Africa's next generation of future leaders could be among the first students who graduated with degrees from Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) in Mauritius today.
The University is the academic partner of the African Leadership College (ALC), a pioneering venture created by the entrepreneur Fred Swaniker with the aim of transforming leadership in the world's fastest growing continent. The graduation ceremony marks the coming of age of the College, which now has hundreds of students enrolled in degree programmes accredited by GCU.
"Thank you, Glasgow Caledonian University, for holding us up to such high standards," he said during the ceremony. "Those who change the world are those who take risks. You took a risk joining a brand new institution in the middle of the ocean because you were inspired by a radical approach to learning."
He added: "We are graduating the future leaders of Africa today and we will be doers, not talkers. You are all potentially sitting next to a future president."
The Chancellor of the ALC is Graça Machel, former First Lady of Mozambique and South Africa, who delivered a rousing speech to the graduating class. She said: "Ours is a system that can shake, and hopefully disrupt, the global tertiary education system.
"ALC is one of a kind and it has taken African minds to have the courage to do it. Thank you to those who thought of, conceived and delivered this African Leadership network."
She then said to the graduates: "You are my grandchildren. Listen to the experience of your grandmother. I wish that you will all be able to stick together as a class and keep the fire of your dreams burning. You leave this place rightly believing you are a leader, but remember – there is no 'I' in African Leadership philosophy, only 'we'. Hold the principles of ALC dear."
Welcoming the milestone, the Glasgow Caledonian University's Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Pamela Gillies CBE FRSE, said: "We are immensely proud of our founding Class of 2015. Over the past four years our students drawn from across Africa have done exceptionally well in their studies in Mauritius and they can look forward to a bright future. As the University of the Common Good, Glasgow Caledonian has a strong commitment to ethical leadership and our partnership is part of our global network delivering our mission for a sustainable future.
"We are working with inspirational leaders such as Graça Machel and Fred Swaniker, who share our vision for equitable and sustainable development. We have supported their dream to create a brand new centre for leadership and academic learning and we have done this in a way which combines our expertise in higher education with degree programmes which are delivered locally within an African context and relevant to African experience and perspective."
Simiso Shabangu, from Eswatini, the inaugural Graduating Class Speaker, said: "GCU has given us the theory that has enabled us to better make sense of our everyday surroundings. It has also taught us the true meaning of growth and continuous learning. There's no better way to explain growth than looking at our journey from our first submission to our dissertations."
The ceremony on the ALC's state of the art campus in Mauritius, on June 12, saw the Principal joining Graça Machel and Fred Swaniker in congratulating the first graduates in Business Management and Social Science on receiving their degrees. They will be joined in February next year by the first graduates in Computing Science.
The partnership involves academics in Glasgow overseeing the curriculum in Mauritius, and supporting course delivery by local tutors through distance learning with occasional visits to teach classes on site.
Over the past four years, students in both Glasgow and Mauritius have also benefitted from exchange opportunities to visit each other campus, partly supported with funding raised by the Glasgow Caledonian University Foundation.