The Ghanaian ex-Microsoft official and millionaire who thinks education key to Africa’s governance quagmire

Corruption and bad leadership not only seem to be a common trend in Africa and among African leaders, it also appears to be a trait, if not a unique DNA.

From South Africa’s Jacob Zuma allegations of corruption to accusations of former Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade enriching his son Karim Wade (currently in prison for corruption charges) who was also the most influential cabinet official during his father’s reign to Nigeria’s Goodluck Jonathan and his officials leaving Nigeria bankrupt (by clearing all of the country’s coffers) before turning over power to current President Muhammadu Buhari to a host of other African leaders using their time in power as an occasion to enrich their families, many people do not seem to grasp why Africa is so miserable and weak in leadership and governance.

Campus of Ashesi University – Ghana

Patrick Awuah, a former Microsoft’s official believes he has diagnosed the Africa’s leadership problem and is on a mission to remedy that his native land of Ghana.

Awuah believes the problem of bad governance in Africa is poor education and by this he does not imply that Africa does not have respected academic institutions. Globe Afrique’s review of Awuah’s judgment in this regard is that something more than mere teaching of coursework needs to take place within the educational structure of Africa to build decency that resists corruption.

So, in a period when several Africans are queueing up at the western embassies, with the desire of being granted visas into countries like the United States with ‘better living conditions,’ Patrick Awuah sought to return home to his native Ghana to address some of the problems of leadership through education.

After living in the United States for almost two decades, in 2001, Patrick Awuah returned to Ghana, resigning his lucrative job at Microsoft, where he earned millions of dollars in annual compensation as a program manager to set up what is today known as Ashesi University in Accra, to educate young Africans.

Ashesi University's Campus
Ashesi University’s Campus

“If the current leadership core was educated a certain way, if they were problem solvers, if they had deep compassion for society, we would be in a different place,” he maintained.
Today, Ashesi University is known for its innovative curriculum, high tech facilities, and strong emphasis on leadership. The University stirs a new path in African education.

“Every society must be very intentional about educating its leaders … so this is what I’m doing now. I’m trying to bring the experience I had at Swarthmore to Africa. What Ashesi University is trying to do, is to train a new generation of ethical, entrepreneurial leaders. We’re trying to train leaders of exceptional integrity, who can confront the complex problems, ask the right questions, and come up with workable solutions.”

Ashesi University began with 30 students in 2002 in a rented building.

Today the university campus, with over 600 students and academic curriculum blended with Liberal arts and Sciences, sits on 100-acre land near Aburi, which is an away from Ghana’s capital, Accra.

Awuah’s desire is to educate computer science students who would also do philosophy, and leadership, and ethics. Moreover, he believes the university to educate business majors who would study literature and computer programming because he thinks having such a broad perspective is important.

Speaking at TEDEx talk sometimes ago, Awuah mentioned that the university has an Honor Code, where the students pledge to be honest and to hold each other accountable. The students of Ashesi University take ownership of their ethical posture on campus. “This is a huge break from the norm in most African universities, where corrupt practices run free, “Patrick says.

“While the Honor Code may constitute a reach for a perfect society, which is unachievable, we cannot achieve perfection, but if we reach for it, we can achieve excellence,” says Awuah.

In as much as Awuah could be right and while his optimism and sacrifices are applauded deserves great applaud, there are more questions than answers since some of the most corrupt and dictatorial presidents in Africa are, in fact, educated not just in the west, but from some of the best universities, including Harvard, Oxford, Paris-Sorbonne, New York University, Princeton, Columbia, Stanford and the London School of Economics.

Divergence view suggest that while education is key, the issue of the rule of law, stricter transparency and accountability policies and the cooperation of foreign banks, especially Western banks is necessary. If European banks, for example, stop harboring stolen wealth from African leaders and if the international community begin to hold corrupt leaders accountable that would go a long way in helping achieve Awuah’s vision for Africa.

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