Project #13214

Educate Ethical and Innovative Leaders for Africa

by Ashesi University Foundation

This November, Ashesi hosted its annual Ashesi Code Fair on campus in which over 70 participants from seven tertiary institutions in the greater Accra region competed individually and in teams. Put on by the Ashesi Student Council and co-sponsored by Ashesi alumni-founded tech company DreamOval, the Code Fair aims to provide students with a platform to compete, network, and gain exposure to real-world programming problems all while challenging their coding skills.

The Fair is not just for Computer Science majors; all students at Ashesi take courses in basic coding, so students from all majors complete in the Code Fair and immerse themselves in technology and computer programming. For those that are in Computer Science, it is a unique opportunity to apply concepts they have learned in class and test their readiness to enter the working world in their field.

The Ashesi Code Fair is an example of the variety of programming that is held on campus for students to enrich their experience by expanding their learning, exploring real-world applications of their studies, and connecting with other students and professionals in their fields. Our donor community helps us to provide this rich launching pad from which Ashesi students go forth and transform Africa. Thank you.

In the fall of 2015, Ashesi launched its Engineering program with a pioneering cohort of 55 students, 40% of whom are women. Ashesi’s Engineering Program is designed to train ethical, responsible engineers with strong problem-solving skills that can see through challenges and find solutions within a local context. Additionally, “we believe in making sure that future engineering solutions to Africa’s problems gain from the perspectives of women,” explains Ashesi President and Founder Patrick Awuah.

As a culmination of their six-week long “Introduction to Engineering” class, our first-year Engineering students were given two weeks to design and build a working prototype of a solar-powered mini-generator. Students took on the project against the backdrop of power supply challenges in Ghana’s capital city of Accra. The generator prototypes they built could charge a range of devices, from mobile phones to laptops.

The project was a chance for students to explore the different tools and equipment they will be using for their work throughout their next three years in the Engineering program. These facilities were made possible thanks to the generous support of donors from around the globe.

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

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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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