Manji Cheto ’19 Talks Leadership, Pan-Africanism and Business

Manji Cheto ’19 Talks Leadership, Pan-Africanism and Business

Author: Tumiso Kevin Mokakangwe

“I grew up at a time where it wasn’t so cool to be African, I think things have changed now, and thank God for that,” said Manji Cheto ’19 as she shares more about her journey into the MBA programme, her life after the programme and coming back to the intensives as a judge for The Arena.

Her Story

“I am uncomfortable with just being good at something and staying good at something. I always like to push the boundaries of my knowledge, whether it is work or education, so I’m fiercely ambitious. And I truly believe that it is by always walking towards progress that things change. Transformation does not happen by a stroke of luck. It happens by the deliberate efforts of people who collectively come together to say that the status quo is no longer acceptable. Whether it is personal decisions or work decisions that I make;  I always think about the impact it has on the things that I care about, which are African progression, African Development, and African empowerment as well. 

When I was growing up, the only headlines that you saw about the continent were negative headlines. At some point in time, as a child, you look at yourself in the mirror and you feel despair because you come from a community that is associated with negativity. As you develop, you also recognise you can’t change who you are, so you basically have to be the best version of you. I had to ask myself what the best version of myself was and then it clicked in my head that I had to find other Africans who felt the same way as me. Africans who felt frustrated with this negative stereotype of where we’re from. Working with those people, to build our collective self-esteem and to work towards progress, is how you can change the way that the world actually perceives you. And you can only do that with the collective effort of people who share a common vision with you.”

Pan-Africanism

“Pan-Africanism is Africans coming together to recognise and celebrate our diversity, but also what makes us united.  We’re united in history, we have cultural similarities. Our social evolution, our economic evolution, our political evolution, and actually seeing all of this is what makes us unique, and that we can leverage on the past mistakes and past progress and actually push towards a future that looks much better than the past that we’re coming from. Because we’re starting to recognise that something that happens within the national boundaries of one country also impacts us we can relate to it. And actually, we can stand in solidarity with those people.”

Africa in the next 10 years

“I think I will be guided by trends, let’s start with the demographic trend. The continent is young, and I think will remain young for the next 10 years. So what we will see is actually a rapid adoption of technology much faster and driven by young people. We are going to be moving towards progress technologically and economically. Inevitably, with economic progress, we’ll also more likely have commerce slowed down, in birth rates, because the more economically advanced people get, birth rates generally tend to drop because more people are kind of in the workforce. And so I think the demographic trend right now will take us to a future where technology adoption is much faster and with that, huge headwinds in the political and social space.”

“Transformation does not happen by a stroke of luck. It happens by the deliberate efforts of people who collectively come together to say that the status quo is no longer acceptable.”

Moving back to Nigeria & ULesson

“Before my time at ALUSB, I was travelling on the continent and felt the need to come back to Africa in my spirit.  I’ve been in management consulting up until then, and I was thinking about a career change. And so I thought to myself, okay, fine, I’ll do an MBA. I came across ALUSB and got accepted. When I got to Kigali, it was the first time I was surrounded by a group of inspirational and influential Africans within my own generation. How powerful would it be? Each of us with the knowledge that we learn here, we take it back to our respective countries, and then we create a network and that network creates a network. So as I was going through the MBA, I knew I was going to move back to Nigeria. I was living in the UK at the time of working for the London Stock Exchange. I thought I was going to come back and start my own business and then the ULesson opportunity came up. I spoke to the founder about Africa’s greatest resource and we both obviously agree that the continent’s greatest resource was human capital. And then we asked ourselves; ‘If there was something that we could do to dramatically change the continent, what would it be?’ And the answer was simple: education.

When it comes to education in Africa, there are some really staggering statistics. The reality is that even if governments were pouring more money into the continent, our young population is growing so fast that the only way you can bridge that gap is with technology. I started to look at things like internet penetration, and year on year on year and it’s getting deeper. We needed something that could increase or improve the quality and delivery of education. I wanted to be part of something that had the ability to really transform lives on the continent. That was the reason why I moved back home and I could not be happier, really.”

