EWN Special Feature: Africa rising, a new way of learning

School leavers now have a new option when looking for a university. Here’s more on ALU in Mauritius.

A view of the African Leadership University in Mauritius. Picture: Gia Nicolaides/EWN.

MAURITIUS - Forget about traditional tertiary education. It's all changing.

The days of lecturers standing in front of hundreds of students imparting their knowledge is over.

Well, at least for the African Leadership University (ALU) that officially opened a campus in Mauritius last week.

Brainchild of the initiative, CEO Fred Swaniker, has come up with a brand new way of learning, using tried and tested concepts and materials from across the globe.

This will allow African students to take ownership of their learning experience.

With technology evolving at a rapid rate, students need to make use of new ways of studying and accessing information.

A beach in Grand Baie in Mauritius, close to the ALU campus.

ALU encourages students to think out of the box and use African based examples when learning.

About 181 students from across the African continent have enrolled at ALU's Mauritius campus.

The university aims to produce three million African leaders in the next fifty years, based on a custom-designed curriculum and an interactive learning experience.

One of the benefits of having students from across Africa living and learning together, is that they have the opportunity to share their experiences and eventually define themselves as 'Pan-Africanists' who can go back to their respective countries and implement change.

The institution aims to have 10,000 students at 25 campuses across the continent. However, South Africa is not on the list.


Swaniker says South Africa was initially the first place he looked at opening the ALU, but he encountered some problems.

He says after chatting to people from tertiary institutions, even established universities, he discovered it can take 18 to 24 months to accredit a new programme; let alone a new university; and the CEO says he didn't want to start off in an environment like that.

There were also challenges in getting visas for staff members. Swaniker says he hires talent globally and he couldn't get lecturers from Ghana, China or the US into South Africa. He says Mauritius has removed visas for short-term business travel for 50 out of the 54 African countries.

He was also able to obtain work permits for his staff in two months, which made Mauritius an attractive destination.

Swaniker says South Africa is not a priority at this stage because the country has several established universities and he wants to open campuses in African countries where there's a need for tertiary education.


Former first lady Graca Machel says she's thrilled to be part of this ground breaking initiative, saying there's a child in her that is still eager to learn and to reinvent herself. She says this in an opportunity for her to re-engage with education.

Machel was the education minister in her home country, Mozambique, and also serves as a chancellor at the University of Cape Town.

Machel says on the shoulders of the young generation in Africa, she can learn again.

African Leadership Academy CEO Fred Swaniker, Inaugural Chancellor Graca Machel and Glasgow Caledonian University's Vice Chancellor Pamela Gillies.

Machel also answered a question about South Africa's 'Fees Must Fall' campaign, saying it's not sustainable to implement free tertiary education in South Africa at this stage.

LISTEN: Graca Machel on the 'Fees Must Fall' campaign


Swaniker says ALU can change the face of education in Africa.

"ALU is the single most transformative thing that can happen to Africa."

There's no doubt that the students who have already enrolled at the university are ambitious, intelligent young individuals who plan to learn as much as they can in the next few years while ALU expands across Africa.

Student Piet Motalaota from South Africa says he wants to complete his degree and return to South Africa to start a hi-tech company and create jobs.

The opening gala was attended by more than 300 people and international investors are already on board.

Perhaps this university will become the starting point for many more like it across the globe. That being said, who wouldn't want to study in Mauritius close to beautiful beaches and luxurious hotels?

WATCH: Hugh Masekela speaks about SA culture at the ALU grand opening in Mauritius