Millionaire leaves Microsoft for charitable education work in Africa

Quitting a cushy job doesn’t seem wise in the slightest, especially when it’s at one of the world’s biggest companies, but that’s exactly what Patrick Awuah did in order to help educate Ghanaian students.

Patrick Awuah left his native Ghana in 1985, studying in the United States and eventually landing a job at Microsoft where he spearheaded software design for dial-up internet access. Needless to say, this was a very lucrative position, making him millions. Perhaps this is why Awuah’s decision to leave the U.S. and return to Ghana for more charitable endeavors is so applaudable. After much deliberation, Awuah moved his family back to Ghana to found the Ashesi University, which means ‘beginning’, just an hour outside of Accra. With a focus on business, technology and leadership, Ashesi boasts high-tech facilities and a vibrant, economically-diverse campus.

“Africa needs to have a renaissance,” says Awuah. And he is willing and able to assist in that regard, using his privilege and education to uplift the country by ensuring that students come from very different backgrounds. Around 50% of the learners pay their own fees, the remainder are either on full or partial scholarships, diversifying the typical African tertiary education model that is often only accessible to those who can afford it. Aside from the state-of-the-art equipment, scenic grounds and excellent tutelage, there is an emphasis on leadership that Awuah considers equally important in African education. The university has a unique ethos – combining technical subjects with a liberal arts approach. These are the country’s next leaders, so not only should they come from different backgrounds, bringing different ideas and experiences to the table, but they should also be inspired by others, guide each other and receive a well-rounded education that doesn’t begin and end in the pages of a book. He hopes to contribute to a better society, not just through education but through ethics.

Now in its tenth year, Ashesi University has over 500 students, a graduation rate between 70 and 90% and around 90% placement in post-grad programs or in the job market once students have graduated. Inspired by the words of Goethe, Awuah believes that “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it — begin it now.” Courageous words that prove to be prophetic as Ashesi produces future leaders for the country and for the continent.


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