Image caption: Edna #LionessMom Swaniker, Fred Swaniker, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and Nomsa Daniels (CEO, Graça Machel Trust)

#LionessMom (Part 4)

__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 or follow the action at #ALA10. If you want to access videos of the panel discussions, including one on Women Leading Africa, go to and register.

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.


by 14 Replies

About Strive Masiyiwa

Strive Masiyiwa is the Founder and Executive Chairman of Econet, a diversified global telecommunications group with operations and investments in over 15 countries. His business interests also include renewable energy, financial services, media and hospitality. Masiyiwa serves on a number of international boards, including Unilever, Rockefeller Foundation, the Council on Foreign Relations’ Global Advisory Board, the Africa Progress Panel, the UN Secretary General's Advisory Board for Sustainable Energy, Morehouse College, Hilton Foundation's Humanitarian Prize Jury and the Kenjin-Tatsujin International Advisory Council. He is one of the founders, with Sir Richard Branson, of the global think tank, the Carbon War Room, and a founding member of the Global Business Coalition on Education. Masiyiwa took over the Chairmanship of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) from Kofi Annan. He is also Chair of the Micronutrient Initiative, a global organization focused on ending child hunger and improving nutrition. In 2012, Masiyiwa was invited by President Obama to address leaders at the Camp David G-8 Summit on how to increase food production and end hunger in parts of Africa. In 2014, Masiyiwa was selected to Fortune Magazine’s list of the “World’s 50 Greatest Leaders”. As a philanthropist, he is a member of the Giving Pledge, and his contributions to education, health and development have been widely recognized. Masiyiwa and his wife finance the Higher Life Foundation, which provides scholarships to over 42,000 African orphans. In 2015, he was the recipient of the International Rescue Committee’s Freedom Award and was presented with a UN Foundation Global Leadership Award for the work of the Africa Against Ebola Solidarity Trust, which he chairs and helped establish to fund the deployment of African healthcare workers to combat the outbreak in West Africa.

14 thoughts on “#LionessMom (Part 4)

  1. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 1.

    Now your mom might be (or have been) a domestic worker in someone’s home, nurse, school teacher, civil servant, or small scale entrepreneur, raising kids on her own… and yet one of those kids might be a Fred Swaniker! Who said your mom is “not important”?! She is a #LionessMom!

  2. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 2.

    I once spent a week traveling with Archbishop Tutu in Latin America. We were together every single day. It was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. One thing he kept reminding me “each one of us is sent into this world by God with a gift of equal worth to that of every other person, and it is to leave the world a better place than we found it.”

    One day I will tell you why I concluded that “The Arch” is one of the most successful people I ever met in my life.

  3. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 3.

    Billy Graham was a truly remarkable man of God. I loved to listen to him, and many of his sermons are timeless. Whenever I think of humility, I think of Billy Graham. He went home to be with the Lord this week, after a sojourn of 99 years on earth. A life lived to the full is like the life of Billy Graham.

  4. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 4.

    There is an amazing movie about Augustus Caesar, arguably the most powerful Roman Emperor. In the movie, Augustus (played by the actor Peter O’Toole) is looking back at his life thousands of years later, and says something like: “It was during my reign, that the Nazarene was born in some obscure part of my empire….” then he sighs, as though to say, “No one told me that someone more important in history than myself had been born in a manger surrounded by farm animals.”

    No one really remembers the names of all the Caesars, but more kids have been named after some fishermen that followed this Nazarene, than any Caesar. If you sometimes feel like an unknown fisherman, turn to someone and say: “What I do is really important.” And carry on being a nurse, a teacher, a plumber or trader; whatever it is you do, just be the best you can be, and wait for the arc of history to complete its course.

  5. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    I have spent a lot of time talking and listening to Fred. What impressed me most about him is not simply that he is a passionate, and visionary entrepreneur, it is the skills that he possesses to execute a Business Plan.
    What is even more exciting about Fred, and his initiative is that he is helping to equip a new generation of young people that will be just like him.

  6. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Musundi writes,

    I love the opening remarks here. Especially the second and third statements ,”They do not happen in palaces or State Houses. They do not even reach the discussions of parliament or cabinet.” The power of changing the state of affairs lies not with the political class but us. The common people.

    It is only for us to see and get down to work in order to achieve all those things that we’ve been waiting on the ruling class to “bless”.

    My reply,
    Profound observation.

  7. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Blessing writes,

    My mom #LionessMom left school to marry her barren sister’s husband at the age of 12 so she could conceive children for him. She went back to school when I was in grade 3 so that she could learn to read and write and through night school she managed to write her Form 2 exams while juggling motherhood and selling wares in Botswana and South Africa to send me to school as my father (she had since remarried) had declared that he would not pay fees for a girl child. Today she has gone but the greatest gift I can ever give to her memory is to succeed in my business and become a supportive mother to a Fred Swaniker or a Strive Masiyiwa! My children will leave a mark in this world!!

