Patrick Awuah, Ashesi’s Founder and President, reflects on his decision to start a new African university.
“I grew up during Ghana’s chaotic military dictatorship. The economy was so dysfunctional that finding food was a daily challenge for most families, including mine. When I earned a scholarship to Swarthmore College, a new way of questioning, developing, and testing ideas was revealed to me. When I was recruited to work at Microsoft, I temporarily turned my back on Africa.
Later, when my first child was born in Seattle, I understood that Africa mattered—to me, to my son, and to the world. I left my successful US career and returned to Africa. I investigated local challenges—and behind every challenge were people in positions of responsibility who were neither fixing problems nor creating solutions.
This led me to explore the educational system, which looked grim. Africa’s universities are overcrowded and underfunded. Students learn a narrow subject matter, and are tested on recall. Academic dishonesty is too common. How can Africa’s future leaders possibly learn to think and behave differently if we don’t educate them in a different way? If we want different results, we must try something different. Clearly, Africa needed a new kind of university, and in 2000 I resolved to create it.”
(Adapted from Patrick Awuah’s essay in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Summer 2012)
TED Talk: How can education foster ethical citizens?
At TED’s “We The Future”, Ashesi President shares a vision for African higher education. See more Patrick Awuah videos here.
Selected speeches and essays
World Economic Forum | MacArthur Acceptance | WISE | John P. McNulty Prize | TED talk | Ashesi on CNN | Ashesi at Zeitgeist | Ashesi University Foundation Video | The Debate: Education vs. Infrastructure | Education and Entrepreneurship Town Hall (Ghana)
Selected Awards and Affiliations
- Honorary Doctor of Engineering, University of Waterloo, 2018
- WISE Prize for Education Laureate, 2017
- African Man of the Year, 2017
- Quartz Africa Innovator, 2016
- MacArthur Foundation Fellow, 2015
- World’s 50 Greatest Leaders, Fortune, 2015
- Elise and Walter A. Haas International Award, UC Berkeley, 2015
- Social Entrepreneur of the Year, Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, 2014
- Most Creative People in Business 1000, Fast Company, 2014
- Elon University Medal for Entrepreneurial Leadership, 2014
- Honorary Doctor of Laws, Babson College, 2013
- Ashesi University named 7th Most Respected Company in Ghana, Price Waterhouse Coopers, 2012
- Patrick Awuah named Ghana’s 4th Most Respected CEO, Price Waterhouse Coopers, 2012
- Leading Through Innovation Award, UC Berkeley, Haas School of Business, 2012
- Educational Development, Millennium Excellence Awards, 2010
- Top 100 Most Creative People in Business, Fast Company, 2010
- Ghana’s Top 10 Most Respected CEO, PricewaterhouseCoopers, 2010
- “Integral Fellow” award, Microsoft Alumni Foundation, 2009
- TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) Conference (2009)
- John P. McNulty Prize, Aspen Institute, 2009
- Young Global Leader, World Economic Forum, 2007
- Member of the Order of the Volta by his Excellency, President J.A. Kufuor, Ghana, 2007
- Person of the Year, Ghana Web, 2005
- Honorary Doctorate, Swarthmore College, 2004
- Member, TED Fellows Program: 2007 TED/Global, 2009 TED Fellow
- Member, US Council on Foreign Relations
- Member, United States Council on Foreign Relations, the Pacific Council of International Policy
- Member, Tau Beta Pi Honor Society for Excellence in Engineering
- Fellow of the African Leadership Initiative, Aspen Global Leadership Network