In a nutshell

Location Rwanda
Sustainable Development Goal Quality Education

Project timeline 

"Project is 99.0442655936% completed "

The Challenge

Globally, chronic shortage of relevant skills among young adults has, as estimated by the International Labour Organization, left more than 75 million of them out of work and as many as three times that number underemployed. According to a McKinsey Center for Government report[1], half of the world’s youth, (defined as 15 to 24 year olds), who have completed postsecondary education doubt that this credential has improved their chances of finding work. Yet almost 40 percent of employers attribute entry-level job vacancies to a lack of qualified applicants. The same report anticipates a global shortage of 85 million highly skilled workers by 2020. The challenge is more pronounced in Africa, with its booming youth population and its ineffective and insufficient skills-development infrastructure. In Africa, the number of youth continues to grow rapidly.  From 19% of the global youth population in 2015, it is projected that this number will have increased to more than 40 percent by 2013 and will continue to rise throughout the 21st century, expected to double by 2055.[2] The International Labour Organisation reports that working poverty rates among youth in Africa were at 70% in 2016, having increased by up to 80% in the past 25 years.[3] To address youth employment, two fundamentals need to be in place, skill development and job creation, with special attention to the mechanisms that can connect education to employment.

The Approach

African Leadership University (ALU) looks beyond delivering solid academic grounding to instill in its students the skills needed for real-world success, such as entrepreneurship, leadership, problem solving, quantitative reasoning, communication and teamwork. Students work closely with leading employers as part of their curriculum and intern for four months out of every year they attend ALU, allowing them to “hit the ground running” after graduation. Clearly, employers need to work with education providers so that students learn the skills they need to succeed. This can only be achieved through cross industry collaboration.

Goals and Expected Impact

ALU’s mission is to grow a critical mass of high-calibre, entrepreneurial and ethical leaders to underwrite Africa’s transformation. It aims to close the skills gap in the African market for young graduates by providing education, skills development and training that equips young people to create their own jobs as entrepreneurs or gain employment in companies and thereby help grow the economy in their respective regions and countries.

  • Through this contribution, the Swiss Re Foundation will enable 218 deserving youth to attend ALU who otherwise could not afford the cost this education in entrepreneurship.
  • In addition to a formal qualification be it in Mathematics, Science or Business, these students will benefit from a university degree, which is moving away from academic theory to skills. Content is designed through the input of employers across Africa who identify the skills they desire in their employees, and imbed these skills in their students.
  • All ALU students undergo a rigorous leadership curriculum in their first year aimed at preparing them for the world of work. This curriculum is based on the ‘7 Meta Skills’ which research has shown are crucial for the 21st Century. These include things like Communication for Impact, Managing Complex Tasks, Critical Thinking, Quantitative Reasoning and Entrepreneurial Thinking.
  • Instead of adopting the traditional lecture based approach, ALU provides an engaging powerful learning experience that puts the student at the centre, integrating deep engagement, experiential learning, peer-to-peer-learning and student ownership.
  • ALU students solve "real" problems for "real" companies from day one instead of studying in a "traditional bubble" and spend four months of each year in a mandatory internship (resulting in one year of work experience by graduation).

[1] Mckinsey Centre for Government, 2013, Education to employment: Designing a system that works

[2] United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, 2015, Population Facts No 2015/1

[3] International Labour Organisation, 2016, Promoting Jobs Protecting People


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African Leadership University (ALU) is founded on the philosophy that a new generation of ethical, committed leaders is the key to Africa’s development. ALU's vision is to build 25 new universities across the continent to be the training ground for these future leaders.

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