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African Leadership University

The African Leadership University is an innovative higher-education model in Africa focused on finding your mission vs. finding your major.

Photo of Sonia Doshi
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I recently saw Fred Swaniker, the CEO and Founder of the African Leadership University speak at Stanford University. He also founded a high school model called the African Leadership Academy and recently launched the first university iteration in Mauritius with plans to rapidly scale up to 25 different campuses. He wanted to design a higher education model where leadership would be the focus of the school. He explained that this model has four key differentiators to traditional universities. First, they promote innovative teaching. He explained that professors with PhDs is a scarce resource but an abundant resource in Africa is brilliant students, so his university is dependent on peer learning. They use self-directed, peer to peer learning, and have banned lectures and the requirement that an instructor has to have a PhD to be considered an expert to teach. Second, he explains that skills matter more than academic theory. Their courses are designed to develop skills in critical thinking, analytical reasoning, etc. Third, there are no majors. This is my favorite point. They instead have defined the "seven grand challenges and/or major opportunity spaces that Africa is going to face" that students pursue. Swaniker said that his students are told, "don't declare a major but create a mission for your life". Fourth, there is a focus on entrepreneurship. All of their students, instead of having vacations, are matched with internships at major and well-renowned companies around the world. Their goal is to prepare leaders rapidly, efficiently, and substantively who will build their careers in Africa, pursue their missions, and help resolve some of these major challenges facing the continent.

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Tell us about your work experience:

I am currently a Master's student in the Learning, Design, and Technology student at Stanford University's Graduate School of Education. I have a background in User Experience Design from the University of Michigan's School of Information. I previously worked in mental health research and advocacy and mobile learning games. I am particularly interested in the intersection of learning, design, wellness, and play.

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

Higher education should prepare students to be compassionate and self-aware leaders. Leaders who learn to understand and articulate their mission(s). Ones who are passionate and prepared to solve the challenges most critical to our society and our future.


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Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi Sonia!

Thank you for telling us about the African Leadership University! Does this University have ties to Stanford? 

Perhaps you might like to add a link to the University's website so we can learn more about it?
There are a few videos on their YouTube channel here - 

The University reminds me of Jim Stephens post on 'The Future of Learning: Exploring an education fit for the 21st century' -

Photo of Sonia Doshi

Hi Kate!
The founder of ALU is an alumnus of Stanford - he received his MBA here. There are also a number of former faculty who are graduate students of Stanford.

This is their website:

Jim's post definitely aligns with ALU's model, especially in the five guiding ideas he mentions - thanks for sharing!

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