NSBE Ghana’s 20th Anniversary Features a Visit by U.S.-based Members
 
It’s been two decades since André Willis, then NSBE’s national chair, led a delegation from the U.S. to Ghana to explore plans to expand the student-led organization to the continent of Africa. This past August, Willis, now a NSBE national advisor, joined another U.S. delegation from the Society to participate in NSBE Ghana’s 20th Anniversary celebration and 11th International Conference. The combined events took place at the University of Ghana, in Accra, and nearby venues, Aug. 15–18, and were centered on the theme, “Empowering Ghana’s Sustainable Development Through Innovative STEM Education.”
 
Highlights of the conference activities included high-level speakers from academia and government; panel discussions on topics such as “Entrepreneurship and Innovation in STEM” and “Women in Science in Engineering”; tours of engineering sites around the country; engineering and science project exhibitions by pre-collegiate students; a health screening in an underserved community outside of Accra; and meetings with government, corporate and U.S. Embassy officials to increase awareness of NSBE’s work and expand opportunities for NSBE Ghana.
 
The 150 participants in the international event came from Ghana, Nigeria, Gambia, Rwanda and the United States. NSBE National Chair Niasia T. Williams, NSBE National Chair Emeritus Matthew C. Nelson, NSBE National Advisory Board Chair S. Gordon Moore, NSBE National Advisory Board members Tony Harris and André Willis, Region I NSBE Professionals Chair Ledum Nordee, NSBE Region II Advisor Christina Achampong and NSBE Executive Director Karl W. Reid, Ed.D., formed the U.S. delegation, which was hosted by NSBE Ghana Executive Director Abdulai Imoro, NSBE Ghana Programs Director Billy James Dega, and Kweku Fleming, a NSBE Ghana advisor and former NSBE national chair who now resides in Ghana. The event attendees included six current or former NSBE national chairs — Williams, Willis, Nelson, Moore, Reid and Fleming — and a NSBE founder, Tony Harris.
 
 “The U.S. delegation visit contributed immeasurably to the success of our 20th Anniversary and the entire conference,” Imoro wrote. “…We have also met our goal of getting the message out there to our partners, both in the government sector and Corporate Ghana and (in) other organizations, about our existence and the relevant role we play in promoting the study of science and engineering in our schools and among the youth.”
 
Regarding the plans for NSBE Ghana’s growth, “Our biggest challenge is the total lack of funding for our programs,” Imoro wrote. “We have expanded greatly in terms of our reach and STEM programs and activities, and this needs a lot of corporate support and other sources of funding…. The unavailability of funds or corporate sponsorship is hindering our mission of increasing the number of youth venturing into STEM careers and its related fields.”
 
NSBE Chair Emeritus Nelson notes the barriers to STEM careers facing many Ghanaian youth.
 
“The Ghanaian education system differs from (that of ) the U.S. in a few ways,” he says. “First, senior high school in Ghana is not free, so there is a financial burden for continued education. The curriculum is structured in a way that students must take prerequisites for their intended profession as early as 13. So if a student is not on a STEM track, (he or she) will not have taken the necessary math courses to get accepted into an engineering program. In addition, many programs are heavily theory-based because of a lack of lab equipment, research and internship opportunities.”

The obstacles to employment of NSBE Ghana and other African members also tend to be higher than for those in the U.S., adds Dr. Reid.
 
“…Integrated internships and permanent job opportunities in their field of study are not readily available, since the pipeline between school and work for many African-trained engineers is not as well-articulated as it is in the U.S.,” Dr. Reid says. “NSBE is working to close this gap by facilitating connections between the West African operations and divisions of our U.S.-based Board of Corporate Affiliates partners and NSBE Ghana. It is our hope that by building these bridges, NSBE can be a catalyst to broker employment opportunities to meet the growing demand for home-grown talent among our multinational partners.”
 
Nelson says “a big vision,” strategy, and financial, social, political and human capital are needed to solve the complex problems NSBE is confronting in Ghana and elsewhere.
 
The recent Ghana trip was one of many to Africa for Tony Harris. But the conference/celebration was his first visit to western Africa or to a NSBE event in Africa.
 
“The NSBE founders often talked about NSBE one day being ‘big and significant, with global impact,’ but those were only words….” Harris says. “We had no clue what that actually might look like. (Seeing NSBE Ghana today is) like planting an apple seed and talking about one day eating apple pies, then returning 40 years later to see an entire apple orchard and pie factory! None of us could have imagined the impact the organization has had on so many lives worldwide.”
 
“I am amazed by the energy and hopefulness of the NSBE Africa (Ghana, Gambia and Nigeria) membership,” Harris continues. “It is also amazing to see what a few committed individuals can accomplish. They have created an organization with no resources whatsoever and continue to have a voice after 20 years!”