Ghanaian Students Win Global Challenge

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Students from Heritage Christian College in Accra, Ghana, West Africa, won the Grand Prize at the Global Social Innovation Challenge, besting 49 other university teams from six continents. The event celebrates "student-led social ventures focused on sustainable societal and environmental change."

Benjamin Nketsia, Austin Carboo, and Evans Kwarkye, the members of Team Charcoal

The three members of Team Charcoal pose on the campus at Heritage Christian College, Accra, Ghana. From left: Benjamin Nketsia, Austin Carboo, and Evans Kwarkye.

"The victory conferred sudden and prestigious validation on Heritage Christian College's Center for Entrepreneurship, Philanthropy, and Ethics, founded earlier this year."

In a resounding win over worldwide competition, a team of students from Heritage Christian College (HCC) in Ghana has come away with the Grand Prize in the Global Social Innovation Challenge (GSIC), a “social venture pitch competition that recognizes, resources, and rewards student-led social ventures focused on sustainable change,” as its organizers describe it. The GSIC is an initiative of the University of San Diego's Center for Peace and Commerce.

According to one observer, the HCC team took the competition “by storm.” The winning effort was a business plan for converting human waste into charcoal.

The victory was all the more remarkable, within the Ghana contingent at least, for the fact that it conferred sudden and prestigious validation on an initiative launched by Heritage Christian College mere months ago. The college's Center for Entrepreneurship, Philanthropy, and Ethics (CEPE)—recognized as a strategic partner of “Team Charcoal”—debuted as recently as March 17. CEPE serves in part as an incubator for ideas hatched by HCC students. Both CEPE and its parent entity, HCC, receive funding support from Heritage Christian College Foundation, USA.

According to (“Dream big. Start small.”), some 80 percent of households on the African continent depend on wood and charcoal as a primary energy source. Charcoal, in its traditional form, is produced from wood. One of the environmental advantages of the Team Charcoal solution is that, because it is made from human waste, their charcoal helps reduce deforestation, which is a problem that's rampant across the continent. Their charcoal is sanitized for safe handling and it burns clean, thus helping reduce atmospheric emissions.

The win for Team Charcoal also marked yet another comeuppance for the nation of Ghana, and its capital, Accra (home to HCC), which in recent years has been recognized as one of Africa's bright spots for education and innovation. In June, Google announced that they are building an artificial intelligence research center in Accra. It will be Google's only such center on the African continent.

The stated purposed of the CEPE is to improve the lives of students and faculty through ventures in ethical and viable opportunities. Overarching that aim, of course, is the Center's expressed three-fold purpose: its values of entrepreneurship, philanthropy, and ethics were embraced as qualities essential to carrying out the school's mission to “promote transformative education through active engagement in scholarship, creative pursuits, servant-leadership, and global competence.”

Leadership at HCC was elated with the win, which they feel puts a stamp of authentication on the college's entrepreneurship-focused directions.

The Global Social Innovation Challenge, held on the campus of the University of San Diego, featured 50 teams from 12 different nations on six continents. Its June 23 finals saw Team Charcoal win not only the $15,000 grand prize but the Audience Choice Award as well.

Team Charcoal was comprised of students Evans Kwarkye, Benjamin Nketsia, and Austin Carboo. Each is a second-year student in the college's Business Administration program.

Displaying confidence and a thorough grasp of their subject matter, Kwarkye, Nketsia, and Carboo took the stage during the finals event and concisely shared a summation of their efforts. Each took the microphone in turn as they highlighted the need for this remedy, the steps of the process, and the far-reaching implications of their idea.

Participants in GSIC, an annual event, take a social or environmental issue and identify gaps in the approaches currently deployed to solve this issue. They create a viable business plan based on a new potential solution that can address these gaps. The event celebrates students “making sustainable social and environmental change and impact worldwide.” Participants thus contribute to the “Five P's: people, planet, profit, peace, and partnership.”

Participants pitch their venture to a panel of judges for up to $50,000 in funding and other resources. They also gain invaluable entrepreneurial experience, mentoring, and network connections to propel their change-making journey to the next level.

To watch the event's finals in their entirety, visit the following link:

For background on the CEPE unit at HCC, visit this link:
For more information, contact:

Conrad Kakraba

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Heritage Christian College Foundation, USA
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