his peers, Fred headed straight back to Africa.
Being a social entrepreneur, Fred had a burning desire to change the way young African leaders are trained for the 21st century, so he and a business school colleague, Chris Bradford, came up with an audacious idea called The African Leadership Academy (ALA) when they were still working on their MBAs…
The story of ALA cannot be told in this short Facebook post. I urge you to take half an hour of your time and just “Google” Fred Swaniker and the African Leadership Academy. You cannot walk away without a mixture of awe, pride, and humility.
Fred and his team are amazingly competent at developing business plans, raising money, and executing on their vision. They are now building massive universities (African Leadership Universities) across Africa (two are already open in Mauritius and Rwanda) with the ultimate aim of developing 3 million competent, innovative leaders and entrepreneurs for Africa by 2060. This is a scale most governments cannot even begin to imagine.
Let me close with this simple reference about Fred: I was attending a meeting of global philanthropists working on education as part of my work with the UN Commission on Education, chaired by former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. During one of the coffee breaks, a lady came up to me and said:
“I think that Fred Swaniker is one of the most remarkable young people in the world,” she began. “I’m investing in his initiative because I just love what he and his colleagues are doing.”
She then introduced herself as Laurene Powell Jobs, the wife of the late Steve Jobs.
Tomorrow and Saturday (23-24 February), ALA will be holding its 10-year anniversary celebration in Johannesburg. You can find out more at http://
When the arc of history for this age is reviewed, people might not even remember who the President was in most countries, but people like Fred Swaniker (Ghana), Julia Rotich (Kenya), and Michael Joseph (South Africa) will be there, even if some of you do not yet know who they are…
Put your name there, your #LionessMom’s (and#LionDad‘s) name and also the names of your children, and let’s see what happens.