Amoako-Gyan aims to use his MBA/MPP joint degree to help strengthen emerging economies.
Headshot of Kofi Amoako-Gyan
Kofi Amoako-Gyan

Originally from Accra, Ghana, Kofi Amoako-Gyan got his first taste of business at age 15. “I was put in charge of managing one of the trucks in my family’s trucking and farming business. I saw how the private sector can’t create things like roads, ports, and harbors on their own—they need the involvement of the government.”

Now pursuing his joint Master of Business Administration/Master of Public Policy degree at Chicago Booth School of Business and Harris School of Public Policy, Amoako-Gyan hopes to study the political constraints in which businesses operate. “I’m particularly interested in how the public and private sectors come together to do big infrastructure projects.”

Amoako-Gyan’s research interests also were bolstered by working in the field after graduating with a degree in electrical engineering from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Ghana. He spent the next year completing Ghana’s required national service as a telecoms engineer, conducting field tests and site surveys in Accra.

Eventually Amoako-Gyan headed to Dartmouth College, earning a master’s in engineering management and pivoted to energy consulting—first with the Newton Energy Group and then with Guidehouse (formerly Navigant Consulting).

In these roles, Amoako-Gyan was able to combine his passion for business with his dedication to improving infrastructure in emerging economies. One of the projects he remembers fondly was on renewable energy integration in South Africa. “South Africa relies heavily on coal power plants for their electricity. I was excited to be a part of the team helping the World Bank figure out the feasibility of still achieving reliable power supply while mitigating against high energy prices through integrating renewable energy resources into the South African electric grid. Projects like these affect people in tangible ways, and I was thrilled to be a part of it.”

While consulting, Amoako-Gyan also noticed a trend. “I realized that the sources of firm funding and the destination of these investments were matured economies and not emerging ones.” Realizing he had an opportunity to pursue his business interests while ultimately contributing to strengthening Ghana’s economy, Amoako-Gyan decided to pursue a joint MBA/MPP at University of Chicago. “I wanted to learn to speak the government’s language and understand the political constraints in which businesses work.”

Though he considered other dual degree programs, Amoako-Gyan was drawn to UChicago due to the flexibility. “After the required courses are done, Harris and Booth are a bit ‘pick your own adventure;’ I get to tailor my degree to provide the skill necessary to achieve my short and long-term goals. That was really appealing.”

Amoako-Gyan recently completed his first of the three years required for his degree. (MBA/MPP students complete one year at Harris, one at Booth, and the third is spent in cross disciplinary studies.) While at Harris, he completed the Core and took electives like Energy Economics and Policy. “Harris has been great. I’ve met some amazing people, which for me is the standout. I’ve met people I would call friends for life.”

Outside of classes, Amoako-Gyan enjoyed hearing from notable speakers. “Whether it’s the former Mayor of New Orleans, Mitch Landrieu, speaking with Bakari Sellers about uniting across racial lines in the South; or Michael Morell, former acting director of the CIA, giving a very candid speech about some of the successes and failures during his tenure at the CIA; or Mikki Kendall, the author of Hood Feminism, talking about feminism and race, the opportunities were almost limitless.”

Reflecting on his time at Harris, Amoako-Gyan realized that his motivations have changed over the years. “A few years ago, I would have said that I was motivated by the fear of failure. I’ve learned through the work I’ve done that I learn far more from failure than success. I am capable of making change, and that gives me the confidence to work towards my goal of helping improve conditions in emerging economies. Now I’m motivated by leaving some type of legacy in the Energy and Infrastructure space. I want to leave whatever I touch in a better place than I found it.”