‘Our university is not defined by a single campus.’ Northeastern brings its annual Global Leadership Summit to Accra, Ghana

U.S. Ambassador to Ghana Virginia E. Palmer and Northeastern President Joseph E. Aoun and Northeastern young global leaders standing on a stage
U.S. Ambassador to Ghana Virginia E. Palmer, center, joins Northeastern President Joseph E. Aoun and Northeastern Young Global Leaders on the stage for a photograph at the Northeastern Global Leadership Summit held at the Kempinski Hotel ballroom in Accra, Ghana. Photo by Alyssa Stone/Northeastern University

ACCRA, Ghana—Northeastern University held its fifth Global Leadership Summit in Accra last week. Close to 300 people, including top Ghanaian civic and business leaders, convened at Kempinski Gold Coast Hotel from March 9-11. 

The intergenerational audience included alumni, students, parents, faculty and friends from around the world for a program that spanned several days and topics ranging from business to sustainability to culture to entrepreneurship. 

Northeastern President Joseph E. Aoun told the audience that the goal of the summit was to engage in dialogue about opportunities and innovation in Ghana and across Africa. Speakers and panelists engaged in conversations about leadership and strategy impacting the present and future of the region. They shared insights and success stories with the audience—many of whom traveled from all corners of the world to attend.

The topics discussed included education in Ghana and the U.S., finance, entrepreneurship, leadership, civic engagement, the fourth industrial revolution in Africa, and creativity, art, music and culture in the era of artificial intelligence and other disruptive technologies. 

“It’s genuinely a dream come true for me,” said Binja Basimike, a double Husky from Congo, member of the alumni group called Young Global Leaders, and master of ceremonies at the summit. “I believe that the talent that is here just needs a chance and Northeastern is giving us the opportunity.”

The summit speakers included U.S. Ambassador to Ghana Virginia E. Palmer, Second Deputy Governor of Bank of Ghana Elsie Addo Awadzi, South African High Commissioner to Ghana Grace Jeanet Mason and Ghanaian leadership in the government, banks, private sector, Mastercard Foundation and a social enterprise, Semicolon Africa.

In her speech, Palmer highlighted the role Ghana has played in engaging the African diaspora, its commitment to democracy and contributions to regional security.

“The United States sees Ghana to be a key player in fueling global impact,” she said.

Binja Basimike speaking into microphone
Binja Basimike, a double Husky from Congo, was the master of ceremonies of the Global Leadership Summit held at the Kempinski Hotel ballroom in Accra, Ghana. Photo by Alyssa Stone/Northeastern University

Gatherings such as the Northeastern Global Leadership Summit in Ghana and educational exchanges, Palmer said, reinforce the dedication of the United States and President Joe Biden to strengthening partnerships with African countries. 

“I’m so pleased that there’s so many Ghanaian alumni and parents and students that are here,” Palmer said. “There’s an incredible opportunity to tap into young Africans’ innovation and energy.”

Ghana boasts the second highest number of college students from Sub-Saharan Africa studying in the U.S. Currently, 135 students from Ghana attend Northeastern, while undergraduate applications to the university from Ghana rose 91% this year.

Addo Awadzi shared with the audience her professional journey and multiple career pivots, advising young people on how to persevere through challenges and push through doubt.

“Be confident in starting small,” she said. “Reach out to your village.”

Mansa Nettey, chief executive officer of Standard Chartered Bank Ghana; Rosy Fynn, country head of Ghana and Nigeria programs at Mastercard Foundation; George Owusu-Ansah, managing director of Unilever Ghana PLC; and Grace Jeanet Mason, South African High Commissioner to Ghana and Sierra Leone, participate in “Captains of Industry” panel during the second day of the Northeastern Global Leadership Summit at the Kempinski Hotel in Accra, Ghana. Photo by Alyssa Stone/Northeastern University

Mason spoke about the positive changes that have taken place in Ghana, including the discovery of commercial quantities of oil in 2007 and the successful tourism campaign “Year of return” that brings members of the diaspora into the country. She also talked about the attractiveness of Ghana for foreign businesses and the African Free Trade Agreement that was established in 2018.

