His Excellency John Kofi Agyekum Kufuor, Former President of Ghana (2001-2008)

 

Country: Ghana

Years at Oxford: 1961-64

College: Exeter

Course: Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE)
At Oxford:
Kufuor Scholarship at Exeter College, Honorary Fellow of Exeter College, amongst others.

Outside Oxford: Former President of Ghana, Former Chairperson of the African Union, World Food Prize Laureate 2011, amongst others.

28th December 2000. The atmosphere all over Ghana was one of tension and nervous excitement. People stood with bated breath as they awaited the results of the run-off between Ghana’s two dominant parties – the New Patriotic Party and the National Democratic Congress. And then there it was! John Kofi Agyekum Kufuor had defeated the opposition after they had been in power for about two decades. The capital city of Accra was ecstatic! Their voices had been heard – and positive change, the New Patriotic Party’s apt mantra, was coming, they could sense it! Who was this man? And what was he about to do?

John Kofi Agyekum Kufuor was born in Kumasi, Ghana and attended Prempeh College and Lincoln’s Inn in London prior to his admission at Exeter College at the University of Oxford to read law. In the first year, he boldly changed his subject to one that he felt would give him a more holistic training for the future – Philosophy, Politics and Economics. He was described by his former tutor, Mr Christopher Kirwan as having the “ability to achieve great heights, a good student, an intellectual who had an important future.” Little did he know what the future held in store for him, for in January 2001, he was sworn in as President of the Republic of Ghana.

Under his Presidency, Ghana saw some marked improvements. The economy was stabilized after filing for debt relief under the IMF’s Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) program, microfinance loans were made available to the productive population and a national health insurance scheme was implemented. He also changed the senior secondary school curriculum from three to four years, somewhat controversially, to model the British education system, a decision that gave students a more rigorous grounding and more time to decide on their career trajectory prior to university. A national school feeding programme was also launched to incentivize student attendance and alleviate the burden of care on parents while helping to eradicate hunger in children. Primary enrolment rates sky-rocketed with Ghana meeting the enrolment targets for Millennium Development Goal 2, although full attendance, retention and completion rates have been questioned as some parents would mischievously withdraw their children after meal times at school. Nevertheless, the Ghana School Feeding Program (GSFP) was an unprecedented policy that has been sustained by subsequent governments and replicated in other parts of the continent. This and other efforts would then earn him the joint World Food Prize in 2011, with President Lula Da Silva of Brazil. President Kufuor’s passion for education stayed with him, and it infused his admirers.

President Kufuor’s tenure as president was exemplary to many including other Presidents on the continent, who elected him as Chairperson of the African Union for the 2007–08 session. Upon leaving his office, he has remained devoted to the cause for the greater good of Ghana. As an honorary fellow of Exeter College, he returned to the College to formally launch the John Kufuor Scholarship for a graduate student from Ghana in October 2007. After a lifetime of achievement, President Kufuor will turn 80 in December 2018 and the Kufuor Foundation has instituted a campaign named Eighty for Eighty, aimed at raising GHS 80 million for 80 years. We celebrate the achievements and contributions of President John A. Kufuor to life at Oxford, Ghana and Africa. The Oxford University Africa Society (Afrisoc) also appreciates his generous donation to its very own initiative, given this past summer when he interacted with members of Afrisoc in Ghana.

Photo: Former President Kufuor receiving the AfriSoc delegation at his home in Ghana. Sept 12, 2018. His donation made during this visit will fund the African Oxonians Project and application fees for up to 10 selected mentees based on demonstrated need, from our Scholarships and Access program.

Source: Oxford University Africa Society

George Bernard Shaw is famously quoted as saying “the reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” Former President Kufuor persisted in trying to adapt the world to his vision and his ideals. African Oxonians and Africans in general should take a cue from his life story – and endeavour to return home and change Africa for the better. Let us be unreasonable men and women, who allow the West to cultivate and educate us, and then return to Mother Africa to plant seeds and nurture our fertile soil, so that Africa grows and bears sumptuous fruit for all to savour. Former President Kufuor is now written indelibly in history as one of Ghana and Africa’s greatest leaders – a tall tree that has ascended to great heights, one that we can all look up to and aspire to reach.

Written by:

Atinuke Olu-Lutherking

Atinuke Olu-Lutherking is a DPhil Inorganic Chemistry Candidate at the University of Oxford, specializing in polymer chemistry. Prior to coming to Oxford, she studied for a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering at the University of Cambridge, and several master’s-level qualifications at Loghborough University, the University of Warwick, the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge. She is a science student who is also passionate about the arts, creative writing and African studies.

Email: atinuke.olu-lutherking@chem.ox.ac.uk

Papa Kojo Botsio

Papa Kojo Botsio is the President of the Oxford University Africa Society (2018-19). He’s a Second Year DPhil in Comparative and International Education at Oxford, researching Welfare Policy and Rural Disadvantage in Access to Higher Education in Ghana. Prior to Oxford he studied for an MPA in Social Policy at Cornell University and a BA in Sociology and Anthropology with a minor in Environmental Studies at Swarthmore College. His interests are in Welfare Policy broadly, with a specialization in Education, having worked in education research and university access consulting.

Email: kojo.botsio@education.ox.ac.uk or president@oxforduniversityafricasociety.com

References:

Exeter College, Oxford, 2018. John Kufuor Scholarship – Exeter College, Oxford – University of Oxford. Available at:
<https://www.exeter.ox.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Kufour2017.pdf>

Ghanaweb, 20th September 2001. Exeter College Honours President Kufuor. Available at: <https://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/Exeter-College-Honours-President-Kufuor-18203>

The John Agyekum Kufuor Foundation, 2018. Why You Should Donate. Available at: <https://kufuorfoundation.org/donate/>

The Telegraph, 7th December 2008. Ghana says goodbye to President John Kufuor a good man in Africa. Available at: <https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/ghana/3659680/Ghana-says-goodbye-to-President-John-Kufuor-a-good-man-in-Africa.html>

The World Food Prize, 2018. The 2011 World Food Prize Laureates John Kufuor and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Available at: <https://www.worldfoodprize.org/en/laureates/2010__2017_laureates/2011__kufuor_and_lula/>

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