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African Leadership Academy: Impacts on Young Leaders and Their Communities

Development Challenge

Corruption plagues several African countries and many believe that only strong, ethical leadership can sustain positive economic and social change in Africa.  But how is that leadership developed?  Can it be taught and instilled in youth?  Even if we believe that it is possible to train a cadre of committed and ethical African leaders, how can we know that it was the training itself that spurred positive change, and not characteristics already possessed innately by the students?


Believing that ethical leadership in business, social entrepreneurship, civil society and government is key to individual, community-level, national and continent-wide outcomes in Africa, African Leadership Academy intends to train and connect 5,000 young African men and women, ages 16-19, over the next 50 years. The boarding school admits students from across the continent based on academic merit to its two-year pre-university program. The curriculum focuses on leadership development, entrepreneurial training and cultivating a deep understanding of the African experience. It also seeks to foster a commitment to Pan-African growth, development and cooperation. A distinctive feature of African Leadership Academy is the opportunity for each class of 100 to live and study with peers from across Africa, allowing students to develop a continent-wide peer network.

Evaluation Strategy

To understand the impact of African Leadership Academy, researchers will undertake a long-term evaluation comparing outcomes of the 100 students chosen annually for admission with outcomes from the annual pool of 400 finalists (of a total annual applicant pool of over 3000). Researchers will measure the effect of ALA on student educational attainment and cognitive performance, earnings and other labor market outcomes, as well as changes in attitudes towards identity, democracy, business and the future of Africa. 

The study will also attempt to understand the broader social impact of attending ALA by measuring educational and other outcomes for siblings, cousins and others linked to ALA students. As ALA is focused on entrepreneurial training, additional measures of social impact might include student career choice, as well as job creation and community-level welfare improvement as a result of businesses launched by ALA students. Researchers will also examine whether students choose pan-African careers or more provincial endeavors.

Results and Policy Implications