Being part of the ALUSB MBA class of 2019

“I had no real expectations, I had an open heart and an open mind. But I came out with a complete shift of thinking. You become very people-centred, you know, every decision that you make, you start to think about how this affects this person? How does this affect my unit? How is my team going to perceive my leadership? How do my leadership decisions make other people feel? It gave me a lot of confidence; when you start this programme, you tap into this amazing network of people that can help you get things done. Where before that I probably would have been more hesitant. For the aspiring leader who wants to join ALUSB, I would say that you should be in the moment, be present, and persevere as well. Your decisions are having an impact on your business and on the lives of people. But also be patient with yourself, it is doable for anybody if you have the right attitude.”

Coming back in 2020 as a judge for the Intensives

“I was listening to a lot of the pitches and it made me realise that the greatness of entrepreneurs is the ability to dream big. And I think that if you’re not dreaming big, then you need to ask yourself whether you’re truly an entrepreneur and if entrepreneurship is for you. So I tried to sort of balance out, allowing people to dream big, but also help them see where the potential pitfalls are.”

ALUSB 2020 Recap

ALUSB 2020 Recap

Author: Tumiso Kevin, ALUSB Intern

As we prepare to bid farewell to the extraordinary year of 2020 and make our way into 2021, we would like to take a moment to appreciate the past year. Like many organisations on the continent, 2020 demanded that we step up our game. Despite the twists and turns, ALU School of Business has much to be proud of and grateful for in 2020.

Take a trip down memory lane with us as we reminisce on our 2020 highlights!

The ALUSB Master of Management Programme 

 

This year, ALUSB launched a new, exciting degree! The Master of Management (MM) programme aims to create the foundation for recent graduates and young professionals with up to 3 years of work experience to jump-start successful careers. Shaped by the needs of leading employers across Africa and led by top, global faculty, the MM programme offers a signature African Leadership Group (ALG) experience that will not only enhance your career prospects but also build your practical business knowledge and leadership capacity.

Want to know more about this brand new ALUSB programme? Read our interview with ALUSB Dean, Emmett P. Tracy, to discover more about the vision for the ALUSB MM. 

Online Intensives

 

Every four months, the ALUSB MBA students travel to Kigali, Rwanda for a week-long “intensive” where they get to engage, connect and have the ultimate ALU experience with their colleagues from all over Africa. Due to COVID-19, we were not able to conduct our intensives in person. Nonetheless, we leveraged our online capability to deliver meaningful and high-quality virtual learning experiences.

Click here to rediscover some of our online intensive highlights and takeaways!

A New MBA Cohort!

 

We welcomed a new MBA cohort to the ALUSB family: the class of 2022 – also known as the Sisonke’s! ALUSB always aims to maximise the diversity in our MBA classes and we’ve definitely succeeded in that department when it comes to the Sisonke’s. Statistics to note: 23 nationalities and 19 countries of residence are represented in this class. Additionally, the cohort has an average work experience of 11 years, and the average age is 36.

The first-ever ALU Virtual Graduation Ceremony

 

ALU School of Business had its first-ever online graduation ceremony this year. The entire ALU community gathered online to celebrate the class of 2020. The ALU president, Christopher Williams, opened the ceremony with motivating opening remarks that highlighted the opportunities in light of the pandemic, especially for African communities. The keynote speaker was none other than Ibukun Awosika, the Chairperson of the First Bank of Nigeria Limited and the CEO/Founder of The Chair Center Group. She emphasised the urgency for African leaders to stand in their truth to create, distribute and build an Africa we desire. Click here to relive this momentous occasion.

The Curious Leader: Post-Intensive Reflections Of An ALUSB  MBA Student

The Curious Leader: Post-Intensive Reflections Of An ALUSB MBA Student

Author: Tinashe Nondo ’22

The week of the 25th of October 2020 is one for the history books. It marks the week I started my long-awaited dream of pursuing my MBA at the African Leadership University School of Business. During this first intensive week, it was clear that I had entered an arena with incredible leaders. The admissions team at ALUSB did a fantastic job of bringing together a diverse, multicultural and multidisciplinary pool of experts from across the entire landscape of Africa. My cohort is represented by 23 nationalities;19 countries of residence; 11 years of work experience and an average age of 36. Due to COVID-19, 2020 has required immense measures of resilience and adaptability, characteristics which ALUSB has embodied to date. It is an honour to be a part of the very first blended cohort, where both the March and October 2020 intakes will be forging ahead together.

