‘Be ambitious but stay humble’ were the wise words of advice that John Agyekum Kufuor gave us, when my colleagues and I visited him at his residence in Kumasi in November 2017.

As members of the inaugural class of the Kufuor Scholars Program (KSP), we paid a courtesy call on the revered former President whose vision and investments birthed the program, whilst en route to Behenase in the Ashanti Region.

We were on one of our routine ‘giving back’ trips with a medical team to offer a variety of health screening services to about 200 children. These wise words of the former President urging us to temper ambition with humility, sum up the lifelong principles learned from the KSP that has defined my approach to life to date.

That principle is what propelled me to go study and excel at one of the world’s most competitive universities, the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), changing the course of my life forever.

When I say the Kufuor Scholars Program (KSP) was life-changing, I mean every word of that statement. The intensive induction summer camp in rural Atebubu, the frequent guest lectures, and the yearly retreats where scholars camped and engaged on a critical mix of topics spiced with intellectually heated debates, inspired something unique in us.

If I were to summarise my KSP experience and its impacts on my life in two words, they’d be ‘positive ambition’. KSP taught me the ambition to aspire and reach for not just the sky, but every positive thing I can imagine even if it is beyond my sky!

KSP – A great pillar of support

My lived experiences and most of the people I admire and take inspiration from, either have a background in development practice or are very impactful development practitioners. Clearly, this shaped my own interests growing up. When I became a Kufuor Scholar and had the opportunity to speak with different people and experts, the choice of a career became clearer.

Again, thanks to KSP, I was fortunate to have a professional mentor, whose exploits in social development at the time won him the World Bank’s Global Partnership for Social Accountability (GPSA) Award for Leadership in Social Accountability for the African region. 

This much-needed opportunity from KSP meant the world to me. It put my career on the right path, giving me more clarity on what to pursue and giving me access to the best in the field.

With clarity on what I wanted to do, I became determined to pursue that dream from the best of places, hence my decision to go study for an MSc in Development Management (with Applied Development Economics specialism) at the London School of Economics and Political Science as a Chevening Scholar.

Chevening is a competitive scholarship scheme run by the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) of the UK. 

In preparation for my scholarship interview, I fell on my KSP networks to practice through mock interviews with two other KSP colleagues who had applied for the same scholarship.

The practice and experience sharing with these colleagues proved highly useful in the eventual award of my Chevening Scholarship, which made my dream to study at the LSE a reality.

One other thing that forms part of my KSP experience is the importance of finding a purpose and reason for our pursuits. Of the many top schools that I could have applied to, I was fixated on LSE because I was convinced the school was the right place to acquire the training needed to pursue my life goals.

Professionally, I want to build capacity in international development consultancy and policy advisory at the top level, to support governments and development agencies. The LSE ticked this box because the department that I chose to study at, offers opportunities for students to work on live consultancy projects for top international development organisations.

I consulted for the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) in London on “Enhancing Accountability in Public Service Delivery,” with a focus on legislative oversight and social accountability in developing countries using Ghana, Kenya, and Uganda as case studies.

Clearly, the LSE is a top-rated school. But the school’s Department of International Development where I earned my master’s degree is more highly rated.

When I was studying for my MSc in the department, the school was ranked 2nd place with Harvard University globally for international development studies. Classes and academic engagements there were based on assertiveness, independence, originality of thoughts, and intellectual debate of ideas, including those of the professors.

Naturally, I should struggle in this sort of environment given the stark contrast to my educational orientation in Ghana. However, I survived, partly because of the exposure KSP gave me. At the KSP camps and meetings, we had positively heated discussions on issues, and we were encouraged to make and defend our positions intellectually.

This background made my adapting to my new and more competitive environment at the LSE quite seamless, and I got along in no time. In the end, I didn’t just survive, but actually excelled and graduated with a distinction!

Taken together, my KSP and LSE experiences have made me a better person in many respects. The transformation is remarkable and looking into the future - of course in the spirit of being “ambitious with humility” as President Kufuor admonishes - I can only be grateful for how these experiences have built me to reach out and pursue my highest dreams.

I’m, nonetheless, humbled by the diverse opportunities available to me now to serve others and make positive impacts in the world. That is the whole essence of leadership as KSP advocates.


Aaron Atimpe is a beneficiary of the Kufuor Scholars Program (KSP) Class of 2018

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DISCLAIMER: The Views, Comments, Opinions, Contributions and Statements made by Readers and Contributors on this platform do not necessarily represent the views or policy of Multimedia Group Limited.