It is my pleasure to present Ashesi’s 2020 Annual Report, which details the challenges and triumphs our community experienced in a year unlike any other. In March of 2020, Ashesi students were among the first in Africa to resume their learning, thanks to work we started over a decade ago to move our learning and community systems online.
Our faculty have continued to work together with students since then to develop and deploy new methods of instruction; university administrators also helped ensure that all necessary tools, resources and support systems were in place to support the transition. Donors, friends and advocates stepped up to welcome students into their homes as we went on lockdown; helped fund emergency financial aid for disadvantaged students; and enabled Ashesi to support incomes for all auxiliary staff who would have otherwise been out of work with campus closed. Also importantly, we pressed on with our annual Education Collaborative, convening university leaders and stakeholders across Africa and the world with a special focus on the pandemic and successful strategies for ensuring effective learning during and beyond 2020.
The lessons of 2020 and the leadership gaps in Africa’s social and economic infrastructure that they have reminded the world of, bring even more urgency to our work. For the last two decades we have steadily grown our capability to educate ethical, entrepreneurial leaders on the continent. The pandemic’s test of our institution, and the Ashesi community’s exemplary response to it, indicate how grounded our model has become. The work that continues to happen at Ashesi, and the gains made since our very first class began in 2002, will be key to deepening our impact as we enter Ashesi’s third decade.
Earlier this year, I read a story that deeply reminded me of the power of cumulative effort – sometimes over several decades – to create a breakthrough for global challenges. It was the story of Katalin Karikó, a Hungarian-born researcher who had put her career on the line for nearly four decades trying to harness the power of messenger RNA (mRNA). Karikó persisted through personal crises, career setback, and a lack of belief from the scientific community in her ideas. In 2020, her research work was seminal to the development of Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech’s highly effective COVID-19 vaccines. Karikó reminds me of many within the Ashesi community – faculty, administrators, alumni and students – who have been engaged in quiet, diligent work to transform Africa.
These efforts are establishing a foundation for the future success of the young leaders we are working with today. When Africa’s tipping point arrives, and the continent emerges as a stronger force for good in the world, we will look back at these years of work as having made an immense difference. This Annual Report highlights some of the Ashesi stories that have inspired me this year, and I hope they inspire you as well. I am thankful to everyone who is with us on this journey, and the continued support that makes Ashesi’s work possible.
In the spirit of Ashesi,