Sitting in the studio audience for the final of Ghana’s answer to The Apprentice, Anthony Kofi Annan thought he might be better suited as a contestant.
He was right. Two years later, the 27-year-old teaching assistant triumphed in The Challenge and is now enjoying his prize: an all-expenses scholarship to study at Northumbria University.
“I went to support one of my friends, who was competing that night, and I drew inspiration from him,” says Annan, who has just completed his first term at the Newcastle-based university.
Annan, who worked in the maths department of Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, in Ghana’s second city Kumasi, before joining the show in October, was one of 12 contestants who completed business-related tasks in a format similar to that of the BBC hit show starring Lord Sugar.
But unlike competitors on The Apprentice, Annan had to get the support of the public to stay in the contest, with up to 4.5 million voting each week during the three months of filming.
He was one of three winners chosen by a panel of business experts in December. His prize is a master’s scholarship to a British university, worth around £35,000 – six times the average annual salary in the West African state.
“It was a big change,” reflects Annan on his arrival in northeast England in January.
“The weather is very different to Ghana, as is the food. I’ve found some good African shops where I can buy yams and rice, but I’ve tried fish and chips in the university refectory a few times, too,” he adds.
The learning environment at Northumbria’s Newcastle Business School, where he is taking a MSc in business and financial management, also differs from that in Ghana.
“Students in Ghana are only entitled to three hours’ internet access a day and most people can’t afford to pay for more as it’s very expensive,” he says. “Having the internet at your disposal whenever you want means you can search for electronic articles and books, making things much simpler.”
Classes at Northumbria are very different, with students encouraged to ask questions and speak their minds, says Annan.
According to the university, the student has excelled in his studies at Northumbria and is “doing [Ghana] proud”. After his course Annan aims to undertake a PhD before starting a data-driven research company in his home country.