The African Leadership Academy was founded in 2004 by Acha Leke, Chris Bradford, Fred Swaniker and Peter Mombaur, emerging from a summer programme called Global Leadership Adventures. In 2006, Bradford and Swaniker were named by Echoing Green as two of the world’s top 15 emerging social entrepreneurs.
Located in Johannesburg, South Africa, the African Leadership Academy officially opened its doors for the first time in September 2008, with an inaugural class of 97 students. The Academy is a secondary school, educating 15-18 year-olds from all 54 African nations as well as international students. Its aim is to identify youngsters with potential and, by concentrating on the teaching of entrepreneurship, leadership and African studies, to connect and raise the next generation of African political leaders.
The African Leadership Academy looks for five key qualities when admitting new students:
- Previous academic achievement
- Entrepreneurial spirit
- Leadership potential
- Dedication to public service
- A passion for Africa
Young people demonstrating these core qualities are actively sought by the African Leadership Academy all over Africa. Once admitted, students follow an intensive syllabus designed to promote intellectual growth and leadership development. They are guided along the path to leadership by a powerful network of tutors and public figures such as Tunde Folawiyo, a prominent Nigerian entrepreneur and philanthropist who is a member of the Academy’s Global Advisory Board.
Students attend the African Leadership Academy on a residential basis. The Academy is committed to ensuring that its environment is safe and that its students are happy, even though they may be many hundreds – perhaps thousands – of miles from home. The Academy instils in its students the importance of a sense of community and supporting each other as a family.
There are eight dormitories at the Academy; Classified Hall, The Office, Titans Hall and Jeshi Hall are all boys’ dormitories, while Les Femmes Gags, Malaika Hall, Twawana Hall and Athena Hall are for girls. Unless they are residential assistants (in which case they are assigned their own room), each student has a roommate. The roommate will almost certainly be from a different year group and country, and may even speak a different language; diversity is encouraged. The halls meet every week to learn life skills, bond, undertake problem-solving tasks and conduct debates together. The African Leadership Academy maintains that the bond between roommates and hall members is one of the most important on the campus.
The faculty prides itself on its high calibre tutors such as Ghanaian Ernest Asante, who teaches in the Academy’s African Studies Department. Mr Asante, who joined the African Leadership Academy in 2009, is an alumnus of Klingenstein Summer Institute at Columbia University and participated in the Earthwatch Institute research programme. He firmly believes that education is the solution to many of Africa’s problems.
Students at the African Leadership Academy have the opportunity to engage with inspirational leaders who are having a profound effect not only in Africa, but across the world. The Academy affirms that such exposure creates defining moments in a student’s journey, reinforcing the lessons and life skills needed to transform Africa. A talk was recently given by Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the first woman to hold the position of Deputy President of South Africa. Previous speakers include Ghana’s respected CEO, Ken Ofori-Atta, former Anti Corruption Commissioner for Sierra Leone, Abdul Tejan-Cole, South Africa’s branding and advertising expert Andy Rice, and Executive Director of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, Hadeel Ibrahim.
The African Leadership Academy firmly believes that sound mentorship can have a tremendous impact on the lives of its students. The Academy strives to find the very best role models, confidantes and advisors to help students to focus on their university studies and career aspirations, and to see the potential impact they can have on the African continent. The African Leadership Academy’s mentors come from a wide range of backgrounds and have a broad collection of interests, but they share the Academy’s values and a common goal of bringing positive change to Africa.
For patrons such as Tunde Folawiyo it is hugely rewarding to see the impact that the Academy is having on young people across the African continent and beyond, such as 20-year old Khaoula Morchid. Khaoula was born and raised in Marrakesh, where she was an exemplary student who was always coming first – not just in her class or school, but out of all of the schools in her district.
Khaoula applied to join the African Leadership Academy after seeing a poster at her local library. Negotiating the selective admission process, she received a place and left Morocco in 2011 to study at the Academy in Johannesburg. Here she developed her entrepreneurial skills through her studies under the Academy’s rigorous curriculum and held various leadership positions on the student board. Khaoula received numerous accolades from the Academy, including Self Leadership Award, Most Outstanding Entrepreneurial Leadership Journey and Best Mathematician in both 2012 and 2013.
Khaoula was keen to share what she had learned at the Academy with young people in her home country of Morocco. When she was aged just 18, she founded Future Moroccan Entrepreneurs, with the mission of inspiring young people and helping them to make positive changes in their societies. In this way, Khaoula has taken what she learnt at the Academy and passed on her knowledge to change lives not only in her own country but, as Future Moroccan Entrepreneurs expands into Egypt, Libya and several other countries, across North Africa.
Read our most recent article about The African Leadership Academy looking at the work of James Earl Kiawoin.