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Africa: Ghanaian entrepreneur wins WISE prize 2017

The founder of a private not-for-profit institution that has become one of Ghana’s premier universities has won the World Innovation Summit for Education prize 2017, worth $500,000.

President of Ashesi University College Patrick Awuah (pictured) was presented with the award at the WISE opening plenary session in Qatar. Photo: WISE

"In placing leadership at the core of his commitment, Patrick Awuah stands as a model for all of us who are dedicated to empowerment through education"

The WISE Prize for education is the first distinction of its kind to recognise an individual or a team of up to six people for a world-class contribution to education.

President of Ashesi University College Patrick Awuah was presented with the award at the WISE opening plenary session in Qatar.

Awuah first opened the doors of the university in 2002 to a class of 30 students.

Today, Ashesi University College has a campus of 100 acres with almost 900 students, offering degrees in engineering, business administration, computer science and management information systems.

The degrees are based upon an interdisciplinary curriculum with a continual emphasis on leadership, ethics, and entrepreneurship. Before graduating, all students engage in community service.

Every graduate has found quality employment, and almost all have remained in Africa, where many have started much-needed businesses.

Chairperson of the Qatar Foundation Sheikha Moza bint Nasser presented the prize to Awuah before an audience of 2,000 participants from 100 countries.

Speaking at the ceremony, CEO of WISE Stavros Yiannouka said Awuah joins a distinguished group of individuals who share a passion for empowerment through education.

“The WISE Prize Laureates have recognized needs that challenged them to action. Each has blazed a path in engaging and enrolling others in a vision. Patrick Awuah’s story is unique in his awakening to the role of renewed ethical leadership in social transformation, particularly in Africa.

“He recognized that the tools for acquiring and interpreting knowledge are at least as important as the knowledge itself. In placing leadership at the core of his commitment, Patrick Awuah stands as a model for all of us who are dedicated to empowerment through education.”

Awuah is known for his dedication to supporting education in Ghana and across Africa.

He left Ghana in 1985 with $50 in his pocket and a full scholarship to Swarthmore College in the US.

After graduating, Awuah had a successful career at Microsoft before returning to Ghana to start a software company.

Once there, Awuah quickly understood that fostering ethical leadership would be key to building a generation that is able to bring positive change in Africa.

“I decided to open a university that would offer young Ghanaians and Africans the opportunity to excel and become problem solvers – the next leaders of Africa”

“I decided to create a new university in Ghana not because of a lack of universities in my country, but a lack of universities teaching 21st century skills,” Awuah said.

“There was too much emphasis on rote learning and much less on critical or independent thinking, ethics or collaboration.

“I decided to open a university that would offer young Ghanaians and Africans the opportunity to excel and become problem solvers – the next leaders of Africa.”

On receiving the WISE Prize, Patrick Awuah said: “I am honored…this is a crucial moment for Africa. One out of six people on earth live in Africa, and this is set to rise to one in four by 2050.

“We urgently need to boost the education system in Africa to ensure we can tap into this shift to strengthen the continent.

“Winning the WISE prize will support the work we are already doing at Ashesi University College to inspire and educate, and build a community of people who can navigate the complexities of Africa’s growth and set an example for the rest of the world.”

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