Fred Swaniker

From Disrupting Africa
Jump to: navigation, search
Frederick Kenneth Swaniker
Fred Swaniker.png
Fred Swaniker delivering his TED Talk: The Leaders who ruined Africa and the generation who can fix it.
Born1976 (age 43–44)
Alma materMacalester College
Stanford Graduate School of Business
Known forbeing the co-founder of African Leadership Academy

Editor: Wendy Jane Herbert

Fred Swaniker is the co-founder of the African Leadership Academy (ALA) in Johannesburg, South Africa.[1] Swaniker has founded the African Leadership Network, Global Leadership Adventures, and the African Leadership University.

Swaniker’s ambition is to provide the necessary education and support to equip the continent of Africa with 3-million entrepreneurial and industry leaders by 2060.[2]


Swaniker was born in 1976 in Ghana. At the age of four, his family was forced to flee the country because of the political unrest at the time. His father a magistrate and his mother an educator, the family moved close to 10 times during Swaniker’s childhood. A byproduct of spending his formative years in different African countries resulted in Swaniker’s concern with the level of education and the exorbitant fees many parents and students were forced to pay. At the age of 18, Swaniker became the headmaster of a school in Botswana. The experience as a headmaster resulted in Swaniker’s Pan-African dream of creating African leaders.[3]

Swaniker moved to Minnesota in the U.S. where he completed his BA in Economics at Macalester College. After graduating he was employed by McKinsey & Company in Johannesburg. Swaniker spent a total of five years as an associate with McKinsey. In 2002 he began an his MBA at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business. Swaniker excelled at his studies and was named an Arjay Miller Scholar - an accolade given to the top 10% of graduates.[4]

While at Stanford, Swaniker met Chris Bradford whose acquaintance would prove fortuitous.[5] Swaniker and Bradford both had a keen interest in education, specifically entrepreneurial leadership, and went on to found ALA. Peter Mombaur and Acha Leke came on board and provided the financial backing needed. Swaniker resigned from McKinsey and along with Bradford, Mombaur and Leke, moved to Johannesburg and opened ALA.

After establishing ALA, Swaniker founded the network of tertiary institutions and universities that are known as the African Leadership University (ALU) in 2015. The ALU has campuses in Mauritius and Rwanda with the hopes to expand to other major African cities.[6]


Swaniker’s contribution to African Innovation continues to develop, as is the credit he receives from the industry. In 2010, as recognition of his work developing Africa’s future leaders, he was selected as one of 115 young leaders who met US President Obama at the Presidents’ Forum for Young African Leaders that was held at the White House.[7]

In 2011, the World Economic Forum named him as a Young Global Leader; Forbes Magazine listed him as part of their top ten ‘power men’ in Africa. Along with co-founder Chris Bradford, Swaniker was recognized by Echoing Green as one of fifteen “best emerging social entrepreneurs in the world”. In 2009, he became a TED Fellow and is currently a Fellow of the Aspen Institute’s Global Leadership Network.

In 2017, Swaniker served as keynote speaker at the Oxford Africa Conference. His signature is part of the artwork-heirloom known as the Philosophers Legacy.[8] Swaniker has been given three honorary doctorates awarded by Middlebury College (USA), Nelson Mandela University (South Africa), and from his alma mater Macalester College.

In 2018, Swaniker was appointed by Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda, as chairperson for the Rwanda Convention Bureau (RCB).[9]

In 2019, Swaniker was named in Time100 list[10] of the most influential people of 2019 and he is among the 5 other Africans who were featured in the magazine.


The initial funding Swaniker needed to start the African Leadership Academy was made possible by the personal investments of ALA’s other co-founders, Peter Mombaur and Acha Leke.[11]

As of 2018, ALA raised US$ 30-million in a Series B round of funding led by Danish billionaire, Anders Holch Povlsen.[12] The Omidyar Network[13] also participated in ALA’s funding rounds. The latest funds will be focused on the rollout of ALA’s lifelong learning program, which opened in Nairobi in 2018.