Tan Sri Limkokwing – A True Friend of Africa
There’s an iconic South African election campaign poster with the late Nelson Mandela surrounded by children of different ethnicities.
Almost everyone would recognize it upon sight, and even for those who don’t, its impact is just as strong.
It features a smiling Mr Mandela surrounded by kids with toothy grins – with the African National Congress campaign slogan A Better Life for All.
What is well-known is that Mr Mandela and his party enjoyed resounding success in the elections of 1994 and the joyous celebration following the victory resonated not only across Africa but around the world.
The elections were closely watched by the international community because it was the first time in South Africa’s history that citizens of all races were allowed to vote, marking a four-year process that ended apartheid.
But what many do not know is that this iconic poster and slogan is the brainchild of a Malaysian - Tan Sri Dato’ Sri Paduka Dr Limkokwing, the Founder and President of Limkokwing University of Creative Technology.
My Friend Madiba
Though he is too humble to mention it, Tan Sri Limkokwing was instrumental in Mr Mandela’s victory – from using his own company to produce 60 tonnes of ANC billboards, to providing the winning strategy behind Mr Mandela’s successful campaign.
“Your untiring efforts on our behalf have touched the hearts of us all and you have shown true friendship and solidarity with the people of South Africa and our endeavour to transform South Africa into a free, just and democratic country,” Mr Mandela said in an official letter to Tan Sri Limkokwing following his election victory.
Shortly after, Tan Sri Limkokwing arranged for Mr Mandela to meet with Malaysian Prime Minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who was also a long-time friend and avid supporter of the African leader.
While introducing the Malaysian delegation, Tun Mahathir was suddenly stopped by Mr Mandela, just as he was about to introduce Tan Sri Limkokwing.
“Let me introduce you to a South African,” Mr Mandela said to Tun Mahathir, as the former smiled at Tan Sri Limkokwing.
It is during the time that both men spent together, figuring out a way to bring a fractured and wounded nation back together, that Tan Sri Limkokwing’s love affair with Africa began.
It is a love affair that endures to this day.
As one of Asia’s most respected communications and creative maestros, Tan Sri Limkokwing has been called upon by five of Malaysia’s six Prime Ministers for his talent and expertise in cultivating harmony in a multi-ethnic, multi-religious nation.
His vision and guidance has been relied upon both in good times, and during the darkest hours of Malaysia’s history.
Tan Sri Limkokwing is also officially recognized as the Father of Innovation in Creative Education in Malaysia and the region.
In November 2017, he was bestowed the Commonwealth Champions Award, which recognises individuals who have contributed to the Commonwealth, with the values and charter in mind.
Tan Sri Limkokwing is only the eighth recipient of the prestigious award, which is given in recognition for helping young people, the underprivileged, and communities within developing states.
With his vast knowledge and understanding of Africa, Tan Sri Limkokwing also served as Malaysia’s Special Envoy to the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
With such an undeniable track record of excellence, and coupled with his work with Mr Mandela, it is not surprising that many leaders from across Africa have also sought to work with Tan Sri Limkokwing.
Among all the continents on earth, Africa’s average population is by far the youngest, due to the rapid pace of population growth over the past 40 years.
With a large and growing pool of young talent, and an abundance of natural resources, Africa is widely seen today as a shining star with limitless potential.
But this was not the general consensus just a couple of decades ago.
“Africa is vibrant, Africa is exotic. Africa is rich. Tell me why everyone is saying Africa is poor?” Tan Sri Limkokwing once lamented during a presentation on the potential of Africa at the Langkawi International Dialogue in 2007.
Tan Sri Limkokwing has long envisioned a bright future for Africa, and true to his beliefs, he has ventured further than many others, investing his time and money to unlock the true potential of the continent and its people.
Many years before Limkokwing University Botswana was established, hundreds of young people from across the continent had travelled to Cyberjaya, Malaysia to study at the flagship global campus.
Botswana was spending a significant amount of money to send its best students abroad, similar to what Malaysia was doing decades earlier.
Spurred by growing concerns about the trend in other African countries, in 2005, Tan Sri Limkokwing first began creating a blueprint for his first campus in Africa.
The first campus opened at Fairgrounds Mall in May 2007 but due to overwhelming demand, a second campus had to be opened in Block Six the following month.
By July 2008, Limkokwing University Botswana had moved into a purpose-built campus – the biggest Limkokwing campus to date – eclipsing even the main campus in Cyberjaya.
In 2015, it was recognised as the Best Private University in the country at the Botswana Tertiary Education Fair.
A decade on, over 950 students graduated in Gaborone on 6 October 2017, with Tan Sri Limkokwing in attendance at the historic occasion.
“Today, 10 years later we have graduated some 14,000 young people who are today the most accomplished in their chosen fields, not only in this country but anywhere in Africa,” he said in keynote address at the convocation.
At the same event, Honourable Mokgweetsi Masisi, who is now the President of Botswana, paid tribute to the University.