INTENSIVE WEEK HIGHLIGHTS

The online intensive week was a mixture of academic sessions, buddy lunches and fun team building activities. Have you ever tried to give your colleague origami instructions in a breakout room on Zoom? Had a dance-off challenge with your peers? Or thought about what African leadership looks like and what type of leader you are within that context?

In Leadership Lab, one of the MBA courses I will be undertaking, we were taught the fundamentals of coaching and presented with the opportunity of coaching each other and ALU Undergraduate students facing challenges. It was at this moment that I realised that this MBA would not only expand my academic knowledge but would also enable me to practically apply the lessons learnt in class to real-life situations, all the while affording me the opportunity to build life-long networks.

“I got the sense that through my cohort, and the warm welcome to the African Leadership Network, I would be building international bridges across many regions in Africa.”

The opening address by Fadumo Dayib, the first female to run for the presidency in Somalia, had a profound impact on our class. She shared honestly about the challenges she has had to overcome especially as a woman, in a patriarchal society and the courageous feats she has achieved including negotiating with Al Shabaab, in order to make her dream of building a “Somalia for Somalis,” a reality. As she spoke, I was reminded of the fact that I am Zimbabwean because I am African. Were it not for Africa, my sense of identity would be nonexistent.

Throughout the week, I got the sense that through my cohort, and the warm welcome to the African Leadership Network, I would be building international bridges across many regions in Africa. We do hard things! We are here to change the narrative! We are in this together! We are Sisonke!

Want to read more stories from our ALUSB community? Here are some links to get you started:

Applications for the March 2021 MBA intake are now open! Head over to https://bit.ly/ApplicationM2021 to start your leadership journey!

INTERVIEW WITH ALUSB GRADUATION KEYNOTE SPEAKER: IBUKUN AWOSIKA

INTERVIEW WITH ALUSB GRADUATION KEYNOTE SPEAKER: IBUKUN AWOSIKA

Author: Philip Mbwaya, ALUSB Marketing Coordinator

With the recently concluded ALUSB graduation ceremony, we got a chance to sit down with Ibukun Awosika who is the Founder and CEO of The Chair Centre Group and serves as the very first female chairman of the board for First Bank of Nigeria. Ibukun is passionate about social issues, youth, and women empowerment where she was a past chairperson of Women in Business, Management and Public Service. 

We were honoured to have Ibukun Awosika as the ALUSB 2020 Graduation Keynote Speaker and have her share some invaluable words of wisdom with the MBA graduating class of 2020. 

We got to have a chat with her ahead of the graduation ceremony to talk about her experience as a successful entrepreneur in Africa as well as her vision and hope for the continent.

Q: How would you describe yourself?

A: I am someone on a mission to fully express myself, my talents, my gifts, and my interests in a way that I can serve my country, serve the world and eventually build a better society – these are the things that drive me.

Q: How did you first cross paths with the African Leadership University? And why have you chosen to honour ALUSB as the graduation ceremony keynote speaker?

A: I knew about Fred Swaniker’s project from the African Leadership Initiative, Aspen Global Leadership Network where we are both leadership fellows. I am impressed by what he has done with his ALG initiative and the impact he is having in terms of building a strategic mindset for future generations of leaders. My son has been part of the ALA summer programme in Johannesburg, and I know a few families whose children have been part of his ALG initiatives.

I, therefore, know for a fact that Fred is doing a strategic leadership development project for Africa’s development. Moving on to set up a university seemed like a natural progression forward for his initiatives and what he is ultimately trying to achieve. If he took the same principles and value systems from ALA and moved it to Business Education, that would have a significant impact.

I have kept an eye on what has been happening without being a part of it directly, so when ALUSB invited me, it was a no-brainer in terms of being able to add value to a fellow’s work. It would also be a chance for me to challenge and hopefully inspire the next generation of African leaders in terms of what they must do for us to build the continent. 

Q: From your experience as a successful entrepreneur in Africa, what is the key to doing business in Africa that most people overlook?

A: For you to succeed as a business person in Africa, you need tenacity, a long term view, local market context, and you cannot give up!

