11 November 2021
By Sazini Mojapelo Absa Group Head: Citizenship & Community Investments
Computer Science student Christopher Kuzagbe isn’t sure what he wants to do with his life yet, but one important idea is to help clean up the political scene.
Kuzagbe and some fellow Ghanaians at the African Leadership University (ALU) in Rwanda are toying with the idea of creating and connecting blockchain applications for politicians who want to show citizens how transparent they are. “We’re discussing what we can do after coming back home to lead from the ground up,” he says. “When some politicians come into the field you believe they have a genuine mindset to help the community, but their initial calling changes as they move through the system, so one of the things I intend doing is to make everything transparent.”
His idea is to meet MPs to discuss their plans for their communities, then when they are given money for a project, a website designed by Christopher would document all the money coming in and going out so citizens could see that none was lost to corruption.
“We can start to make things transparent and make citizens believe in the system again, because right now people believe they need to seek greener pastures abroad and that politicians are only in it for their own gain,” he explains. “We are still young and may not be able to move into that space, but we could empower people during their campaigns and work with the people who have good intentions.”
Christopher had never travelled out of Ghana before he enrolled at ALU. For the first year his lessons focused on leadership, giving him a good overview of what makes an effective, ethical leader and how to become one. That appealed to him because he’d already taken leadership roles as a school prefect, a house prefect at high school and by volunteering in his community.
“One way or another, wherever we ALU graduates find ourselves we are going to lead, and we need to be ethical and be able to impact our followers by doing the right thing and not making the mistakes that our leaders are making now,” he says.
Christopher is in his third year of studying Computer Science at ALU, but it took a long time to get there. Not from a lack of talent, but from a lack of money.
When he left school in 2015, he couldn’t afford university, even though he had earned a place. He took a job with a manufacturing company but every year he reapplied to remind himself of his ambition, and every year he was accepted. He also kept searching for scholarship opportunities and in 2018 he won a Mandela scholarship funded by Absa.
The courses Christopher kept being accepted for were in computer science, although at that stage he didn’t even have a computer. “I had a smartphone with a very bad battery, and I even wrote my essay to apply for the scholarship on my cellphone. It was 1,500 words and when the battery died it failed to save and I had to write it all out again, but I never gave up,” he remembers. “I kept choosing computer science because I’m a visual person and what fascinates me most is being able to code something and see the visual aspect of it.”
He can look back at where he came from and who he is becoming with pride. In the last academic year when he went home during the Covid pandemic he used his time wisely by juggling three internships: one with RuhrGold Ghana, where he created its website and social media platforms; one with Wekplace as a researcher; and one with Geeklama in marketing. He also volunteered with the youth-focused charity Hojja Africa and explored his passion for graphic design by learning Adobe’s sophisticated Photoshop, After Effects, and Lightroom software.
He’s now adept at computer design, and particularly enjoys ALU’s human-centered interaction and human-centered design modules. Whatever career he chooses will probably blend computing skills with his desire to design things that actually work well for people.
“I’m looking into fusing design and innovation and making sure that anything technological is well designed to suit the target market. Humans should be the focus of everything we do, so we don’t end up destroying ourselves with what we develop,” he says. But he doesn’t believe that artificial intelligence (AI) or robotics pose a threat to mankind as long as policies and guidelines are put in place to control what is created.
Those rapidly advancing technologies also present alluring career options. “I’m still deciding whether to move into the design aspects because that’s where my passion is, but the world is moving into AI and machine learning and I have the opportunity to be part of that ecosystem of deep learning. I’m trying to fuse both machine learning and design into one space,” he says.
“Africa needs ethical leaders, and after this Fellowship with ALU I feel that we are going to lead in our own space wherever we find ourselves.”