“I am consciously aware that the University is a unique and hugely successfully global institution which, while being unconventional, nevertheless adheres to high quality assurance standards and offers a portfolio of courses directly relevant to the economies of developing countries such as Botswana.”
The Kingdom of Lesotho has set a goal of becoming a unified and prosperous, stable democracy under its Vision 2020 national blueprint.
It previously had only two institutions of higher learning, but they were beyond the reach of many young people in the country.
This all changed in August 2008 when Limkokwing University Lesotho opened its doors in Maseru, with a pioneer batch of 1,200 students enrolled in 54 programmes like design, IT and architecture.
Some nine years later, almost 800 graduates were celebrated in a special ceremony, themed The Future is now in Your Hands.
“The feedback I received from industry professionals demonstrate that Limkokwing graduates are industry-ready upon completion of their studies, and already many Limkokwing graduates are assuming leadership roles within their respective industries,” said Deputy Prime Minister, Honourable Monyane Moleleki.
The sentiment was echoed by the Minister of Education and Training.
“Limkokwing University has changed tertiary education in this country not only irreversibly but also immeasurably for the better, in line with the 21st century thinking and problem-solving,” said Honourable Mokhele Moletsasne.
In 2011, Limkokwing University eSwatini opened in the capital city of Mbabane.
Taking into account feedback from policymakers, Tan Sri Limkokwing ensured that the programs offered by the Mbabane campus were aligned with the needs of the country under eSwatini’s Vision 2022.
This national development roadmap is similar to those in Botswana and Lesotho, all of which are modelled on Malaysia’s Vision 2020.
His Majesty, King Mswati III, gave Limkokwing University a glowing recommendation, saying that ever since its establishment, it has helped point the nation in the right direction to become a First World country by the year 2022.
Since opening its doors, Limkokwing University eSwatini has continued to train and equip the youngest and brightest in the Kingdom for the challenges which still lie ahead.
The latest batch of over 800 student leaders and young entrepreneurs graduated on 13 October 2017.
“The days of learning to be an employee are over. Now is the time where students must learn how to become entrepreneurs. This is indeed the platform that has been placed by Limkokwing on our students,” said King Mswati III, in his royal address to the graduating class.
With its huge reserve of precious resources including gold and diamonds, this tiny West African nation should be one of the richest countries in the world.
The third biggest diamond ever discovered was found in Sierra Leone in 1972 – a 969.8 carat monster known as the ‘Star of Sierra Leone’.
Years of civil war had taken its toll on the country and its people, but the future is looking brighter under the country’s ‘Agenda for Prosperity’.
Limkokwing University Sierra Leone was scheduled to open in November 2014, but its launch was deferred due to the Ebola outbreak that put the country in full lockdown in September 2014.
While many expatriates fled the country for safety, the Limkokwing team remained, providing assistance to the government and the people.
Not only driven to change the lives of young people in the developing world, Tan Sri Limkokwing was just as passionate in fighting the life-threatening epidemic.
He was behind the powerful ‘Stop Ebola’ campaign implemented under the National Plan for the Eradication of Ebola, which not only helped put the outbreak in check, but also lifted the collective spirit of a population under siege.
Campaign materials were produced in Malaysia and air-freighted to Sierra Leone – all at Tan Sri Limkokwing’s own expense.
“We welcome this intervention by the university and look forward to putting Ebola behind us so we can work together towards the transformation of this great country,” said H.E. Dr Ernest Bai Koroma, the President of Sierra Leone, in thanking the University and its Founder for their valiant effort and sacrifice.
“We could have evacuated but we also wanted to show the world that we are not running away. We are Malaysians and we are flying the Malaysian flag. We are where we are needed the most,” said Tan Sri Lim Limkokwing, adding that Ebola is not an African problem but a global threat.
Today, the Limkokwing campus in Freetown offers diplomas and degrees in many fields, including Tourism Management, Entrepreneurship, and International Business, with thousands of students being equipped with the skills needed to bring their nation forward.
The Journey Ahead
With campuses now operating in four different African nations, Tan Sri Limkokwing still has plans to expand the Limkokwing brand of creative and innovative education across the continent.
Meanwhile in the pipeline, plans are underway to open Limkokwing University global campuses in Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda and South Africa.
Looking back at his achievements in Africa so far, he believes all the hard work has been worth it.
“The students are our greatest supporters. They are the most successful in their countries. Most are offered jobs before they even graduate,” said Tan Sri Limkokwing, seemingly more passionate than ever to ensure as many young people benefit from his University’s education model.
“We have very clear roles to play in Africa, Central Asia and the Middle East. We contribute directly to their human capital development and help build people and countries.”
Be sure to check out the latest edition of Limkokwing: Transform Africa - an inspiring and heartwarming account of Tan Sri Limkokwing’s journey in setting up Limkokwing University campuses across Africa, the seemingly impossible challenges he faced, and how he successfully propagated his visions of innovation and creative education beyond Malaysian shores.