Updates from EWMBA IBD – Team Ashesi in Ghana

Devin Christiansen, Linda Jiang, Nikhil Mansukhani, Stephanie Shen, Jathurshun Sivaloganathan, and Brigid Warmerdam are part-time MBA IBD students working with Ashesi University, a private college in Ghana founded by Haas alumnus Patrick Awuah, on risk management strategies.

You’re “Ghana” have a blast! That’s what previous IBD teams told us as we departed for the West African country of Ghana – and they were right!

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The Team (left to right, as pictured): Stephanie Shen, Linda Jiang, Brigid Warmerdam, Jathurshun Sivaloganathan, Devin Christiansen and Nikhil Mansukhani

We had the pleasure of working with Ashesi University, a private college founded by Haas Alumni Patrick Awuah (pictured above in the middle). Only 12 years old, Ashesi has quickly become a premier university for undergraduate students in West Africa.  Current enrollment has grown to 600 students and impressively Ashesi has a track record of 100% work placement for its graduates with the majority choosing to stay in Africa which is in step with its mission – to educate a new generation of ethical, entrepreneurial leaders in Africa…to help transform a continent.  The passion and determination to make a difference can be felt throughout the campus and it is truly “in the air”. We learned we were the 10th IBD team to work with Ashesi and we were optimistic that we too could help make a difference and further strengthen the connection between Haas and Ashesi.

The Road to School

On day one, we weren’t sure what we had gotten ourselves into when we were picked up from the Salmarise Hotel in North Legon (Greater Accra) and were driven up this bumpy dirt road to campus in Berekuso, located about one hour outside of Accra, Ghana.

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You can imagine our surprise when we arrived on campus. It’s beautiful! How can anyone concentrate here when you have a view like this!

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The School

Given that Ashesi was founded by a Haas alum, we found many similarities between Haas and Ashesi, especially the focus on ethics and the structure of the lecture rooms.

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Lecture hall at Ashesi University

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We are (almost, kinda, sorta) sure that Dean Lyons will approve our request to build this outdoor classroom on the Berkeley campus!

Project Scope

“Team Ghana” was tasked with delivering a set of risk management guidelines to Ashesi and our framework was rooted in capital projects such as the new engineering program and building (currently under construction). It was inspiring to see the new building come to life over the 2 weeks we spent on campus.  On our last day on campus workers were beginning to tile the roof (which wasn’t there when we first arrived).  The photo below was taken at the beginning of week two.

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Ghanian Cuisine

It took us a few meals before we figured out what side dish went with each entree. On the first night, it took us 25 minutes to order. Brigid: “I’d like the grilled chicken with fufu, please.” Waitress: “Haha! No. That doesn’t match!”  There are many starchy side dishes that are made specifically for a particular entree. Now we know!

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In addition to the juicy tropical fruits such as pineapple and mango, Nikhil enjoyed some coconut with Walter, our new friend and Operations Assistant of Ashesi University

Cape Coast

After a long week one, we ventured to Ghana’s Cape Coast (3.5 hours by car). Here we visited the Elmina Castle, an eerie building that was once the hub of slave trade in West Africa. Next we visited the Kakum National Park. Before we started our hike, the guide warned us – “Don’t worry, no one has died on this walk.” We understood what the potential fear was all about when we crossed the seven swaying bridges 30 meters above the lush rainforest canopy. Before we headed back to Accra, we stopped for lunch at Hans Cottage Hotel, where they have a large lake full of crocodiles!

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It was such a privilege to spend some time in beautiful Ghana. To future Ashesi teams, we have these words of wisdom: There will be bugs and hugs, fears and beers, but above all there will be memories for years.

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