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Fred Swaniker on Leadership and Education 

Fred Swaniker on Leadership and Education 

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Published by Fanele Chester

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Published by: Fanele Chester on Jun 04, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Fred Swaniker on Leadership andEducation [INTERVIEW] 
Fanele Chester, Swaziland 
Fred Swaniker, Co-Founder and CEO of the African Leadership Academy and African Leadership NetworkPHOTO: STANFORD.EDU
 Successful entrepreneurship comprises of three key elements: great people, a great ideaand capital. In Africa, there are plenty of ideas and opportunities, ones too that would havevery little or no competition in the market place. The capital needed to transform theseideas into successful enterprises is there. What we do not have is people.
[African Leadership Academy]
1. Based on its success and recognition since opening its doors four years ago, is the AfricanLeadership Academy (ALA) considering starting charter schools around the continent? Is
 ALA considering mentoring sister schools, or sharing some of the lessons and strategies that have worked so well, in order to broaden its reach to more African students around thecontinent?
 We get this question a lot, however our focus is actually not to expand. So much work stillneeds to be done, and a good leader is one that focuses on one thing and doing it very well.The African Leadership Academy is still not sustainable, for example 85% of our studentsare on scholarship. Therefore we need to work on perfecting our model.However, one way we could expand is opening regional campus, for example a campus inWest Africa, and East Africa. These would be ideally started by graduates of the academy,since they would have an understanding of how we do things.From a short-term perspective, one thing we could do is train teachers from other schoolsbased on our model. In addition, we could share our curriculum. Soon, we are planning tolaunch our own curriculum called the African Baccalaureate (AB). This is a curriculum for  Africans, by Africans, with a strong focus on leadership and entrepreneurship.Finally, its important to note that what makes the African Leadership Academy successful isnot our facilities, but our philosophy and methodology. Opening a new campus with the samefacilities is expensive, and requires at least $30 – $50 million upfront. On the other hand,philosophy is free.
2. “Private schools for the Poor” is the title of an article that appeared in the Stanford Social Innovation Review in January. It talks about the success of affordable private education indeveloping countries around the world. Having been involved in education since your teenage days, especially as a school principal for a year before going to college, and now with the successful African Leadership Academy, what are your observations or thoughts onthe increase in affordable private schools? Do you think we are ready to let the private sector take care of our schools, or should it be more of a private-public-partnership?
First, the public school model is doing well and successful in some African countries. For example, some of our strongest students come from Kenya and Zimbabwe, where publicschools are good schools. Its not an either or approach, that is, public or private, that is mostimportant. Where the public school system is successful, it should be further strengthenedand we should learn from them. Where it isn’t, the private sector can then leverage privateeducation. In addition, a partnership between the two would be great since the private sector may offer new ideas and innovation that the public may lack.
3. Khanyi Dhlomo, founder Ndalo Media, publisher of the successful Destiny and Destiny Magazine, commented that over the past four years, herself and her team realised that they had to “stop seeing ourselves as a media company, but rather as a producer of quality business and lifestyle content which we can deliver in various forms across a number of  platforms and industries”. Over the past four years, has ALA’s core competency evolved?How has your vision behind the academy changed from when you co-founded it to today?
 At first, we started as a high school, but we have realized that we are not educating studentsbut leaders that will transform Africa. As a result, we now see our self as an Africanleadership institution. Further, its important to note that one cannot become a leader over two years; it’s a life-long development process. This is why we work with teenagers duringthe two-years in ALA, with their college applications, as well as fostering a network that theycan use in college and beyond. We are fostering a life-long network of leaders.
[African Leadership Network]
4. Let’s talk about the African Leadership Network (ALN), and Africa’s new generation of leaders. Who are Africa’s new generation of leaders? What are the challenges they aretackling, and the opportunities they are pursuing? What is the value of a network such as ALN, especially in Africa?
Each generation of African leaders has their own legacy. The first generation’s legacy isindependence, and is comprised of the likes of Kwame Nkrumah and Patrice Lumumba. Thesecond is coups, warfare, corruption, as evident in countries like Nigeria and Zaire. The third,from ten to fifteen years ago, left a legacy of peace and stability, where war is an exceptionand not the norm. This legacy can be seen clearly in Liberia. The fourth generation’s legacyis that of economic independence (compared to political independence), a crucial legacy thatwe needed to create our own wealth, so we were able to provide basic needs such aseducation and food.The new generation of African leaders’ legacy is building prosperity for the African continent.It’s about bringing wealth into the continent. This generation is below 45 years of age, adynamic and entrepreneurial group of people that have the energy to bring prosperity on acontinental scale. The African Leadership Network is essentially a pan-African network of these leaders, who are working together as a continent and not as individual Africancountries. It’s a network of pan-African relationships that works to foster an integrated Africaneconomy, for example where a finance Minister in Uganda can work with a private companyin Nigeria on a power plant that serves a multitude of countries.

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