By Toyin Falola
Some qualities are common to all visionaries: innovation, strategic planning, and giving back to society. Based on these qualities, one can rightly say that Honourable Kojo Acquah Yankah is a visionary per excellence. Honourable Yankah, who at a time served the citizens of Ghana at the Parliament, has his roots in journalism and communications right from his days as the Editor of the Daily Graphic to his role as the Director of the Ghana Institute of Journalism. These two roles are not unconnected from his eventual founding of the African University College of Communications (AUCC).
Innovation can take varied forms, either as a viable product morphed from a novel idea or an improvement on existing models or products. Thus, establishing the AUCC was a strategic and innovative move from Honourable Yankah. His was an innovation with a mission to improve how journalists and communications specialists are trained in Ghana—having overseen the affairs of the Ghana Institute of Journalism for close to a decade, who better to found an innovative school of journalism than the visionary? And so goes the story of the founding of Ghana’s first private institute of journalism and communications, the African University College of Communications.
As earlier stated, Honourable Yankah founded this school to improve on what existed, and this is better expressed in the school’s mission, which is student-focused: “The African University College of Communications aims to prepare lifelong learners to become innovative problem-solvers and ethical leaders through excellence in inter-disciplinary teaching, research, and collaboration, using a Pan-African network.” Innovation and work ethics are two qualities that every journalist must possess and hold dear. Yet, there is no gainsaying that there are several journalists who either do not know or know but have chosen not to live by and operate within the provisions of the profession’s ethics.
Such outrageous instances as journalists receiving bribes, false reports, plagiarism, failure to give due credit, and toxic workplace culture, among other issues, have built their nests on the branches of the noble journalism profession. Aside from a lack of respect or adherence to the profession’s ethics, the continent is also breeding journalists who lack an innovative and creative spirit, journalists who cannot think on the spot, improvise, or explore several perspectives on issues. This may be due in part to the limited barriers to entry into the journalism profession, such that a formal education in journalism is not a prerequisite for a journalism-based job. These issues are what the AUCC seeks to address.
Another thing that would immediately catch one’s attention, especially if one is pro-African, is how the AUCC’s mission revolves around Pan-Africanism. Honourable Yankah embodies Pan-Africanism; he is one of the most passionate Pan-Africanists of our time. This is true because he has dedicated his time, resources, and envisioned institutions to the Pan-Africanist belief, movement, and existence. One such institution is the Pan African Heritage Museum, through which he tells the African story and displays African histories the African way. In a world where everyone seems to be strategically positioning themselves for the attention, recognition, and awards that the Western world has in abundance — sometimes losing their identity and connectedness to their roots in the process — it is important to groom journalists who will key into the vision of Pan-Africanism and deploy the available tools and resources in journalism for the promotion of African cultures, heritages, and people, and the AUCC has successfully ticked these marks. The AUCC is the quintessential African-themed higher institution of learning. Everything about the College, including how students are trained, the research focus, the College’s colours and logo, vision, and values, all project Pan-Africanism.
One of the things I cultivated the habit of doing from early on in life and which has immensely shaped me as a historian is the capacity to reminisce about visualizing. Reminiscing to visualize means looking back and doing retrospection and introspection to prepare for what is to come and shape how one wants the future. As the African University College of Communications marks 20 years of existence, there will be several plans on the part of the management and administration to plan for the future as the journey of another milestone has started. However, the historian in me will look back to look forward. In the 20 years it has existed, how has the College committed to its mission and vision? The successes and achievements of the AUCC these past 20 years have been in leaps and bounds. The College has grown from an institute of journalism into a new-age university with advanced programs in journalism, communications, business administration, and business information and communication technology. Professor Abeku Blankson, the College’s President, and the university’s administration have steered the ship to wondrous sails, facilitating strategic collaborations and sending well-trained journalists, business analysts, and communication specialists to the African industries.
Aside from the strategic collaboration and networking through which the institution has earned beneficial opportunities, several centres and institutes are also set up to benefit students, Ghana as a nation, and Africa as a continent. These institutes include the Kwabena Nketia Centre for Africana Studies, the African University College of Communications Pensions Academy, the Executive Education Center, and the Ama Ata Aidoo Centre for Creative Writing. What started with 60 students as a private institute of journalism poised to improve journalism training has become a world-class and award-winning higher institution of learning that has produced thousands of students.
In addition, the AUCC keeps a strong database of its alumni body, with a job board designed to help place its graduates in suitable roles of their choice. This innovative move is often absent in several higher institutions on the continent. Having a job board and support system for graduates means that when they find their footing and become leaders of industries, giving back to the institution that shaped them will be a priority. In adopting this move, the AUCC is like a world-class institution that prioritizes its alumni network and benefits immensely.
The past has been good for the AUCC, but the future can be so much better, and it seems this message is not lost on the institution’s founder, management, and administration. In selecting “Re-Imaging UACC: Excellence in Education within the Context of Pan-Africanism and Digitization” as the theme for the institution’s 20th anniversary, the visionary and forward-thinking nature of the founder and the administrative body comes to the fore once more. This theme demonstrates that the university recognizes how far it has come, is in alignment with its vision and mission, understands global trends and how technology is shaping the future and has made plans to strategically position itself for the coming decades while effectively training its students.
I have advocated for technology-driven courses at African universities and am particularly excited that the African University College of Communications has made digitization and Pan-Africanism the core of its focus going forward. For an institution as forward-thinking as this in its planning, it will be no surprise if the study of digital media becomes a core course for students at the AUCC. This will give every student of the institution some edge over the average student of communications and journalism in several, if not all, other African universities. Undoubtedly, our continent needs the innovative, visionary, forward-thinking, and strategic spirit of Honourable Yankah and Professor Blanson in more persons than two.
Congratulations to Honourable Yankah, the Board of Directors, the Management, staff, students, and alumni of the African University College of Communications on celebrating this historic milestone.