2019 Emerging Global Leader Award
“HARVARD MADE ME FEEL THAT everything is possible, even beyond my craziest dreams,” says Kader “Kad” Kaneye MC/MPA 2017. “I had the idea, and a plan for a new university in Niger, but Harvard is a place that moves you from the realm of dreams to the realm of reality.”
Kaneye grew up modestly—he spent his early years in a mud house without clean water—but education was important to his family. His father taught high school before becoming a consultant for the World Bank and founding his own firm. By the time Kaneye graduated from high school as one of Niger’s top students, he was able to study in Paris.
After graduating and landing a job at one of Niger’s largest accounting firms, Kaneye began to volunteer at a private business school.
“I was teaching finance to master’s students,” he says, “but they couldn’t understand it because they didn’t know the basics. So I went to see the founder of the school, to tell him we needed more teaching hours, and he didn’t listen. And that’s when I decided to create a university in Niger.” That was in 2007, 10 years before Kaneye founded African Development University (A.D.U.).
In 2014, Kaneye came to the United States as part of the inaugural class of the Young African Leaders Initiative. He later received a Fulbright award that allowed him to study for his MBA at Bentley University and for his MC/MPA at HKS. In a design-thinking course he cross-registered for at Harvard Business School, Kaneye met Meredith Segal MC/MPA 2017, who was intrigued by his vision for a new university.
“I had been thinking about this new university for 10 years,” says Kaneye. “But when Meredith joined me in Niger after we graduated—that was when the magic started. Meredith has an incredible superpower to bring all stakeholders with different interests together around one vision.”
Segal and Kaneye convinced tribal, business, and government leaders that the new university “was a place where they could all find their own interests,” he says. And just three months after Segal arrived in Niger, in the summer of 2017, A.D.U. opened with 175 students. Kaneye’s goal is to grow it to 1,000 students by 2025.
“In the long run, educating ethical and entrepreneurial leaders in a sufficient critical mass will allow the graduates to design and drive change in the region,” says Kaneye. “I dream of a day where people will come to A.D.U. from all over the continent and all over the world, because the best education can be found here.”
Inset photo by Martha Stewart