For those coming from outside of Africa, you need to realise that Africa is not a village, it is not one country. Africa is made up of 54 countries and there are many countries within countries. Suppose you take my country Nigeria for example. In that case, there are as many countries as there are States within Nigeria, and even within the States, there are communities that have specific characteristics that have business implications. You, therefore, have to have a global approach with a local understanding as well.

You need to build a business within the context of your society, but you must be global in your practice and your value systems and in your dedication to delivering world-class service and product.

Ultimately, every gap you leave is an opportunity for your competition to take you out of business. All they need to do is improve on the things you lack in your business or deliver better quality products than yours at a cheaper price. This is part of how businesses from other Western and Asian countries take away the bread from African companies, even in their market.

One more thing is that we tend to approach business from a point of view of ‘me against them’, which can be against the government or policymakers. We see ourselves as being always on the right and knowing what to do and looking at the people in the public sector as knowing less and causing a lot of problems for business people, which they do in many ways. 

However, one of the things I have learnt in my experience is that we have a responsibility to teach them continuously and aggressively in order to educate and empower them to make the right policy decisions that will support our businesses to grow.  

The people who have to make those policies are themselves not business people, they have not experienced the business space. Even though they have the best of intentions for their countries, they tend to make the wrong decisions because if their influencers are not right thinking or they are giving them the wrong information, they will make the wrong decisions with the right intentions. We, therefore, have the crucial responsibility of how the business community is shaped. We must all get involved with all of our chambers of commerce, manufacturing associations, and any form of engagement that allows us to educate and to empower the policymakers better to make the right decisions that will help us succeed.

Q: What is your advice to women who aspire to be leaders?

A: I do not think the advice to a woman is any different to the advice to a man because while the most successful institutions will be the wise ones that have diverse leadership which means leadership that is inclusive of both male and female as well as have generational diversity where everybody around the table is not from the same generation. You allow yourself to have a table of men and women from different age groups so you can have the right collaboration of thoughts to engage and make the right decisions.

It is really about the effectiveness of that leadership and you having a sense of what you want and deciding how you live the rest of your life in line with how you are going to achieve that.

If you know that as a woman, you want to have a successful career as well as have a successful home, then it means that you will have to pay attention to who you marry because your spouse is a key factor in your life and it is not an emotional decision that you make without wisdom and concentration of where you want to go. You will therefore need to get the right kind of spouse that can engage with your ambition and drive by supporting and accommodating you through your leadership journey.

Additionally, there are no superwomen. Once you have traditional responsibilities as an African woman, you can still do the things you want to do without abandoning those responsibilities. You can outsource as much as you need to because if you are in leadership and you are successful at what you do, you have the right amount of disposable income that allows you to be able to engage the right kind of support to ensure that you can do the things you are needed to without dropping the ball.

Without a doubt, women can have it all! You need to organise your life to make it work and have the right kind of spouse.

You need to know the things that you will sacrifice to ensure that the things that are important to you work.

Q: Who are some of your leadership heroes?

A: I like the spirit and the thinking of Nelson Mandela. The forgiving and embracing leadership that unifies, I find that attractive in a leader. I like the open and free-spirited nature yet diligent and efficient leadership of the New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Arden. She delivers on her goals and her assignment to her country. For me, it is leadership with a heart that attracts me because you can be both kind and firm, you can be acutable and still be loving. It is finding and embracing leadership that helps to build a better community.

Q: What is your prediction for Africa in the next 10 years? What are you most excited about? 

A: From what the American elections have taught us in the past years is that prediction is a very risky business. I think what I know is we have the right kind of generational age group and if we handle them right and give them the right tools to work combined with the wisdom of the generations before that, we organise ourselves to allow compassionate visionary leadership to emerge, the whole world will have no choice but to stand in amazement as Africa reveals itself. I think there is so much that can work for us right now but there is so much that can go wrong as well. For me it is not about 10 or 20 years, it is about the blocks that we choose to build right now, I have the hope and faith that we will get there!

Q: What is your piece of advice to the graduates?

A: The world is yours to define and that there are boundless opportunities on the continent waiting for people to take them up. That to whom much is given, much is expected, they are the privileged ones. Much has been given to them for them to get here, now they need to show up and apply what has been given to them for the benefit of the continent.

