The immediate past President of the World Universities Debating Council, Antonio Edem Asinyo, is part of a list of distinguished young Ghanaians who have been awarded the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Chevening Scholarship for the 2020/2021 academic year.

The well-known debater and communication enthusiast has been offered admission to University of Reading’s Graduate Institute of International Development, Agriculture and Economics (GIIDAE). He will pursue a postgraduate degree in Communication for Development.

The internationally recognized debater and coach grew up in a home questioning everything, including the political views/decisions of his parents. “It wasn’t an easy beginning as a child, since my mother in particular won’t tolerate such. The culture of critical thinking and practical reasoning began from home”.

The bespectacled man said with a smile. Antonio had an enquiring mind at a young age, always yearning to learn about new things.

After gaining admission to the University Of Ghana, he established contact with old friends who were already members of the University of Ghana Debate society-that was the starting point of his love for debate. What started as a hobby later became part of his life.

He made history in 2019 when he became President of the World Universities Debate Council -the first and only African to chair the council since its establishment 40 years ago.

As coach of the University of Ghana Debate Society, he again made history with the school’s debate team by winning the Public Speaking Category of the World Universities Debating Championship in the University of Cape Town, South Africa and Assumption University, Thailand. 

For someone who has seen it all in the world of debate, choosing a memorable one was quite difficult. After a long pause he managed to remember one in December 2012 at the Tshwane University of Technology, Pretoria, South Africa.

It was the first time University of Ghana was participating in the Pan African University Debate Championship (PAUDC). “The second day of the preliminary rounds of the debate was about starting and I couldn’t find my debate partner. I was tensed and confused.

The draw was released with a motion about charismatic churches in Africa and its role in the development of the people. The rule of the British Parliamentary Style of debate is that a team only has fifteen minutes to prepare for a debate round and 7 minutes speaking time for a speaker and debating. Also, in a situation where one debates without a partner, the fellow will be iron manning and that will mean he won’t be able to secure the full 200% mark.  That meant I started the debate already disadvantaged. I had to organize myself and just debate”.

He won that debate irrespective of the challenge experienced before the commencement of the debate round. He says it made him a subject of discussion and reference during the championship that year.

“I won the Best Speaker Country and my partner Joyce Okyerewa Danso and I were award among the Top 5 University Public Speakers for the championship. That was a good start for my debating career on the international stage and we have never looked back”.

Antonio is credited with several debating initiatives and reforms. He has facilitated several debate workshops for several institutions in Ghana.

He convened the first Ghana Universities Debate Championship in 2014 and the 8th Pan African Universities Debate Championship at the University of Ghana in 2015. He also served as Chief Adjudicator for the All Nigerian Universities Debate in 2016 at Covenant University, Nigeria and 2017 at the University of Lome, Togo.

Beyond competitive global debate, he is the founder of the Institute of Public Discourse- a young, Ghanaian-based think tank aimed at shaping and improving the nature of discourse and communication among the youth and the larger populace.

His firm belief in the development of the nation’s youth and the power of communication, underscore his commitment to this cause which he hopes to push further after his study in the UK.  He is also the founder of the GreenCenta Legacy Limited- an agribusiness aimed at employing best farming practices for environmental conservation, while providing healthy produce to its clients.

He believes as the world, particularly developing countries like Ghana deals with issues of food security and challenging inequalities, supporting the role of agriculture and addressing the negative impact of climate change are of increasing importance on the global and national development agenda, so too is the role of communication in facilitating, driving, and enabling the needed change.

The man who is credited with the training of over 5,000 debaters has an advice for parents. “I will encourage parents to encourage their children to speak up and consciously motivate them to be critical. Asking questions helps you to appreciate the world is not binary. This culture will help leadership to give us the best and we will improve the quality of life in the end. Let’s debate”!

What Chevening is about

Chevening is the UK Government scholarships and fellowships that enable future leaders to study in the UK, whilst joining a global community of professionals who are creating positive change in their countries and around the world. The scheme offers unique opportunities for future leaders, influencers, and decision-makers from all over the world to develop professionally and academically, network extensively, experience UK culture, and build a lasting positive relationship with the UK.