Ghana’s Shadrack Frimpong, who went from abject poverty to global acclaim, has been awarded an Honorary doctorate from Royal Holloway, University of London based on his work as a social entrepreneur.
A PhD student in Public Health and Primary Care at the University of Cambridge and a Gates Scholar, Frimpong is also the founder and CEO of Cocoa360, which is transforming lives, particularly farming communities in Ghana. Royal Holloway, University of London said the Ghanaian student’s work facilitating communities to develop, enabling subsidized healthcare and providing free education to young women are inspirational to its students.
Indeed, Frimpong’s life story is inspiring. Born to a peasant farmer and charcoal seller in the cocoa-farming village of Tarkwa Breman in Ghana’s Western Region, he defied numerous odds to succeed. Frimpong was inspired to pursue a medical career after suffering a life-threatening infection as a young boy in his village. At the time, his two legs were almost amputated since local herbalists couldn’t find a cure; yet, he “miraculously” survived the infection.
“This experience taught me about the importance of second chances, which I like to term as ‘life’s greatest miracle.’ I have since committed to live a life that will provide others with second chances too,” Frimpong told Face2Face Africa.
With the help of a Ghana Cocoa Board scholarship, Frimpong was able to enroll at Opoku Ware School in Kumasi, Ghana, and later joined the University of Pennsylvania in the United States, where he graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Biology in 2015 as a flagbearer, university scholar, and the first Black student to be awarded the prestigious $150,000 President’s Prize.
While in college, Frimpong founded the Tarkwa Breman Community Alliance (now Cocoa360), which began running a school for girls and a community hospital back in his village funded by proceeds from a cocoa plantation in Tarkwa-Breman.
Frimpong also became the founder of the Students for a Healthy Africa, offering free health insurance for HIV/AIDS orphans in Ghana and running a health clinic and water well in two communities in Nigeria. He further founded the African Research Academies for Women, a fellowship that bridges the gap between male and female scientists in Africa through yearly summer research internships.
In 2019, he was appointed as the editor of the Yale Journal of Health Policy, Law and Ethics at Yale University while offering a Master of Public Health – MPH at the University, studying Global Health. His work has since been recognized by the U.S. White House, Ghana’s Flagstaff House, and former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan. He has also had an opportunity to dine with the world’s most powerful people, including former U.S. President Bill Clinton.
Six years ago, he won the Future Award in the 2017 Ghana Legacy Honors for his involvement in community health and education for poor children in his village, Tarkwa-Breman, which the organizers believed will shape Ghana’s future.
“It is an endorsement of our collective efforts in healing and empowering lives in rural Ghana,” he said of the award. “It symbolizes a belief in the resilience and strength of rural Ghanaian farmers and their unique ability to re-channel that energy in sustaining social services like education and health care in their own community.”
Other awards Frimpong has received include the prestigious Samuel Huntington Public Service Award, Forbes 30 under 30 list of top social entrepreneurs around the world, the Clinton Foundation’s CGIU Honor Roll, and the Muhammad Ali Award, which recognizes global activists who work towards social change under age thirty, his website says. Queen Elizabeth II also awarded him the Queen’s Young Leader Award at Buckingham Palace.
For Frimpong, his parents are his biggest inspiration because, in spite of their abject poverty, they worked hard to provide him and his brother with the opportunities they never had. His greatest wish is to see Africa become a place where health equity, with a particular focus on rural medicine, and gender equality in accessing education is a basic human right and not a privilege.