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Fred Swaniker has Discovered What it Takes to Make Africa Prosper


He is a Ghanaian entrepreneur, business consultant and educator. The CEO and a co-founder of the African Leadership Academy, a residential, second-level educational institution located outside Johannesburg in South Africa.

Fred was born in Ghana to extremely hard working parents; his father was a Judge and his mother an educator.

By his eighteenth birthday, the young man had lived in three other African countries, besides the place of his birth. He lived in The Gambia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe. One would imagine that he enjoyed adventure, but I would say he is a young man that knew he was on a mission to put Africa right.

His desire to bring a change in Africa propelled him to seek a lasting solution, he recognized that if there must be a change in Africa, someone must have to take the initiative and make a great sacrifice.

This reminds me of the popular saying –

“think not of what your country can do for you, but think of what you can do for your country”. 

For Fred, this was the way to go. He says;

with each part of Africa I lived in, I fell more deeply in love with my continent, and with this love came a strong desire to see Africa prosper, and so I kept asking myself the question “what will it take to make Africa prosper?”.

Clearly, we all know his driving force; the love for his continent.


Now, it was time to take the initiative, to seek out and maximize opportunities.

Yes, truly opportunities show up everyday, a few times in disguise other times they present themselves as what they are, but then it is only the focused and vision driven that are able to recognise opportunities when they come.

Fred is one of such people, who are able to spot opportunities, no matter how hidden.

He recounts how his journey to realizing his dream began;

“Almost six years ago, I went to Nigeria to do my internship in Lagos, I’d been sponsored to do my MBA at Stanford by Mckinsey, who I’d worked with a few years before, based in Johannesburg because I’d been sponsored, the deal was that I was supposed to come back and work for Mckinsey for two years. Most of my peers in business school were going to do internships in private equity and I was like, I’m going to Mckinsey, so let me just go do something fun-this internship. And while I was there, I met these wealthy Nigerians complaining to me about the school fees that they were paying to send their kids to schools abroad. He continues; they were paying about $40,000 to $50,000 a year. Some of these kids were leaving at the age of 12, 13. So I was thinking, why are we spending so much money to educate kids outside Africa? Why don’t we have a school on par with the best it he world right here? It would be a cheaper alternative for parents and I was worried that these kids were leaving at such an early age; they would never come back to Africa. And if they came, how useful would they be the continent. The more I thought about it, I thought, “I just don’t want to set up a school to serve rich families. If you are going to go the trouble of setting up a school, let’s have it much bigger mission”.

This man of purpose felt an urgency to make things right in Africa and he knew that if any change can occur, it sure had to start with the young ones, he thought of a way to bring about the change he desired in Africa.

And that drove him to set up the African Leadership Academy, in partnership with his friends Chris Bradford, Peter Mombaur, and Acha Leke.

The African Leadership Academy (ALA) is a residential, secondary institution for 15–18 year-olds, from all 54 African nations and around the world. Their aim is to nurture these young ones and then release them as catalysts to cause a lasting change in our dear continent.

According to Fred;

“I co-founded the African Leadership Academy. Our goal is to identify young people throughout the continent-125 each and every year-that we believe have the potential to develop and implement important new ideas that can transform Africa. We will bring these young people to the Academy for two years in a full-time residential program, as a sort of “Rhodes Scholarship” for Africa’s most promising young leaders. This will begin a life-long process of nurturing these amazing people to bring about the change that our beautiful continent so desperately needs”.

Someone once said that

“leadership is the ability to translate vision to reality”.

For Fred this statement proves true, he sure found a way to realize his dream.

In the midst of several challenges, he persevered in hope until he pulled through. His vision for the future is so clear, plainly written and very encouraging.

He says;

“If we fast forward 50years from now, what we do hope to see? By then, African Leadership Academy will have developed over 6000 change agents for Africa. Let’s say 100 of these have helped bring peace and stability as ethical and effective political leaders. Another 100 have contributed significantly to solving Africa’s most pressing health problems. 1,000 have become entrepreneurs-transforming people’s lives, creating jobs, and bringing prosperity to the continent. Others will be central bank governors, university presidents, philosophers, teachers, musicians, doctors, and artists. And maybe just a few will have launched the microsofts and Googles of Africa, or will have become the Isaac Newtons and Thomas Jeffersons of Africa. Ultimately, these remarkable individuals will work together in teams to make things happen. These are the people who will transform Africa into a peaceful and prosperous continent over the next century”.

Fred holds an MBA from Stanford University, where he was named an Arjay Miller Scholar, a distinction awarded to the top ten percent of each graduating class.

He also holds a BA degree magna cum laude from Macalester College. He was named a TED Fellow (2009) and a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader (2012). He was also named one of the Top Ten Young Power Men in Africa by a 2011 Forbes Magazine on line feature.

This great mind also helped to launch and has been a director of Mount Pleasant Medium School, one of the top performing private schools in Botswana. He also founded and led the launch of Global Leadership Adventures, a leadership development program for youths throughout the world.

In the three years since launch, Global Leadership Adventures has more than doubled its enrollment and expanded to five campuses around the world (Ghana, South Africa, Brazil, India and Costa Rica).

This man of excellence has also worked as the founding Chief Operating Officer of Synexa Life Sciences, a biotechnology company in Cape Town that today employs more than 30 South African scientists.

Fred is determined to make a lasting impact in Africa, what about you, my friend?

Farewell Madiba!
Farewell Madiba!
Lovelyn Okafor
Lovelyn Okafor
Lovelyn Okafor is a Journalist/Writer, Poet, Lawyer and God-Lover. She enjoys a good read and sees everyday as an opportunity to live and enjoy her calling whilst working towards perfecting it. She believes that someday soon, Africa will reach her full potential as the light-bearer of the world. You can find her on Twitter: @lovelyn_o

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  1. I am a roving, by force, marketing officer for ALA. I tell every parent I know about it and I can count at least three families who have kids that have applied to ALA because of me. How come? My first son. He went to ALA. His name is Akan. If you let me I would write an epistle about how wonderful this school is. But to spare you, I will not. I will only say this. Everything you read on the website is true. Once you kid goes to this school. ALA sticks with them for life more or less. My son is in his junior year right now in a university in the US and till TODAY, ALA plays a huge role in his life – from internship placements in blue chip companies to Indabas via which it creates incredible networking opportunities for these young minds…….But there I go writing the epistle I did not want to write.

    All I will say to end this is this: My husband and I so believe in this school that we have sent out second child there. She resumed this past July. Shall I say more?

    God bless you Fred Swaniker and Christ Bradford and every one else that is a part of this vision. You are truly building a fine crop of future African Leaders. And my son is one of them. And so is my daughter! I salute you!

      • Anytime Jen. Anytime. My daughter just back home today for Christmas and as tired as she was, she had to share all her new experiences, stuff she did she never thought she could….She even told me about how Fred sometimes walks around the school looking so simple that sometimes she passes him and greets him casually then realizes ‘Oops! THAT was FRED SWANIKER!’ Lol!!!!

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