    My reply,
    Thank you for sharing.
    I read all your comments, and from them I discern she raised you well.
    Let’s also work together (all of us on this platform) to ensure that we end the practice of child brides. Just imagine what more your mom would have achieved if she had been allowed to enjoy her own childhood.
    You Blessing are indeed a “blessing” to me, and all that are on this platform:
    You are both a #LionessRoar, and #LionessMom, all in one!

  8. Nixon B Dauseni

    Thnx Mr Masiyiwa.To me my Daddy is a liondaddy.last yr ws my frat time to go to my fathers’ country of origin -Malawi N’ took me 2days using a bus to reach thr.My father &hs bros came by feet to Salisbury(Hre)to seek employment.some died llong th way.l thnk my father for nt alow

  9. Nixon B Dauseni

    I thank my father for not allowing to be born in tht place.Thr ar no jobs pple live by wht they harvest in there gardens.Gvt Trained teachers spend 5yrs waiting to be employed.

  10. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Patrick writes,

    Thank you Fred and Doc Strive, I knew about the ALA it’s head then being Kenyan but had no clue about you Fred, I am a product of a mother who was a secretary , she lived on loans to send us to school , my elder bother is a doctor and my younger one an advocate while I am an aeronautical engineer, after my mother finished schooling us , she started a OVC programmer where she educated, fed and cared for more than 300 orphans, unfortunately when she passed on, 4 years ago from cancer, none of us was able to continue with her programme , Virginia Wairimu Wanyee, a true lioness mum , she achieved in her generation just like King David.

    My reply,
    Your mother was a remarkable #LionessMom!
    What saddens me is why with all your education you (yourself, not your siblings) could not carry on her program?
    Why not my brother? You are an aeronautical engineer, and you have no capacity to organize a program to look after orphans that your own mother started? You should have been telling us that you took over that programmed or started something bigger which now has 30,000 orphans….!
    I did not mean to rebuke you, but something in me stirred as I imagined this remarkable woman who was your mother.
    Today would surely be a good time to start something, and if you rely on your siblings to join you [as a precondition to action] , you are passing the buck!
    #No pressure!

  11. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Entrepreneurs in education?

    Fred is an entrepreneur in education. In his case it is not a profit motive, but as a social entrepreneur, he has designed a business model that uses entrepreneurship to scale ALA into a sustainable and rapidly growing institution.
    There are also a lot of opportunities to be in education as a profit making business.
    My friend Sunny Varkey from India (based in Dubai) has built a global business worth more than $2.5bn providing education for kids between primary and secondary school. It is the largest such business in the world.
    Like Fred Sunny’s family were school teachers.

    I’m sure by now you have also heard about an English school teacher from China (that country’s richest man worth $40bn),who went on to found Alibaba.

    What do you “see”?
    What can a humble teacher do, who is entrepreneurial?
    #A lot!!!
    Why don’t you recap from the examples I have used over the last few weeks:
    The Nigerian Mother?
    Fred’s Mother?
    Jack Ma (The English school teacher from China)?
    Sunny Varkey’s Mother?

    Show this to your teacher, or child’s teacher, so they walk straight next week! Then buy that teacher a computer!

  12. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Patient writes,

    True Mr Masiiwa I once worked in one of the private schools here in SA by the time I come from my country 10 years ago That is were l learnt how to be in that business even though I am a qualified teacher 7years later I opened mine like you said ,”I took my skills and education and applied them there” lam one of the best in my town

    My reply,
    This is because you are a wise entrepreneur.
    If you invest all your profits back into your business, and maintain the highest standards this school could be there for generations.
    Also make sure that you reserve a few places for the children of those who cannot afford to pay you. This too is an investment.

  13. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Grace writes,

    Thank you Dr Masiyiwa my grandfather has a vast land of cashew that’s yields about 60tonnes of cashew nuts annually,he is a old man and my father is late.I have no skill or knowledge about this kind of business but am planning and hoping God me so I could help him grow the business to a bigger scale.

    My reply,
    Remember what Fred did:
    He went to study and acquire higher level skills.
    You will not only do well to go into Cashew farming, but you must take it to a higher level than your grandfather.
    For instance you must introduce new farming techniques to achieve higher yields than what you grandfather or father got.
    Make yourself the “Master Of Cashew”!
    Start today!

    Here is my homework for you:
    Those who buy this cashew what do they do with it?
    Can you give me at least 10 things they do with cashews beside eating them raw?

    How big is the global cashew industry?

    Until we have a global understanding of what happens with our commodities whether they be cashews, cocoa, copper, oil, and also focus our attention to developing our own products with these commodities, we will not attain true economic prosperity.
    Africa needs its next generation of entrepreneurs to go to the next level, just like Fred did with his mothers school.
    You can do it!


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