Higher education innovator and entrepreneur Fred Swaniker named the 2018 Buffett Award winner

January 3, 2018

swaniker-larger.jpegThe Buffett Institute’s undergraduate affiliates have chosen Ghanaian entrepreneur Fred Swaniker as the 2018 recipient of the Buffett Award for Emerging Global Leaders. The $10,000 award recognizes outstanding leadership in a person early in their career working in areas of global significance.

As a founder of the African Leadership Academy (ALA) and African Leadership University (ALU), Swaniker has extensive professional and personal insight on leadership to offer.

Nominations for the Buffett Award are submitted by Northwestern undergraduates. Weinberg senior Nneka Onyeka says she nominated Swaniker after watching his TED talk, “The leaders who ruined Africa and the next generation who can fix it.”

“Fred Swaniker serves as an example for Africans, both on the continent and globally, who are interested in bringing positive change to Africa,” she says. “I thought it would be beneficial for the Northwestern community to become aware of the work that is being done to advance the African continent.

“Often, the continent is viewed by outsiders as one that lacks potential. However, it is budding with individuals who want to make a change but lack the institutions to nurture their intelligence. Swaniker’s investment in African people is something that is admirable and should be rewarded.”

About Fred Swaniker

Born in Ghana, Swaniker also grew up in Gambia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe. He attended Macalester College in Minnesota and worked for several years in South Africa. His varied experiences living in African states with both good and bad leaders is why he believes teaching good leadership in Africa is so important, and it inspired him to develop programs that help train and educate leaders for Africa’s future.

“I’ve found that leaders I’ve most admired in history had three key traits: a deep commitment and passion for their work, a willingness to continuously learn and grow through seeking knowledge and advice from others, and above all, humility,” he says.

“Effective leadership begins with having a mindset of service and an authentic commitment to solving any of the many pressing global challenges we face today. It’s also a willingness to roll up one’s sleeves to do the often difficult and often unglamorous and work it takes to make progress.”

Training the future leaders of Africa

ALU plans to ultimately train 3 million entrepreneurial, ethical leaders for Africa and the world by 2060. Recognized internationally as a leading innovator in higher education, ALU uses both hybrid learning and peer learning models to help remain accessible to as many students as possible. Courses focus on topics such as entrepreneurship, ethics, and African history. CNN called ALU the “Harvard of Africa,” Fast Company named it the 3rd most innovative company in Africa, and the New York Times hailed ALU as “one of the 8 places in the world today where history is being made.”

During his visit to Northwestern this spring, Swaniker says, “I’m most looking forward to connecting the smart and talented students at Northwestern who I know are already deeply engaged in issues of global development and social justice. I am thrilled to have the privilege of engaging with them and hearing their ideas and aspirations for how we can develop a fairer, more equal and prosperous society.”

Northwestern students will have the opportunity to listen to Swaniker talk about his work when he gives the annual Buffett Award Lecture on April 25. During his visit, he also plans to visit with campus groups that are interested in African studies, international development, social change, leadership, and entrepreneurship. 

Africa, Undergraduate Students