Project Background

A message from the Kader Kaneye and Meredith Segal, co-Founders of A.D.U.:

“Why in the world would you choose Niger as a place to found a university? Wait, where is Niger again?” Conversations often start like this.

We met as classmates at the Harvard Kennedy School as member of the Master’s of Public Administration Class of 2017. At Peet’s Coffee, Kad first shared with Meredith the story of Niger–its challenges as the poorest country in the world. Its beautiful people. All the work to be done in terms of economics, politics, youth, women. Its potential. How the lack of human capital, a result of the lack of quality education opportunities, was a common root of all these problems.

Through a stroke of serendipity, we both enrolled in the Design Thinking course at the Harvard Innovation Labtaught by the lab’s Faculty Chair, Professor Srikant Datar. There, we decided to work on creating a solution that would address the set of challenges faced by Niger by working on the design of a university for which Kad had been laying the groundwork throughout his participation in the Young African Leadership Initiative (YALI) and in a Fulbright program at Bentley University

So, we never set out to create a university.  Rather, we set out to do something to transform Niger, defined education as the critical gap, and determined that a world-class university would be the vehicle to create talent prepared to enter the workforce equipped with the knowledge, leadership skills, critical thinking, ethics, and collaborative mindset necessary to design and drive the transformation of Niger, the Sahel region, and the continent.

After graduating from Harvard in May 2017, we took the conversations that began in a classroom in Cambridge to Niamey, Niger.

We spent three months working tirelessly day and night touring potential buildings, designing and handing out flyers, speaking at an endless schedule of events, recruiting and organizing a group of dedicated volunteers (now staff), soliciting partners from around the world, cleaning an old donated space, then renovating and painting the building, and preparing for an opening day determined not to be postponed despite so many unpredictable events.

Between July and September, we met with several hundred parents, students, tribal chiefs, religious leaders, NGO directors, government officials (including the President and First Lady of Niger), diplomatic representatives, and corporate executives. Surprisingly, we received a similar response from these divergent stakeholders: 1) they believed in our vision; 2) they felt Niger urgently needed the type of university we were describing; 3) they would do everything in their power to support the effort.

On October 16, 2017, the US Ambassador delivered A.D.U.’s convocation speech and cut the ribbon officially opening the A.D.U. campus and commencing the 3-year adventure of the Obama cohort, A.D.U.’s first 41 undergraduate students.

Today–in July 2018–this cohort personifies our vision.  Almost 70% are women.  70% of students receive some form of financial aid.  20% are on full scholarships.  100% are embarking upon internships with international NGOs, government entities, and top domestic and international companies.

Looking ahead, we are focused on raising awareness of our work and building new relationships.  We are identifying more of the high potential students from across the Sahel region to expand.  We are establishing additional partnerships with world-class institutions to allow us to continue to deliver the most modern, up-to-date institution (as we write this, we are sitting at Ashesi University after recent visits to Oxford University and Harvard University, en route to the University of Pennsylvania, Georgetown, and Northwestern).  We are raising the necessary funds to enable us to keep our promises to our students and to build a campus that will become the hub of excellence in Francophone West Africa.

Whether you’re a prospective student or parent, a future colleague, someone looking to contribute your time or resources, or a visionary with other ideas for how to join us in changing the world, we can’t wait to meet you.

With gratitude,
Kad & Meredith