Project #13214

Educate Ethical and Innovative Leaders for Africa

by Ashesi University Foundation

Over the past year, Ashesi’s campus has grown into a hotbed for startups. There’s a late-night food delivery service, an out-of-school education program, a social enterprise aimed at helping children with neurological disorders, and over ten other startups created by freshmen as part of their Foundations for Design and Entrepreneurship (FDE) class. The new year-long course equips students to use design thinking to solve problems, and then create businesses out of those solutions. In the first semester, students strengthen their problem solving and critical thinking skills. In the second semester, they conceptualize and launch their own startups.

“For developing new ideas, we take students through the design thinking process where we teach them to take a system’s perspective to problems (a bird’s eye view); to not resort to their biases but rather be user-centered in tackling problems so they can develop solutions from deep empathy; and to aim for creative and unique outputs” explains FDE Professor Gordon Adomdza. “For applying their ideas, we teach students to test, test, test, until they get it right. Student teams have developed a non-electric hair drying head wrap, an activated charcoal product to reduce odor in the fridge, and a social platform to engage junior high school students. Reading through their reflection papers after just one semester, it was clear that the process of slowing down and taking a system’s perspective to problems was beginning to change the perspectives of many students. Our colleagues teaching other classes have shared their observations of how refreshingly different this current class of students is. We have developed a nice invention, but we need to continue making creative adaptations, in order to sustain these efforts at innovation.”

Through the entrepreneurial journey students take, Professor Adomdza hopes that the course will inspire a lifelong passion for entrepreneurism in many students. Assistant Professor Sena Agyepong envisions that FDE will have an impact far beyond the Ashesi campus. “We expect to see more collaboration between students from different majors, launching ventures that will start some very impactful change in the country and across the continent. And we think FDE is a very useful tool to get them started.”

The World Bank Group recently announced the upcoming launch of a new Climate Innovation Center (CIC) at Ashesi University to support Ghana’s green growth strategy. Financed by a US$17.2M grant from the World Bank, the CIC will be a green project incubation hub where entrepreneurs and businesses can access support to develop their innovative ideas into strong and viable businesses.

The center will help over 100 local clean technology companies develop and scale innovative solutions to climate change, and enable over 300,000 Ghanaians to increase resilience to climate change in the next ten years.  

The grant agreement was signed by Henry Kerali, World Bank Country Director for Ghana, and Patrick Awuah, Founder and President of Ashesi University.

The Ghana CIC solidifies the role of the private sector in helping Ghana mitigate and adapt to climate change,” said Henry. “By enabling entrepreneurs and green innovators to test and scale their business models, homegrown clean technology solutions can help the country build climate resilience, while also creating jobs and fostering economic growth.” 

I want to express gratitude to the World Bank, our consortium partners and the Ministry for working with us to get this project off the ground,” said Patrick. “As we launch into Engineering at Ashesi married with what we already do in business and entrepreneurship, the Ghana CIC is going to provide a really strong base for us to focus our attention on issues to do with adaptation to climate change.”

Ashesi University Foundation has committed to raise an additional $2.5M to build a permanent CIC facility on Ashesi's campus. Ashesi is eager to be a key partner in this project, and we hope our global community will join us to make this center a reality.

For more information on the center, please visit

Engineering ceremony leaders
Engineering ceremony leaders

This October Ashesi celebrated the launch of its new engineering program and building. The launch marks a significant milestone for Ashesi, with engineering being the biggest addition to our academic programs since 2005. Over five hundred guests were present at the launch, including staff, faculty, students, alumni, parents and donors.

Ashesi’s new engineering majors – Computer Engineering, Electrical and Electronic Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering – place emphasis on hands-on learning, entrepreneurship, design and problem solving, and will equip students with skills to create long-term solutions to Africa’s engineering challenges and deploy better-designed infrastructure for local needs. 

“Our progress has been steady, and our determination unwavering,” said Ashesi President Dr. Patrick Awuah. “Choosing to start an engineering program was the next best step we believed we could take, because we could see in a strong way, how engineers influence the world we live in. [...] At its best, engineering encompasses the application of mathematics, science, design, psychology and economics. It touches all facets of modern human life. Agriculture, healthcare and education. The products that engineers make are all around us, in our homes and in the places we work.

If we really want to transform agriculture in Africa, then we must care about engineering. If we really want to improve healthcare we must care about engineering. If we want to enable private sector growth by building the enabling infrastructure, then we must care about engineering. If we want to drive economic growth through industrialization, we must care about engineering.” 

Started in 2013, Ashesi’s Engineering project was funded by $6.2M in philanthropy from donors worldwide, and will see Ashesi's enrollment increase to some 1,000 students by 2020. The new engineering building houses classrooms and labs designed for in-depth, hands-on learning. Uniting traditional design by local architects, world-class technology, and environmental best practices, this new building complements the existing architecture of Ashesi’s campus. 

Reading his address, the Vice President of Ghana, H.E Kwesi Amissah-Arthur, explained that, “This remarkable engineering facility we see here today marks the beginning of a new chapter in the life of this institution whose history of academic excellence and of producing great thinkers is well-documented. [...] Everywhere I go, I hear stories of Ashesi graduates who are making a real difference in our country. I am thankful that these trademark Ashesi qualities will now be imbued in engineering graduates as well.” 

Commenting on the timing of Ashesi’s engineering program launch, guest speaker and former US astronaut, Dr. Robert Satcher, added that “the vision of this young but promising university: namely producing engineering graduates that will help create a new era of progress in African industry and infrastructure, is timely and admirable. [...] Indeed, the future is bright, because you are providing a solution to an age old problem—namely, providing opportunity where it is most needed and has historically been unavailable; because In the 21st century, capable, reliable, and transparent institutions are the key to success. History is on the side of those who are brave and just. Africa doesn’t need more dictators and strongmen, it needs strong institutions, like Ashesi University, to be successful in the 21st century.” 