“Africa has not been lacking creative ideas,” she said. “It is the discipline of baby steps.”

Chris Chinebuah, parent of a Northeastern student and executive chairman at Fueltrade Limited, gave the audience advice on succession planning, especially in family businesses.

“If you have a business that outlives you then you have a business,” he said to aspiring entrepreneurs.

A panel on African readiness for the fourth industrial revolution discussed the importance of digital education, purposeful policies and regulation, and existing bank infrastructure. Panelists also addressed mobile digital currency, opportunities in the financial and healthcare sectors, and the qualities leaders need to keep up with the new technological environment.

Sipho Dlamini, chief executive officer of Universal Music South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa, spoke about African genres of music becoming popular across the world, the role of gospel music in his life, leadership, the role of music in social movements and future technology in the music industry.  

Dozens of Ghanaian young people interested in Northeastern and its global experiential model of education attended the summit.

“The degrees are not the destination for Northeastern. The destination is for our students to have different learning experiences in different contexts,” Aoun told them. “Our university is not defined by a single campus, it is defined by its network.” 

Northeastern’s global alumni network currently connects more than 300,000 alumni in 181 countries.

During the summit, Subodh Chanrai, executive chairman of Chanrai Summit Group, Northeastern trustee and father of two Northeastern graduates, announced that the Chanrai family has chosen to sponsor a Ghanaian individual to attend the university. A young bioengineer, Kelvin Amakye, 23, will start a master’s program at Northeastern this fall. 

“I encourage my children to work hard, to be focused and never give up. As a family, we have a Northern star—that is to make a difference in other people’s lives, especially in the community that we work and live in,” Chanrai said.

The summit program included a cultural exploration of Ghana. Attendees visited the National Museum of Ghana; were treated to performances by Ghanaian musicians M.anifest and Kofi Kinaata; danced during a festival at the Nubuke Foundation that showcased Ghana’s traditional food, music, dance, and artworks by modern Ghanaian artists along Northeastern’s faculty and student innovative projects; and visited the castles of Cape Coast and Elmina—key locations in the Transatlantic Slave Trade.

Elsie Add Awadzi speaking at Global Leadership Summit
Elsie Addo Awadzi, second deputy Governor of Bank of Ghana, speaks about her journey of passion and purpose to serve Ghana as she opens the second day of the Northeastern Global Leadership Summit at the Kempinski Hotel in Accra, Ghana. Photo by Alyssa Stone/Northeastern University

A 12-person organizing committee that consisted of African parents and Northeastern graduates helped to choreograph the summit. Alumni who belong to the Young Global Leaders, worldwide ambassadors of the university, flew to Accra from London, Taipei, Singapore, Bangkok, Dubai and the U.S., and shared their own experiences as thriving, successful and accomplished beneficiaries of experiential education.

“It exceeded my expectations,” said Jude Albukhari, a Young Global Leader who graduated from Northeastern in 2015. “I loved how relevant the topics were to where we are. I think it really spoke to the consideration that was put forth when the organizing committee was planning this.” 

After visiting Ghana for the summit, Bharat Adlakha, Class of 2016, said he would like to find a way to add value sustainably and effectively to the country and bring empowerment to Ghanaian people. Adlakha has experience in building farms and factories in Sudan, Ethiopia and Uganda, he said, which helped develop communities by also adding medical centers, schools and carbon neutral power plants.

He asked Addo Awadzi if she would be willing to be a mentor in Ghana to those Young Global Leaders, who have these kinds of ideas. 

Previous Global Leadership Summits took place in Paris, London, Shanghai and Mumbai

“To see that the same level of excellence, the same standard, the same care and the same service was given to us, it means the world,” said Basimike, who participated in the Paris summit in 2018. 

Alena Kuzub is a Northeastern Global News reporter. Email her at a.kuzub@northeastern.edu. Follow her on Twitter @AlenaKuzub