African Leadership Academy

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The African Leadership Academy (ALA) is a residential, secondary institution located in the outskirts of Johannesburg, South Africa. It is dedicated to 15- to 18-year-olds from all around the world.

Founded in 2004 by Fred Swaniker, Chris Bradford, Peter Mombaur, and Acha Leke,[1] ALA officially opened in September 2008 with an inaugural class of 97 students.[2] To achieve this goal, ALA teaches a two-year curriculum in African Studies and Entrepreneurial Leadership, as well as the usual academic core subjects.


The founders of ALA, around 2004 launched Global Leadership Adventures, a summer program that would be a precursor to ALA.

In 2006, Swaniker and Bradford were recognized, by Echoing Green, who described them as two of the 15 best emerging social entrepreneurs in the world.[3] In 2007 the initial campus was confirmed, and Christopher Khaemba was announced as the inaugural Dean of the School.

ALA campus[edit]

The campus is located in Honeydew, on the outskirts of Johannesburg. Students share a dormitory, and there are modern facilities including a sports field, 350 seater auditorium, classrooms and dining hall. In 2014, construction began on new dormitories that will allow ALA to increase student numbers in 2015.

Admission process[edit]

Selection criteria[edit]

The African Leadership Academy uses five criteria for admission:[4]


The Academic core (A-Level)[edit]

The academic core combines interdisciplinary study in the first year with tailored study, according to individual interests, in the second year. At the end of the second year, students take exams in at least three subjects at A Level.[5]

Entrepreneurial Leadership and African Studies[edit]

ALA's Entrepreneurial Leadership curriculum is a cornerstone of the student experience that creates opportunities to practice leadership and entrepreneurship skills through simulation and project-based learning. In the interdisciplinary African studies curriculum, students study hunger eradication, health care provision, economic growth, and conflict resolution.

The Culminating Project[edit]

The Culminating Project requires the student to utilise the knowledge and skills gained over two years on campus. Each student designs, implements and presents a culminating project intended to have a lasting impact on an African community.

Academic success[edit]


Inaugural Dean of African Leadership Academy[edit]

Dean Christopher Situma Khaemba was previously Principal of Alliance High School on the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya. A former military officer and physics teacher, Khaemba has served as a school leader for the past 12 years.

Faculty members[edit]

Faculty members go through a process that includes multiple interviews, academic background checks, and verification of personal and professional references. After the first round of interviews, the prospective teacher conducts a mock lesson in the presence of students and two faculty members. This is followed by a final round of interviews.

All faculty members are graduates from universities; most notably Harvard, Yale, Cambridge and Stanford;[6] and have previously taught at leading institutions.

Student life[edit]


Students are encouraged to participate in a fitness activity. However sport is not a strong part of the Academy, neither is it done competitively nor invested in as other aspects of ALA.

Student clubs and organizations[edit]

Students participate in a variety of clubs, and each student is expected to create or run either a "Student Enterprise", an "Original idea for Development" or a "Community Service Project".

Student Enterprise Programmes (SEPs)[edit]

The student-run businesses only operate on campus, and include:

  • Affordable Housing for Africa - This enterprise aims to research and develop prototypes for affordable housing for lower-middle-class families
  • Agrinovation - This is an organic community farm that sells produce to the ALA community, and further supports the ecosystem by further innovating around recycling organic refuse on campus.
  • Artribution - This enterprise will work on creating an online connection platform for African artists and their stakeholders
  • BEAM - This enterprise will be incubated to research and develop eco battery power
  • Greenlink - This enterprise will focus on creating environment based innovations, projects, campaigns and/or clubs at ALA
  • Footprints - merchandising - T-shirts, coffee mugs, etc.
  • Duka Bora - This enterprise runs the ALA for-profit tuck shop which seeks to provide high-quality consumable goods such as snacks, drinks, airtime to the ALA community at an affordable price.
  • EdTech - This is a hub for our tech students who wish to explore this new exciting space in 21st century education. EdTech works with other student enterprises and ALA departments to develop applications and bring education to existing technologies.
  • ALAiansMedia - The enterprise is a high quality media platform for writing, video and photography that showcases the experiences, thoughts and talents of ALA students to the rest of the world.[7]
  • Bezosscholars - This enterprise is restricted to students selected for the Bezos Scholars programme in Aspen. They host the annual South African Ideas Festival (SAIF). Its goal is to create spaces where young South Africans can incubate impactful, innovative and sustainable ideas that will transform our schools and communities.[8]
  • SAFCorp - This enterprises offers consultancy services to the ALA SEP economy. Services include auditing and financial literacy support in order to ensure the sophistication, transparency and accountability of all student enterprises. In 2015-2016, SAFCorp will handle basic functions such as the issuance of bank statements and registering authorised enterprises on the Cashless System

Community service projects[edit]

ALA students are involved in local schools and communities through Community Service Projects (CSPs). Projects include tutoring programs on campus and community clean-up campaigns. CSPs tend to be multi-year projects that get managed by successive students.

Current CSPs include:

  • Farm enlargement and roadside market outlet design
  • Biodiesel production for sustainable electricity
  • Library redesign and management for a poor school
  • Recycable art - art from trash project
  • Creche education program - reading and colours
  • Youth gardening project - building vertical gardens so that schools can feed their students
  • After school soccer league for at-risk youth
  • Day care redesign and development
  • Youth empowerment Finding the Good in Us

Original Ideas for Development[edit]

Original Ideas for Development (OIDs), are projects that have a wide scope and run beyond the students' time at ALA. Current OIDs include:

  • GSIE [9] - Global Strategy on Inclusive Education - helping children with disabilities gain access to education
  • HACA - cancer awareness campaign
  • Baobab - capturing oral histories online to preserve and facilitate cross-cultural understanding
  • Greendorm - environmentally friendly living on campus (internal)
  • Almas (formerly Nique) - using a beauty creme to fund the creation and distribution of an anti-malarial creme
  • MathmaHelp - production of educational math DVDs
  • Oyama - A crowd-sourcing platform for young African entrepreneurs
  • African Baccalaureate - Africa's own curriculum design
  • Cyca - A social networking platform to alleviate misleading preconceptions about the African continent
  • Radio Skika- A radio station geared towards sparking intellectual inquiry amongst African youth by exploring some of the continent's most pressing issues
  • A4Ge All For Girls Empowerment - A community service project that seeks to equip young girls with 21st century skills to allow them develop into young, vibrant women.

Supervised trips[edit]

Students explore the local community, Africa, and the world,[10] by participating in an excursion program. Outdoors enthusiasts participate in weekend hiking trips in the Drakensberg mountains and longer excursions during holiday periods, while scientists may apply to attend the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in the United States.

Summer Program[edit]

The Academy offers high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors, from across the world, the opportunity to apply to spend three weeks of their summer as Global Scholars.


As well as the Board of Governors, the Academy’s Board of Advisors is composed of African and global luminaries in business, leadership development, secondary education, and social entrepreneurship. The Advisory Board provides strategic input and guidance to the ALA management team.

African Leadership Foundation[edit]

The African Leadership Foundation is a USA 501(c)(3) non-profit foundation that supports the African Leadership Academy and the next generation of African leaders.


Additional sources[edit]