Fred Swaniker 2017


Fred Swaniker is an educational entrepreneur globally acclaimed for his leadership development expertise.

Born in Ghana in 1976, Fred had lived in four countries in Africa by the time he was 18. He attended Macalester College in Minnesota, USA and began his professional career as a consultant with McKinsey & Company in Johannesburg. He later attended the Stanford Graduate School of Business in California, where he received an MBA and was named an Arjay Miller Scholar, a distinction awarded to the top 10% of each graduating class at Stanford.

Having lived and worked in almost 10 countries across the continent, he is passionate about Africa. Driven by a deep concern about how the African continent has been hobbled by leadership challenges, he has founded four pan-African organisations focused on developing leaders.

Concerned about the fact that wealthy African families were increasingly sending their children to study in countries outside of Africa, he envisioned a world-class academic institution on the African continent where the most outstanding young students could develop into leaders who are passionate about the continent and eager to make an impact. This dream was realised when Fred launched the African Leadership Academy in 2004 - a top-notch school for African students in Africa. The school teaches leadership skills to high school juniors and seniors where innovative curriculum merges rigorous academics with powerful courses in Entrepreneurial Leadership and African Studies. The full-time residential boarding school teaches leadership and entrepreneurial skills to students from across Africa while preparing them for universities around the world. Approximately 80% of graduates from the Academy attend top universities. To date, almost 1 000 future leaders have joined the ranks of the Academy and the aim is to develop 6 000 transformative leaders for Africa over a 50-year period. For most students, tuition is waived, provided they promise to return to Africa after graduating from university.

The Academy's work was validated in 2006, when Fred and business partner Chris Bradford were selected from over 900 organisations worldwide and named Echoing Green Fellows as two of the "leading emerging social entrepreneurs in the world". Fred was later selected as one of 115 young leaders to meet former US President Barack Obama at the first-ever President's Forum for Young African Leaders held at the White House in 2010. He has been named a TED Fellow and a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader. In 2011, Fred was named one of the Top Ten Young Power Men in Africa by a 2011 Forbes Magazine online feature.

Fred is also the founder of African Leadership Network - a community of the most dynamic and influential leaders working to create change in Africa and aims to contribute towards Africa's prosperity by strengthening relationships between leaders to encourage collaboration. Annually the Network convenes an eclectic, inspiring and fast-paced gathering in a selected African city.

In 2014, at a TED conference in Brazil, Swaniker announced an expansion of his vision: a new network of 25 African universities that would ultimately groom 3 million leaders by 2060. He describes how African Leadership University was 'reimagining education to build the university of the future for Africa and beyond'. By the end of 2016, two campuses had opened: one in Mauritius and the other in Rwanda, which now have 340 students from 48 African countries. Beginning in 2018, ALU expects to open three to five campuses a year, and to reach 40 000 students over the next five years. Fast Company recognised this network of universities as the third 'Most Innovative Company' in Africa and CNN released a feature calling the university “the Harvard of Africa.” Graca Machel, former Minister of Education of Mozambique and widow of Nelson Mandela, serves as the Chancellor of the university.

For his incredible educational entrepreneurship and his quest for excellent leadership,it is an honour for Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University to confer the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (honoris causa) on Fred Swaniker.