Patrick Awuah: Software Programmer Abandons Microsoft To Nurture Africa’s Problem Solvers



Patrick Awuah is a Ghanaian engineer and educator. He is the founder of Ashesi University in Ghana.

The talented African left for the United States in 1985 when he won a scholarship to study at Swarthmore College. By 1989 he had obtained a bachelor’s degrees in Engineering and Economics,

While in the US he landed himself a job at Microsoft as a software engineer and program manager. A job which lasted from 1989 to 1997 and made him a millionaire.

In 1997, Patrick Awuah quit his job at Microsoft to give life to his dreams. The entrepreneur said he had a burning desire to nurture the growing generation of African leaders.

Inspired by these words, “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it – begin it now”, Patrick set out to begin a new line of career.

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Ashesi which means ‘beginning‘ is the first Ghanaian university to combine technical majors with a liberal arts approach. Patrick founded it in 2002.

It was his dream to improve the educational system of his country and Africa at large. He believes “that people like [himself] who have had the privilege of a great education need to be part of the solution”.

“So when I look at universities I see Africa fast-forward 30 years. When this 20-year-old is now in his or her 50s, that person is going to be a leader. And so I felt that engaging how that leadership, that future leadership core, is educated could be catalytic.”

“I need to be really actively involved in helping to drive this change in Africa so that 30, 50 years from now, the world will be a different place for all people of African descent in the world.”

Located at Berekuso town in Ghana, Ashesi has admitted over 500 students. 52-year old Patrick Awuah is still the president of the institution till date. In 2015 he was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship for his work in the institution.

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Patrick Awuah

During his days with Microsoft, he met his wife Rebecca, a software testing engineer. The impassioned educator shared his wife’s immeasurable support to see his dream come true.

“I won’t lie to you – it was tough,”

“But I can tell you that when I mentioned this idea to my wife, she immediately agreed,”

“She’d never been to Africa before she met me and part of her conviction that this sounded like a good idea and her willingness to go ahead with it was very encouraging.”

As a preparatory step, Patrick Awuah enrolled for his Master’s degree at Berkeley business school. He recalls several challenges which he eventually surmounted in running the school.

Ashesi University started out with just 30 students and a few rented buildings.

The school fees for the noble institution is estimated to about $9,000 a year. The amount covers for the students’ tuition, housing, and meals.

Ashesi University covers courses like Business Administration, Management Information Systems, Computer Science, Electrical Engineering, Computer Engineering and Mechanical Engineering.

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