A recent proposal by WPI to partner with Ghana to improve its economic, environmental, and educational system was received with such enthusiasm by Ambassador to the U.S. Barfuor Adjei-Barwuah that both the ambassador and Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo requested meetings with university faculty and administrators to discuss the potential partnership.
Specifically, the university is proposing to pilot a project center in the West African nation, to be directed by associate professor of social science and policy studies Rob Krueger. By piloting this program, both WPI and the Ghanaian Embassy would have the opportunity to fully explore its feasibility. To that end, WPI intends to send up to 24 students to the University College of Agriculture and Environmental Studies in Bunso, Ghana, from January through March 2020. Under faculty supervision, students would work in teams to develop appropriate research methodologies to address real-world problems identified by our Ghanaian partners, among them, urban planning, water quality, and healthcare delivery.
To discuss these opportunities, both President Akufo-Addo and Ambassador Adjei-Barwuah met with Krueger and Linda Looft, assistant vice president for government and community relations, in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 24. The meeting was preceded by a discussion among Krueger, Looft, and the Ambassador at the Ghanaian Embassy the previous day. The meeting with the Ghanaian president also included Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, Ghana’s minister for foreign affairs and regional integration; Nana Bediatuo Asante, secretary to the president; Francis Asenso-Boakye, political assistant to the president and deputy chief of staff; Kwabena Kyei-Aboagye, New England Visit Committee chair; and Francis Agyare, New England Visit Committee co-chair.
During the course of the half-hour conversation, President Akufo-Addo emphasized that he is focused on improving the quality of life for people in Ghana and is working to create economic opportunity rooted in sustainability. Specifically, the president’s vision calls for development that is locally based and environmentally appropriate. He is also committed to making access to improved education a priority for all people.
“Ghana has much important work to do to reclaim our lands and redirect our economy,” said President Akufo-Addo. “This will be a major, major exercise with lots of implications, and WPI is extremely welcome to establish a research center in our country because it will strengthen our efforts.”
He added, “It is time for Ghana to pivot and reform and redefine our nation’s education. It is very important that we ensure that everyone have access to a quality of education that will prepare them for 21st century needs and opportunities. We require an education system with stronger engineering and science, math, and technology programs that can enable our people to improve quality of life in Ghana and beyond. Assistance from WPI will be very useful in this important work.”
“It is time for Ghana to pivot and reform and redefine our nation’s education. It is very important that we ensure that everyone have access to a quality of education that will prepare them for 21st century needs and opportunities. We require an education system with stronger engineering and science, math, and technology programs that can enable our people to improve quality of life in Ghana and beyond. Assistance from WPI will be very useful in this important work.” -President Nana Akufo-Addo
WPI’s partnership with Ghana is being driven by Krueger, who has been engaged with the Ghanaian community, both in Worcester and in Africa, for the past 18 years. The recent meeting was Krueger’s second with President Akufo-Addo; they last met two years ago in Worcester when Akufo-Addo was still a presidential candidate. In addition to attending numerous Ghanaian community meetings over the years, Krueger worked with Kwabena Kyei-Aboagye Jr. for WPI to host both King Osagyefuo and Ambassador Adjei-Barwuah at WPI during the past five years. Looft worked closely on each of these initiatives.
“Worcester is home to the largest Ghanaian diaspora in the U.S., it is a tight-knit, welcoming community and, time and again, I have been struck by the power and passion by which Ghanaians speak of their homeland,” says Krueger. “They truly see Ghana’s potential as a place that can produce a high quality of life for its people. Their enthusiasm is contagious.”
Krueger is the founder and director of WPI’s Environmental and Sustainability Studies program and is an experienced project center director, having directed the Worcester Community Project Center for 12 years, co-directed the London Project Center for four years, and co-founded the Worcester, UK, Project Center in 2015. A global sustainability expert, he has spent the entirety of his career helping communities, cities—and even nations—around the world plan for more just and sustainable urban developments. Over the past 17 years he has traveled to 40 countries and has led hundreds of students in project centers ranging from Worcester, Mass., and Worcester, UK, to Windhoek, Namibia, and Bangkok, Thailand.
“Ghanaians know too well the negative local effects that can be caused by investments made by foreign countries and/or companies who are keen to capitalize on the extraction of such rich natural resources as gold, bauxite, and oil,” said Krueger. “President Akufo-Addo’s approach to planning differs from previous efforts in that it will engage local community leaders, both traditional and elected, to help deal with the harmful effects of previous regimes of development. It’s a forward-thinking approach that is squarely focused on making robust changes in order to improve Ghanaian opportunity and quality of life.”
During the meeting, President Akufo-Addo invited Krueger to visit him in Ghana later this summer; he also encouraged the ambassador to continue working with Krueger to establish the project center.
“This is an incredible time to create a partnership with Ghana. The types of potential projects that have been identified by our Ghanaian partners ... are well-suited to the kinds of expertise that our students already have, and that they seek to further develop. This partnership will be good for WPI, our students, and for Ghana.” -Rob Krueger
“This is an incredible time to create a partnership with Ghana,” Krueger noted. “The types of potential projects that have been identified by our Ghanaian partners—water quality and quantity issues, master planning in cities, ecological restoration and healthcare delivery—are well-suited to the kinds of expertise that our students already have, and that they seek to further develop.
“This partnership will be good for WPI, our students, and for Ghana. It has the potential to bring much-needed human resources to bear on Ghana’s development strategy, and I am excited to put my research and expertise toward helping realize this nation’s exciting vision.”
President Akufo-Addo’s passionate commitment to improving Ghanaian education—at every level—was also clear. To that end, WPI will examine the feasibility of creating education-focused partnerships:
- The STEM Education Center at WPI will look to explore possible collaborations, including the training of secondary school teachers.
- Dean of Engineering Wole Soboyejo is proposing to invite Ghanaian university educators to participate in the second WPI Mathematics and Science for Sub-Saharan Africa (MS4SSA) Conference and Training Program/Workshop, slated for the summer of 2019. He would also like to provide Ghana with learning modules in mathematics and science, as well as project-based modules in robotics and materials science, as well as engineering modules.
- Soboyejo is also looking to engage three to five Ghanaian university faculty members per year to participate in WPI’s Visiting Faculty/Graduate Student Program, which welcomes African faculty and PhD students to spend three months on campus engaging in advanced research projects in collaboration with WPI faculty members. This program also provides advanced training in laboratory techniques and computational approaches to science, engineering, and business. Following the on-campus portion of the program, participants will return to Africa to continue their research and share their newly acquired skills with students, faculty, and staff at their respective universities.
- WPI is also looking into existing opportunities with Quinsigamond Community College to help provide Ghanaian residents of Worcester with improved access to degree programs at WPI.