Fred Swaniker '99

2009 Young Alumni Award

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Ten years ago Fred Swaniker graduated from Macalester with an economics major. He immediately joined the prestigious consulting firm McKinsey & Company in South Africa and then went on to obtain an MBA from Stanford. Although poised to live a life of riches, Swaniker had another dream: Founding the African Leadership Academy, a two-year, coeducational boarding school that would develop leaders and entrepreneurs with dual passions for Africa and public service.

Swaniker has lived in six African countries and is uniquely qualified to launch a school with lofty, pan-African goals. He personally helped launch a top private elementary school in Botswana and the leadership development program Global Leadership Adventures, with campuses on three continents. He gained entrepreneurial experience as a founder of Synexa Life Sciences, a biotechnology company in Cape Town.

Located on the outskirts of Johannesburg, the African Leadership Academy opened in September 2008 with a class of 106 students from 29 countries. In its first year, its admission process was already more competitive than Harvard’s. At least 50 percent of ALA’s students will pay nothing to attend, but this is no grant; it’s a "forgivable loan," forgivable only if graduates employ their talents in Africa and do not emigrate.

"Over the next 50 years, African Leadership Academy will develop 6,000 leaders for Africa. Entrepreneurial and ethical leaders who will launch large-scale enterprises that can eradicate poverty, who will establish innovative non-profit organizations that address Africa’s most pressing challenges, and who will enable governments to make policies that will facilitate economic growth, public health, and political stability. Simply put, this Academy aims to transform Africa," said Swaniker.