Feb 21st, 2018, 06:14 PM

Africa's Ivy League Turns 10

By Khadija Sanusi
African Leadership Academy Campus. Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons
The African Leadership Academy in Johannesburg hit a milestone this weekend.

Last weekend the African Leadership Academy (ALA) - which has been dubbed 'Africa's Ivy League' - celebrated its 10th anniversary. One of the founders of the school, Chris Bradford told Peacock Plume that, "it never ceases to amaze me that Margaret Mead's quote is right: 'Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has.'"

"I am overwhelmed with gratitude for all those who supported ALA to get to this milestone," Fred Swaniker, one of the co-founders, said. "It gives me goosebumps to imagine that we have built an institution that has already developed 1,000 young and transformative leaders for Africa."

Image Credits: Flickr/Global Business Experiences

Founded ten years ago by Fred Swaniker, Chris Bradford, Peter Mombaur and Acha Leke, the school aims to create leaders who will "work together to address Africa's greatest challenges, achieve extraordinary social impact, and accelerate the continent's growth trajectory."


While it accepts students who have already shown leadership in their different communities, ALA welcomes students with potential leadership skills as well. Before his arrival at ALA, Malawian William Kamkwamba, at age 14, built a windmill using spare parts such as tractor fan, shock absorber, and PVC pipes to produce electricity to power his family's home and village. Priscilla Semphere wrote the Ekari children's book series about a young girl backpacking around Africa and learning about different cultures shortly after her graduation from ALA; Laetitia Mukungu founded the Africa Rabbit Center, which gets its profit to fund children's education; Joseph Munyambanza is the founder of COBURWAS International Youth Organization to Transform Africa (CIYOTA).

"It is unthinkable that we can do 'education as usual'," said Michael Gyampo.

"If there is any truth in Nelson Mandela's famous comment that education is the most powerful weapon that one can use to change the world, then we are at the forefront of that fight," the Deputy Principal, Michael Gyampo told the Peacock Plume. "We are blessed with the unparalleled privilege of having the heart and ears of the future of our continent right here with us; it stands to reason that we would stretch ourselves, work tirelessly to evolve an approach to education that truly impacts the growth trajectory of those who will change the future of Africa. Hence the passion and intentionality with which we do what we do. We cannot do otherwise."

"ALA is a testament to the power of groups of people working together to create a bright future and create something greater than any individual could do on their own" - Chris Bradford.

Graça Machel at the African Leadership Academy Graduation in 2015, with current and outgoing students. Image Credit: Flickr/ALAPhotos.

Although ALA has a five percent admission rate, 46 African countries have been represented at the institution since its inception. The alumni have founded up to 177 individual enterprises in 35 different countries. These enterprises have created 499 jobs. University-wise, ALA alumni have gone unto 148 leading universities, including Stanford, Harvard, and Yale.

"Ten years of old, really good friends, each time period separate yet the same, different yet so familiar at the same time." - Gavin Peter, Director of Arts and culture.

For the decennial weekend,  hundreds of guests from all over the world joined to "shape Africa's future with the generation that will define it." There was a Symposium and Gala, which offered talks and panel discussions between dignitaries such as Graça Machel, Hakeem Belo-Osagie, Emir Muhammad Sanusi II, Khanyi Dlomo, Trevor Manuel, Adam Habib, Edwin Cameron, Cheryl Dorsey, Sizwe Nxasana, Polo Leteka, Ebrahim Rasool, Dr. Deqo Mohamed and ALA students and alumni. 

"Any institution based on deliberate diversity and common values leaves an impact for life," said Emir Muhammad Sanusi II.

African Leadership Academy provides a variety of programs, including a two-year diploma, a Global Scholars Program (GSP), a gap year/study abroad, Model African Union and Build-in-a-Box. In addition to that, the Africa Careers Network (ACN) has provided 1,294 internships to the alumni community in 38 African countries. Its Anzisha Prize program - which supports young entrepreneurs - has coached 67 young entrepreneurs from 24 African countries, investing 495,000 US dollars into their businesses.