Top 10 (plus 1) reasons why Ashesi matters
Can a small university really change a continent? By fostering ethical leadership and innovative thinking, Ashesi is already playing a role in creating a new Africa. Here’s how:
- Ashesi is profoundly influencing the most critical factor affecting Africa’s future: leadership. This makes Ashesi a strategic, leveraged investment in African progress.
Only 5% of sub-Saharan Africans attend college—this 5% will be Africa’s future leaders in business and government. To change the Africa of tomorrow, Africa must educate this 5% differently, with a completely new curriculum that fosters ethics, and innovative thinking. Ashesi graduates form a small but impassioned cohort. As they are promoted into positions of leadership, their ethical integrity and critical thinking skills have a widening influence.
- Corruption hampers Africa’s growth, but corruption can’t be ended just by passing new laws. Fostering ethical leadership requires a cultural change.
Ashesi has demonstrated that a university can effectively foster a culture of ethics and concern for others. Ashesi’s rigorous honour code, community service, and intensive 4-year leadership seminar series weave ethics into all aspects of learning. Ashesi students voted unanimously in support of their honour code. “We come from a culture that taught us it was right to get by and wrong to get caught. Now it is time to say enough is enough,” said class speaker Ester Nipaa Osei, ’10. Ashesi alumni come back to Ashesi to tell us how they’ve maintained their integrity through workplace challenges.
- It will take innovative thinking to unleash Africa’s economic potential.
Ashesi’s emphasis on critical thinking skills, and on applying skills to solving complex, real-world problems means that Ashesi graduates really can “think outside the box”. Examples abound: an Ashesi graduate revamped a banking procedure that previously took 11 days, so that it can now be accurately completed in a few hours; an Ashesi student researched and developed a plan to overhaul goods processing at Ghana’s largest port.
- Ashesi provides life-changing opportunities for women and poor students. We’ve given $13 million in scholarships to date.
Ashesi students are often the first in their family, or even first in their village, to attend college. Their success serves as both an inspiration and a source of material support. One student from a rural family, now working in finance, plans to send his older brothers to college. Another student from the impoverished north of Ghana interned at a community non-profit near Ashesi and now plans to use what he’s learned to create a similar organization in the north. The success of each Ashesi graduate is the seed of a broader success for the region.
- Advising other start-up universities.
Representatives of the Agha Khan Foundation, who will be launching a new leadership university in Tanzania, have visited Ashesi to learn from our curriculum; Ashesi leadership has advised an NGO developing plans for a new university in the Democratic Republic of Congo. University leaders from public and private colleges in Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire, and Haiti have learned from Ashesi’s curriculum, honor code, and business model.
- Ashesi is an innovative model for effective higher education in Africa.
Our model — a powerful mix of a liberal arts core that fosters ethics and critical thinking, with in-depth majors — is gaining attention. Over time, elements of this model will influence other African universities and inspire programs that embrace Ashesi’s principles. The Vice President of Ghana has called on other African universities to adopt Ashesi’s model of fostering critical thinking and innovation.
- Ashesi is an African-initiated and led institution that is measurably effective, ethically run, and financially sustainable.
Ashesi is an African success. From its founding, Ashesi’s strict no-bribe policy has slowly gained respect across Africa, as evidenced by Ashesi’s many African and international awards, and the support of African business leaders. “Anyone who is serious about wanting African solutions to African problems should be supporting Ashesi”. – David K. Leonard, Professorial Fellow in Governance, Institute of Development Studies (IDS)
- Ashesi fights “brain drain” by providing a world-class education in Africa, and by teaching problem-solving skills in an African context.
Africa has lost an estimated one-third of its professionals in the last 20 years. By contrast, over 90% of Ashesi graduates have chosen to stay in Africa. To prosper, Africa needs not just poverty alleviation, but also to create and retain its own middle class. Ashesi energizes young Africans to stay and work for change. Ashesi connects them to worthwhile African careers, and gives them experience with local markets and challenges. Talented African academics, teaching overseas, return to Africa to teach at Ashesi.
- Ashesi provides the African skill-set that helps international NGOs be more effective.
International NGOs are more effective when locally knowledgeable Africans help them tailor programs to regional conditions, and help them expand. Yet NGOs often struggle to find qualified local talent. This keeps their operations dependent on non-African personnel. NGOs that partner with Ashesi students and graduates, ranging from Oxfam to Accion International, find them to be effective problem-solvers and team members.
- Ashesi fosters a more diverse, harmonious leadership for Africa’s future.
At Ashesi, women and men of different ethnic, religious and national backgrounds develop respect, and a commitment to the greater good. Students from extreme poverty, from modest, middle class families, and from privileged backgrounds exchange ideas in our seminar classes, and collaborate on team projects and community service ventures.
- By empowering young Africans to develop locally needed improvements in many sectors, “Ashesi is, quite simply, the best development investment bargain around”.
By empowering ethical and skilled local citizens, Ashesi moves Africa towards self-reliance and lasting progress. “In my years with the IFC (World Bank), I saw dozens of projects in Africa, and Ashesi is by far the best-run and most effective…Ashesi is an accelerator for progress in many areas. This university, created and run by a visionary African, is what Africa really needs and hence deserves our generous support.” – Peter Woicke, Managing Director, World Bank [retired]; former board chair, International Save the Children Alliance; Ashesi Foundation Trustee.