Founders’ Story

ALA was founded in 2004 by Executive Chairman Fred Swaniker (Ghana), CEO Chris Bradford (U.S.), Acha Leke (Cameroon), and Peter Mombaur (Germany/South Africa).

Born in Ghana but having lived and worked in almost 10 countries across Africa, Fred Swaniker was deeply concerned about the extent to which the African continent was suffering as a result of poor leadership. He also discovered that some African parents were paying extremely high school fees to send their children abroad. He envisioned a world-class academic institution on the African continent where the most outstanding young students can develop into leaders who are passionate about the continent and eager to make an impact. Fred shared his concept with friends, among them co-founders Peter Mombaur and Acha Leke, who agreed to provide the initial financial backing.

It wasn’t until later when Fred went to Stanford Graduate School of Business where Fred met Chris Bradford that the concept for African Leadership Academy came to fruition. Chris had developed a keen interest in the design of educational institutions, and in their potential to shape societies, and both he and Fred shared a unified dream of transforming a country’s leadership landscape by transforming educational systems. They both shared the idea that great leaders come about because of strong institutions, and that in the case of the African continent, those institutions would need to be put in place.

Fred left his job McKinsey and Chris deferred a number of prestigious full time job offers to work on ALA full-time. Both Fred and Chris spent nine months working on a pilot version of the Academy’s full-time program. Chris led the design of ALA’s innovative curriculum, which merges rigorous academics with powerful courses in Entrepreneurial Leadership and African Studies, and shaped the Academy’s rigorous and unique admissions process. Fred led ALA’s fundraising efforts. In June 2005, Fred and Chris launched the Summer Academy in Cape Town, to pilot ALA’s innovative curriculum. The program was a resounding success and bolstered the team’s credibility with donors, feeder schools, and potential students and families.

This work was validated in 2006, when Chris and Fred were named Echoing Green Fellows as two of the “leading emerging social entrepreneurs in the world” – selected from over 900 organizations worldwide. Two years later, they opened the doors for ALA’s inaugural class in 2008 at their campus in Johannesburg, South Africa.

ALA remains the continent’s only pan-African high school, having admitted over 700 students from over 45 African countries to date.


Fred Swaniker

Executive Chairman | Full Profile


Chris Bradford

CEO | Full Profile

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