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Business News of Saturday, 26 February 2022


Foster Akpakli’s journey from selling used clothes at Kantamanto to a masters degree in finance

Foster often had to do part-time work to support his family and pay for his education Foster often had to do part-time work to support his family and pay for his education

Once unsure that he could get a university education, recent graduate Foster Akpakli '21 is now an inspiration for many young students in his community.

As a teenager, Foster often had to do part-time work to support his family and help pay for his education.

Some of his earliest work experiences were in Kantamanto, one of Ghana's biggest used clothing markets, where his parents sold for a living.

During his final year in high school, Foster spent a lot of time thinking about what his future would look like.

He was aware his family could not afford his tertiary education, and he often wondered if he would further his education.

He actively considered joining his parents in Kantamanto for some years to save some income for his tertiary education.

However, during an event organised by his high school counsellor, he learned about different scholarship programmes at various universities in Ghana.

One of the universities highlighted during that event was Ashesi.

Hakeem Usman Bin '20, who had also attended Accra Academy and spoke at the event, shared his experiences as a full scholarship the recipient at Ashesi. Foster tracked Hakeem down after the event and asked more questions about Ashesi.

Thanks to Hakeem, he also connected with other students at Ashesi, who gave him more insights into the university. He was intrigued and decided to apply.

"I remember reading stories about Ashesi students who worked on projects to solve sanitation problems in Ghana through a university entrepreneurship training program," says Foster. "These and many other impactful stories sparked my interest in Ashesi. It seemed like the right place to learn how to contribute meaningfully to my community. If I also received a scholarship, I knew that it would relieve a significant financial burden for my family."

With the help of his teachers and other Accra Academy alumni on-campus, Foster applied to Ashesi and was accepted. He would become the first person in his family to attend university, a proud achievement for him and his parents.

"Most parents in my community now use me as an example for their children," Foster says. "One called me after my graduation recently to thank me and mentioned that I had inspired her children to believe that they could succeed through school as well."

In September 2017, Foster arrived at Ashesi's campus determined to make the most of the opportunity and with a list of things he wanted to achieve by his graduation.

He soon became a recognised leader, volunteering as a peer tutor and providing out of class support to his classmates and other students in calculus, economics and finance.

He also volunteered to teach math to junior and senior high school students in Ashesi's surrounding community of Berekuso.

"There were many times in my early days here when I wondered if I would be able to fit in," Foster recounts. "I used to write down all my assignments because I wasn't familiar with computers. I had to adjust to the way of life at Ashesi very quickly, and the expectations pushed me to grow.

In his senior year, Foster was accepted into the Master's in Finance programme at Arizona State University (ASU) through its accelerated Master's programme partnership with Ashesi.

Through the programme, students spend three years at Ashesi, two years at ASU, and earn both a Bachelor's (from Ashesi) and Master's Degree (from ASU).

In his final year at ASU, Foster hopes to use his finance skill and learning to improve revenue outcomes for small business owners like his parents.

His experiences with educational opportunities have also motivated him to commit to helping students like himself access educational and financial resources.

"I realise that Ashesi prepared me well, and I have been able to engage the community both inside and beyond the classroom," says Foster.

"My experience here has exceeded all of my expectations. I arrived here looking for a degree, but in addition, I gained strong values. I asked for friends but got a community. I wanted a good learning experience but got an extraordinary one. I cannot truly express how happy and grateful I am to be an Ashesi graduate."