Developed over two-and-a-half years, Ashesi’s engineering curriculum is the result of a collaborative process between Ashesi and several top engineering schools and stakeholders across the world. 

Engineering building
Engineering building
Students tinker with new 3D printer
Students tinker with new 3D printer

24th August, 2015 - The fourth edition of the Ashesi Innovation Experience (AIX) came to a grand close this past weekend, as parents, family and friends of over 100 students gathered on campus to see the projects students had developed. The AIX, previously named the Ashesi Robotics Experience (ARX), is an exciting two-week enrichment program, organised in partnership with The MasterCard Foundation, that brings students from different high schools to Ashesi's campus. Ashesi’s faculty designs the curriculum for the programme, and students, alumni and other volunteers help as mentors and program assistants. This year participants came from Ghana, the UK, Kenya and Zimbabwe, with some mentors coming from the US. 

Students get coaching from Ashesi Professor

Over the two weeks, participants were exposed to design and creative problem solving, leadership, entrepreneurship, robotics programming and engineering, through hands-on projects and experiential learning.

[Click here to read AIX student blog

In the first week, activities focused on broad training in leadership and design, and students were taught how to apply creative thinking to everyday problems, and in their everyday lives. In the second week, participants broke into different groups around Engineering, Robotics or Entrepreneurship, where they worked on various projects in teams.

Some of the projects students worked on included building model robots that could simulate collecting and sorting waste in Accra, building solar powered flash-lights and designing a business model for an initiative that helps put under-privileged children into after-school skills training classes.

“AIX is an opportunity to expose young people to new ways of thinking,” says Project Lead and Computer Science Professor, Dr. Ayorkor Korsah. “We are looking to teach participants how to take crazy ideas and make them realistic, and also have the courage to lead.”

Participants got the chance to interact with thought leaders and entrepreneurs across Ghana, including Ehi Benitie of Rancard Solutions, Anne Amuzu of Nandimobile, Regina Agyare of Soronko Solutions, Ghanaian NASA Rocket Scientist Dr. Ave Kludze, and a host of others. The students were also taken on field trips to recycling plants, engineering firms and a number of start-ups to have real world experience of what they were being taught in class.

“Last year, my son could not attend as he was too young,” said Kwame Amanquah Twum, a parent.  “Thankfully, he made it this year and I'm hopeful that aside learning skills in leadership and entrepreneurship, he would use this opportunity to come out of his shell and expand his network.”

In the closing ceremony, students and groups from the various groups were given awards around outstanding projects and personal development. Emmanuel Bimpong of SOS Hermann Gmeiner School was awarded for being the most outstanding student at AIX2015.

“It's been fun and insightful,” added Maame Efua Orleans-Boham of Wesley Girl’s Senior High School. “My journey started with lateral thinking - thinking around the rules – and I will be able to apply the problem solving skills not only in the classroom, but also in everyday activities.”

This year’s Innovation Experience was organised with support from Airtel Ghana, Rancard Solutions, Vodafone Ghana, General Electric, Ostec and Citi Investments Company Limited. Media partners included Citi FM and Joy FM.


Grace Amponsah leading her "New Dawn" initative
Grace Amponsah leading her "New Dawn" initative

MasterCard Grace Amponsah ’17, has been selected as 2015/2016 Dalai Lama Fellow at Ashesi. As part of her nomination, Grace receives $10,000 in funding to implement her girls' education project, “A New Dawn.” The project aims to tackle barriers to education faced by girls in Berekuso, and help them develop stronger potential for success.

“Teenage girls are among the most vulnerable in our society,” Grace says. “Statistics by the Ghana Health Service revealed that 750,000 teenagers between the ages of 15 to 19 get pregnant annually. I started the “New Dawn” initiative to reach out to young girls and help them understand how to succeed by making better life choices." 

Learning from research her peers had conducted in Berekuso, and working with an inaugural class of thirty, Grace has chosen to tackle issues of sex, education, entrepreneurship and healthy lifestyles. To make it easier for attendance, she has scheduled her weekly meetings on weekends, engaging in interactive learning activities with the girls.

“We wanted to build trust with the girls to allow them to share sensitive stories,” Grace explains. “At the end of every meeting we would reflect on lessons from the day’s interactions, allowing us to build closer relationships with each other. “

Dalai Lama Fellow at Ashesi

With personal authorization from His Holiness, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, the Dalai Lama Fellows Programme encourages a new generation of emerging leaders to come together to address some of the most pressing global challenges. The programme also looks to advance in them, a deeper understanding of the need for ethical awareness and inner values as essential components of effective social change leadership.

Ashesi is part of an exclusive list of twelve international campuses that participate in the Dalai Lama Fellows programme – along with other schools such as Stanford, Oberlin and Princeton.

The Dalai Lama Fellows programme includes three interconnected components: a meticulous selection process to identify promising Fellows at select universities; ongoing, personalized support from programme officers and outstanding experts in their fields to equip Fellows with new understandings and capabilities; and lifelong participation by all Fellows in a Global Learning Community that will strengthen each individual's capacity to lead, while fostering a sense of collective global responsibility, service and action. 

As part of her Fellowship, Grace attended the Ethical Leadership Assembly in San Francisco this June to receive coaching and network with other Dalai Lama Fellows from around the world.



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Organization Information

Ashesi University Foundation

Location: Seattle, WA - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Amy Barbour
Seattle, WA United States

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