The award comes with $500,000 endowment
On receiving the WISE Prize for Education, Dr. Awuah said:
“I am honored to receive the WISE Prize for Education. This is a crucial moment for Africa – today, 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.”
Dr. Patrick Awuah is a passionate advocate for empowerment and transformation through education grounded in ethical leadership and community.
In establishing Ashesi University in his native Ghana, he dedicated himself to opening the imagination and vitality of youth to think critically, confront complex problems, and create solutions. Ashesi (Fante for ‘Beginning’), opened its doors in 2002 in a rented house converted to classrooms for just 30 students.
Today, Ashesi University College is firmly established as one of Ghana’s premier universities. Overlooking the capital city, Accra, Ashesi is home to nearly 600 students who are poised for leadership in growing entrepreneurial sectors across Africa as well as in building responsible government.
Dr. Awuah left Ghana in 1985 for a full scholarship at Swarthmore College in the United States. For the first time he experienced the power of critical thinking and the liberal arts education, in dramatic contrast to the rote, formulaic learning of his earlier schooling. He joined Microsoft Corporation, spearheading software design for dial-up Internet. He could have continued on a comfortable path. But recognizing these life-altering experiences, and determined to make a difference, Dr. Awuah returned to Ghana, initially, to start a software business.
Dr. Patrick Awuah’s vision for Ashesi is driven directly by a determination to build a standard of leadership motivated not by the promise of entitlement but by a strong sense of community responsibility for the greater social good. He grasped that effective education depended on ethical leadership to counter the corruption and weak leadership that had mired Ghana and much of Africa in continuing cycles of bad policies and ineffective institutions that have only deepened poverty and stagnation.
Ashesi students join a four-year leadership seminar on ethics, collaboration, and entrepreneurship, concluding with a service-learning component. The university offers four-year bachelors degrees in business administration, computer science and management information systems. These programs are built on the pillars of a liberal arts core curriculum fostering critical thinking; students explore connections among fields of knowledge, learn to question assumptions, distinguish relevant information from the irrelevant, and to reflect on the views of others.
All of Ashesi’s graduates have found solid employment, and nearly all have remained in Africa. Many have launched much-needed businesses, planting the seeds for what Dr. Awuah hopes will become a renaissance in political and civil life in Africa.
As Dr. Patrick Awuah himself said earlier this year*, “…it seems to me that to be great leaders, we must first be good citizens. We must first have empathy; a sense of neighborliness; a concern for the common good. It will matter too, who we consider to be our neighbors, worthy of consideration in determining the common good. Finally, it seems to me that leadership in this rapidly changing world will require a life–long commitment to scholarship, to learning from, and proactively sharing our knowledge with others.”