To follow a dream

Maryanne Maina

Maryanne Maina

Poor leadership has been blamed for the myriad of problems facing Africa, ranging from poverty and corruption to unemployment.

These challenges inspired 31-year-old Fred Swaniker to create a solution that would reduce and hopefully eradicate the problems.

He founded the African Leadership Academy in Johannesburg, focusing on leadership and entrepreneurship. His vision is to have 6000 leaders from the academy in the next 50 years.

He said: "I am passionate about Africa, and its unrealised potential. Five years ago I decided to think about how I can be a part of the solution, hence the idea of the African Leadership Academy."

Swaniker is the founder and chief executive of the academy which admits students of 16 - 18 years of age from all over Africa and empowers them with leadership and entrepreneurial skills.

His grandmother started an educational institution in Ghana and his mother started one in Botswana. Swaniker followed their example.

A Ghanaian national now living in South Africa, Swaniker lived in various African countries with his family enabling him to nurture his passion for the continent.

After completing his undergraduate Economics degree at McAllister university in the US, he joined McKinsey consulting in 1999. He was based in Johannesburg working on African projects.

From 2002 to 2004 he became a student at Stanford University where he got his MBA.

"I value excellence and I wanted to pursue my MBA in one of the top business schools in the world where I would hone my business skills and get international networks. At age 16, I wrote out my life plan and stated that I would either join Harvard or Stanford."

McKinsey said he would pay his fees of $124000 on agreement that he returned to work at the firm for two years after his studies.

While studying, he developed business plans for two projects, the African Leadership Academy and Global Leadership Adventures.

"During my classes, I felt it was going to be difficult to implement my new projects if I was still an employee at McKinsey. So after school, I asked for nine months leave from work where I hired a chief executive to manage the projects while I worked," he said.

"During my leave of absence from the projects, I realised that I couldn't outsource my dreams. My AHA! moment came when I asked myself, 'If I had one year to live, what would I do?' My answer was 'I'd fulfil my dream'".