My name is Aba Ackun and I graduated from Ashesi in 2006. I am also a 2014 MBA graduate from University of Virginia’s Darden School of business. Prior to Darden, I spent 6 years after Ashesi working in leading multinational corporations that span the gold mining, financial services, and the inclusive financial services industries. I have worn safety gear and spent time with mining engineers, helping them to convert their technical plans into financial plans for capital expenditure. I have been a currency dealer, riding the highs and lows of the choppy financial markets in 2008. I have also been a part of a movement making $100 loans to micro-entrepreneurs and changing their lives through socially responsible lending. I have worked all over the West African Sub Region, Latin America, Haiti, and in the United States.
But at the core of all of this, I am simply a dressmaker‘s daughter. A person who came from a working class home where neither of my parents had gone to college. So given my station in life, when I finished high school, had Ashesi not been around, my only option would have been to attend any of the public universities whose falling standards had led many wealthy people to send their children abroad for college. Somehow my father heard about Ashesi from a friend who thought that they could offer scholarships to people like me. Thankfully, they accepted me, gave me financial aid, without which my enrollment would have been impossible, and gave me an educational experience that changed the course of my life forever.
I must admit that I found Ashesi daunting at first. For the first time in my life I was being required to think critically, and for a person who had made it up to this point mainly by memorizing and regurgitating material, it was challenging. For the first time, shy and timid little old me was required to speak up, and my opinion mattered. Where I once had no opinion, I developed them, and learned how to argue my case with facts, and critical thinking. My shyness and timidity gave way to boldness, first in my written work as I explored new ideas and then into speech as I learned to present my ideas in front of the entire class. By my final year, I had held a position in the first ever student government at Ashesi.
At Ashesi, my gender for the first time was not a hindrance to my progress as women were treated no differently than men. We were taught that discovering and solving problems was good and that challenging the status quo was acceptable. Ashesi taught me that mediocrity was not alright and my classmates and I were constantly sent out to find problems to solve.
The quality of education that I received at Ashesi was world class and I didn’t begin to fully realize its significance and worth until I entered the working world. Ashesi’s tenets– leadership, scholarship, and citizenship were always with me. I had to distinguish myself in these ways. With the insights I gained from Ashesi and from working in microfinance, I decided to go to business school to acquire the tools that would prepare me for my next experience.
I am excited to have graduated from Darden, and am eager to get some US work experience under my belt, and then head back home to Ghana to start my own venture, a Private Equity fund that invests in and grows manufacturing businesses across Africa. I know that I would not have gotten this far, learned so much, or grown so extensively without Ashesi, and I am thankful to the people here and abroad that made that possible.
Regina is a young, dynamic social entrepreneur who graduated from Ashesi in 2005 as one of the top software developers in her class. After graduation, Regina was hired by a prestigious international bank in Ghana and became the first and only female in the IT department. After six years in the banking/technology industry, Regina decided to follow her passion and founded her own social enterprise called Soronko Solutions, which provides unique technology innovations, including affordable technology for web, mobile, point of sale devices, and ATMs that create social change.
“I feel we need to push to be on par with the rest of the world,” says Regina. “People need to drive their businesses online, and automate manual tasks to work more efficiently. Innovations in social development could be powered by mobile and web solutions. I hope Soronko Solutions becomes synonymous with providing technology solutions first in Ghana, and then in other emerging markets,” said Regina.
Soronko Solutions, currently funds and manages, Tech Needs Girls, a technology and mentorship program that targets young girls and encourages them to explore careers in computer science. A recent project launched by Soronko Solutions introduced deaf girls to technology at the State Deaf School in Ghana. Soronko Solutions has developed a number of applications for deaf persons. Regina showed the girls how technology can enrich their lives and allow them to integrate fully into mainstream life.
“As a woman in I.T, I have had to learn to assert myself, communicate and be heard in an area dominated by men,” Regina said. “Now that I have a voice, I am making sure I speak for those who can’t, especially women.”
Regina shares with CNN the story of her growing business and how she is inspiring more women across Africa to build technology. Watch Regina’s interview with CNN ‘African Start-Up‘.
Dear Ashesi Community,
Since Ashesi's founding, the encouragement and support of our friends has been key to our growth and success.
In 2002, Ashesi began instruction in crowded rental buildings. Thanks to the support of our global community, in 2011, we moved to our permanent world-class campus in the hills of Accra.
In November 2013, we broke ground on our new engineering building where Ashesi will educate engineers who can design the innovative infrastructure and products that Afica needs.
We thank our friends and supporters around the world for making all of this possible. We look forward to our shared success in 2014.
