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Development in West Africa: a conversation with Ashesi Alums

August 25, 2009

The Ashesi vision has been about growing the next generation of entrepreneurial leaders.   Based on the breakfast this morning that we had with a set of Ashesi alums, I can say the we are wildly exceeding the expectations that I had when I first became involved.   Ashesi alums are involved across a wide set of activities.   As we have talked about in the Ashesi literature all (100%) of our alums have found good positions or gone on to graduate school within a year of graduation.  The people we talked to this morning are having an impact, not just in Ghana, but across the continent of Africa.

I talked with 3 Ashesi graduates at breakfast this morning, Angela, who works for SAS in corporate finance helping businesses with private placement.   She indicated that despite the economic slowdown, demand for loans to start businesses remained strong.  All of the graduates indicated that the US slowdown was affecting Africa, due to two factors: first US business scaling back developing world investment to consolidate and focus; as well as the reduction of remittances by African diasporas back to locals.   Angela said recently she had been doing lots of work on new hotel financing.  She thinks many of the recent pan-African conferences, entrepreneurs are feeling optimistic about convention and tourism business.  

Patrick, who I talked with works at Price Waterhouse Coopers.   His major was in MIS systems at Ashesi, and he is the first person at PWC to focus on security audits in west Africa.   He really enjoys what he is doing and is looking to do broader systems analysis work.   He also gets good exposure to other business and government leaders in West Africa.   He talked about how he was particularly impressed with the president of Gabon and his attention to detail.  The president always looks at the rest rooms first to gauge whether his people are on top of it. Patrick Awuah was with us, and he said he uses quality of the rest rooms and the upkeep of the garden as an indicator of whether things are being run with operational efficiency.

Charles who was with us works as a policy analyst for a number of African countries, including Ghana, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Rwanda.  All at the table are particularly impressed with the progress being made in Rwanda.   They talked about the leadership having both vision and a drive for operational results.  They agreed one of the big issues leadership in Africa have in making development happen is tying the vision to first steps to get things done.   One thing they all felt was that Africa was moving beyond its strongman past of leaders more in it for themselves than the country.  They felt optimistic that generally the leaders want the best for the countries they lead; but many are missing the skills and operational infrastructure to make change happen.   In this way, its why what we are doing at Ashesi is so important.  Its enabling that human capital to drive change.   I know these alumni from this morning will make it happen.

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