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Founder of African Leadership Academy Challenges Governor's Students to Change a Continent

The Governor's Academy

January 18th 2010

Chris Bradford, founder and chief financial officer of the African Leadership Academy, spends each day seeking ways to transform an entire continent. And as The Governor’s Academy community learned during a convocation presentation in January, his students are destined to become those who will do so.

“What started as a fairly auspicious goal – to transform a continent – has turned into an opportunity to build a world-class institution on the African continent and invest in the people who will truly change the world,” says Bradford. “Education has a transformative role in changing lives. It exposes people to new ideas, it makes dreams possible. In the U.S. we underestimate our intellectual and social capital. Every single person can make a difference; every single person can play a role.”

Bradford told a story about author and inventor William Kamkwamba, who built a windmill in his hometown in Malawi, using knowledge he gained from library books and spare parts he collected in his small village. His memoir, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, spent several weeks on The New York Times Bestseller List, and his life story was made into a documentary. His work has inspired legions of rural economic development and educational organizations to invest in the future of Africa. Kamkwamba is currently enrolled at ALA.

“There are a lot of William Kamkwambas,” says Bradford. “William knew that he was not destined for a life as a handyman. Do you know that his windmill was in place for two years before anyone knew about it? Imagine if that had happened in the U.S. How long would it take before someone realized that a student built a windmill in Newburyport? A day, perhaps a few hours? Our goal is to match the remarkable assets in our country with the potential found in the African people. It doesn’t take that many William Kamkwambas to change a continent.”

Two Governor’s students, juniors Skylar Frisch of Marblehead, MA and Taylor Reeh of Nahant, MA, will spend several weeks at the ALA in March as part of a formal global exchange program between Governor’s and the African school. Bradford believes that Africa will not thrive until common misconceptions about the continent are eliminated, and educated nations see the potential in Africa and invest in its future. Frisch and Reeh will gain first-hand knowledge of the people, culture and future of Africa, and bring that knowledge back to Governor’s where it can be shared with the larger community.

“I’d like to ask you to remember a few things,” said Bradford as he was finishing his presentation and looked to refute some common myths. “Number one, 750 million African people do not have AIDS; number two, 30 of the continent’s 54 nations are not engaged in armed conflicts; and number three, West Africa has the fastest growing stock market over the last five years.”

An experienced teacher, Bradford spent two years as a Peter Ling Teaching Fellow at Oundle School, one of the largest coeducational boarding schools in the United Kingdom. He has also worked with The Broad Foundation; in brand management with the Procter and Gamble Company; and as a management consultant with the Boston Consulting Group in Chicago. Bradford earned a bachelor’s degree summa cum laude from Yale University, a master’s degree in education administration from Stanford University, and an MBA from Stanford University. At Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, Chris was named one of five Siebel Scholars in recognition of his academic excellence and extracurricular leadership.



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