From Moonshot Thinking to the ALU Grand Opening

Founder and CEO of ALU, Fred Swaniker, had an idea in 2014 to transform the way education is done on the African continent. That idea turned into a small office of 4 in South Africa, worked its way up to welcoming its inaugural class of 176 students from 30 African countries in January 2016 to March 17, 2016, the day ALU celebrated its International Grand Opening at its inaugural campus, African Leadership College in Mauritius.

Over 300 educators, business leaders, professionals and supporters from around the world came to share in the festivities. Among these were the President of Mauritius, Her Excellency Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, Chancellor of ALU, Graca Machel, Vice Chancellor of our founding academic partner, Glasgow Caledonian University, Professor Pamela Gillies, CBE, Chair of the ALU Global Advisory Council, Dr. Donald Kaberuka and two-time grammy award winning and jazz legend musician, Hugh Masekela, who performed twice.

The day started off with a simple Art Gallery that housed some of the magnificent artwork created by students. “Diverse,” “powerful,” and “arresting” were some of the initial reactions our audience had to the exhibition. Beautiful art was just the tip of the iceberg awaiting our guests.

The uniqueness of our Learning Model is such that the best way to understand it is to experience it first hand. With that said, the first half of the Grand Opening event was University For A Day, a three-hour session where guests had the opportunity to learn why we do what we do and how by going through the four-part Learning Cycle: Discovery, Self Work, Peer Work and Facilitated Group Discussion.

From lively experientials to deep personal reflections and group projects on proactivity, each guest was actively engaged in one of the four Leadership Core courses. Students also had the chance to showcase their work and present actual projects from their classes.

One of ALU’s core principles is student ownership and Grand Opening was no exception. The community held a massive student-led assembly filled with entertainment, news in Africa and stories. Highlights of the assembly were Maty Diop, a Senegalese student who shared her experience of culture shock during her stay in the USA and a “hot seat” interview with University of Chicago’s Vice President of Global Engagement, Dr. Ian Solomon.

“Universities should be preparing you for change and continuous learning in a world that we can’t predict” Dr Ian Solomon

Held in “The Ruins of Balaclava,” the final event, a gala dinner where guests, staff, faculty and students whisked the night away with good food, great speeches and even better entertainment. Graça Machel, reminded us about the importance of the “African” identity we are working towards. “Embrace all the innovation that the world has to offer but be uncompromising in remaining deeply African.” Professor Gillies spoke about GCU’s amazing work and commitment to innovative and accessible education. Fred Swaniker described ALU as a moonshot idea similar to the first rocketship launched into space. One of ALU’s founding faculty members, Kwasi Adi-Dako also shared his experiences of ALU as a place of love, growth and commitment. Student speaker Latifah Kinyanyile reflected on her identity as a Tanzanian and as an African, the latter being the prefered identity.

The evening was made special with a musical performance by African Leadership Academy graduate Ny Ony Razafindratandra from Madagascar.

ALU promises many things for the future of Africa and in his speech, Adi-Dako shared what best sums up the milestone ALU celebrated with its Grand Opening:

“There is true beauty in allowing yourself to move from the unknown to creating something magical and that is what ALU is.”

Click here to follow the live feed from the day’s events.

About ALU

ALU provides higher education for a higher purpose. Our students declare missions, not majors.

They develop the real-world skills to take on the world’s most pressing challenges. And they take ownership of their learning from day one through our peer and student-led approach – because ALU believes in the power and agency of young people to start shaping the future right now.

Together with a world-class faculty and staff, our students are igniting a ripple of positive impact across Africa and the world. Join us


Bumbogo, Kigali Innovation City, Next to Azam, Kigali, Rwanda
Phone: +250 784 650 219