 

Want to be part of the next generation of African leaders? Start your ALUSB MBA application here.

THE ALUSB MBA CLASS OF 2020 ONLINE GRADUATION: RECAP

THE ALUSB MBA CLASS OF 2020 ONLINE GRADUATION: RECAP

Author: Tumiso Kevin Mokakangwe, ALUSB Intern

As 2020 has stretched humanity to its optimum level, even the ALUSB graduation was challenged. Truth be told, we did not know how virtual graduation would turn out, but we knew one thing: we had to celebrate the ALUSB MBA class of 2020! 

As all eyes turned to our YouTube live stream for the virtual graduation ceremony on Saturday, 7 November, the graduates dressed in gowns and got ready to celebrate their amazing achievement from their respective homes, certainly not allowing the restrictions of the pandemic to steal the moment of success. 

The online ceremony began with welcoming remarks from the President of the African Leadership University, Christopher Williams, highlighting the impact of COVID-19 on the MBA programme and its graduates. “COVID-19 has affected the graduates’ classes, finances and interaction. Also, COVID-19 has made us more aware that change must happen in the world, that a new breed of leadership must replace certain world practices,” said Christopher Williams, as he welcomed the attendees to the first-ever online graduation in ALU history! Furthermore, in his address, he mentioned how the success of the graduating class and their promise to the transformation of Africa is necessary to continue educating and unleashing the leaders through this programme. “There is a calling that everyone has to answer to without exceptions, it is to be authentic. You need to answer one of the following questions: what is your calling? How do you want to be known? What will you be famous for?” Christopher Williams stated as he motivated the class of 2020 to take the continent by storm and craft solutions that drive progress. 

After the welcoming remarks, it was time to hand out the ALUSB Academic Awards that celebrate the students that have excelled in our flagship Leadership Lab and Entrepreneurship & Innovation courses! Chidi Afulezi and Dr Zukiswa Mthimunye  commenced with the special awards for the graduates with outstanding performances in a couple of categories:

The awards were followed by the speakers from the 2 classes reflecting and purposing their future after the MBA programme.

Let us not only move the needle but redefine the scale,” stated Mellisa Mazingi ’20, ALUSB student speaker for the class of 2020 ‘Insinzi’, as she took her time to show a lot of gratitude for the support she got during her ALUSB journey and reflected on the aims of her class when they decided to pursue their MBA. “When we committed to a pan-African MBA, we committed to leading the development of our continents, solving problems, creating jobs, leading governments, developing African organisations and building continental businesses. We are Africans with a deep and personal understanding of the things that need to be done for our continent to thrive. We as Africans have achieved so much and we have so much further to go. As it is the motto of ALU, WE DO HARD THINGS.” She ended with the pledge to commit to the vision and mission of the African Leadership Group and ALUSB of going into the continent to write stories of African leaders that paint a picture of an Africa so bright and vivid. 

Joy Rucyahana ‘20 followed, representing the ALUSB class of 2020 ‘Umoja’. “Everything of value is going to come at a price. We are still going to fight even at your most prepared state and to learn that when challenges come they leave us with more experience,” Joy stated as she urged the team to go into the continent to make the necessary difference they spoke about in their sessions. She ended her speech with  a powerful message to the graduating class: “Let us lead from a place of wisdom, knowledge and empathy.” 

“Never be quiet when you should speak and don’t speak when you should be quiet.” – Ibukun Awosika 

Before the graduates could be graced with their MBA degrees, there was one more important thing on the agenda: the keynote address. This year’s keynote speaker was none other than Mrs Ibukun Awosika, the Chairperson of the First Bank of Nigeria Limited and the CEO/Founder of The Chair Center Group, Mrs Ibukun Awosika.  “Our abilities do not just depend on us, they depend on our community that we can lean on and the support we have. The knowledge you have gained here is meant to prepare you for what you are going to do. It will depend on how you apply your learnings, your relationships and your opportunities. It is important to shift from success to significance, leaving an impact in the work that you do,” Mrs Ibukun Awosika stated as she motivated the class of 2020. Her impactful words were far-reaching to the attendees from around the world.

Congratulations, class of 2020!