Together we are creating a better future for Africa.
Before I attended Ashesi, Africa’s problems seemed overwhelming. But at Ashesi, my peers and I came to view Africa’s problems as opportunities which we had the unique skills and mindset to tackle.
Ashesi taught me to think broadly and gave me the specialized tools to excel in my field. I learned to develop innovative, entrepreneurial approaches to difficult problems. Ashesi also challenged me to develop a well-honed sense of integrity and concern for others, especially when confronting ethical dilemmas. Doing the right thing, even when no one is watching – how Ashesi defines integrity – helped me to stand out and to earn more trust, respect, and responsibility in the workplace.
After graduating from Ashesi, I was hired by a Ghanaian company, where I was quickly promoted and given the difficult task of leading a team to develop West Africa’s first cardless ATM service. We wanted ordinary people in our cash-based economy to be able to safely access their cash from any ATM. We faced stiff challenges and had scarce resources. My team was whittled down from seven to three people, causing uncertainty over whether this project could be accomplished. Still, as the project lead, I stood up against the sea of doubt and did not let anything deter me from what I believed was possible. In the end, we succeeded, and with the help of clients, our platform is being deployed across West Africa. I’m proud that this solution was created by Africans, and Ashesi was part of that success.
Ashesi places a huge responsibility on people like me, its alumni, to excel and make an impact in Africa. Having received an education of the finest quality, we are empowered to create lasting and paradigm-shifting progress in Africa. My goal now is to start a venture to improve Africa’s e-commerce infrastructure. To that end, I am currently pursuing an MBA at the University of Virginia. After I complete my studies, I will return to Ghana, eager to contribute my skills to create African progress.
Ashesi demonstrates that hard work, selflessness, courage, and imagination do work in Africa, and that these qualities can be taught. If Africa is to change, this change must come from within.
I am grateful to all the donors who have helped make the Ashesi education possible. As Ashesi continues to grow, the support of donors is all the more important. Donations help Ashesi increase its impact by adding engineering and other majors, growing enrollment, and providing life changing scholarships to students in need. I humbly ask you to make a gift today. Your donation will support Africa’s future entrepreneurs, problem solvers, and leaders, who will dedicate their lives towards driving a renaissance in Africa.
David Darkwa, Ashesi University ‘08
Last month, Ashesi University Foundation Donor Trip participants and Trustees had the pleasure of attending the formal launch of the student initiated project called Adesua Ye, meaning, 'education is paramount’ in the Akuapim language. Started by two Ashesi students, Leonard Annan, a Computer Science major, and Sela Kwaku Agbakpe, a Business Administration major, Adesua Ye addresses the problem of illiteracy by tutoring and coaching adults in English literacy, numeracy and personal development.
“We believe that Adesua Ye can empower the whole community to be the change they seek,” said Agbakpe of their work in the small rural town of Berekuso, where Ashesi is located.
The ALP was originally started in response to communication challenges that the Ashesi student community faced when they began engaging with the town of Berekuso to start development projects. Agbakpe notes, “Through interviews and informal discussions, we realized that most adults in Berekuso did not take education seriously. This phenomenon posed a negative effect on their children’s views on education. Among them were cultural beliefs and tradition, poverty, and poor government policies.”
Thanks to a partnership with the Dalai Lama Fellow Program, which encourages a new generation of emerging leaders to address pressing global challenges with effective social change, the team received $10,000 in project funding to scale up Adesua Ye. Ashesi is part of an exclusive list of twelve international campuses that participate in the Dalai Lama Fellows program – along with other schools such as Stanford, Oberlin and Princeton.
The first batch of students to participate in Adesua Ye were between 18 and 36 years old. Adesua Ye’s robust curriculum entails a mindset workshop/seminar, numeracy and the fundamentals in reading and writing in English.
In heartfelt addresses at the opening ceremony, a number of Adesua Ye students shared what learning to read and write in English meant to them. Thanks to the program, these students can more effectively run their local businesses, can communicate with doctors when a family member needs medical attention, and can help their children with their studies.
The second phase of Adesua Ye will be the construction of a bus library. “We hope to acquire Ashesi University’s old bus to carry out this phase. This library will be the first-ever public library in Berekuso. The library will be open to the entire community, including children and adults," noted Agbakpe.
Over the next five years, Adesua Ye hopes to achieve a 100% literacy level among the adults in Berekuso. “We have a big vision for this project – to expand it to all other parts of Ghana that have weak literacy levels," said Sela.
* Photo below courtesy of Ronda Broatch, a 2013 Annual Trip Participant
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