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.
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!
Author: Tumiso Kevin, ALUSB Marketing Intern
Graduation period is often a time of reflection and as we get closer to the big day for the class of 2020, we caught up with some of the graduating students to learn more about their best times at ALUSB and their plans are post-MBA. Read on to discover their highlights and next steps.
Grace Umulisa, Founder, Mw Trading and Bora Mart Stores – Rwanda
“The highlight of my MBA program was the visit by Dr Deeqo Mohammed because it challenged me to do more for my community and move from looking at life from a ‘me’ perspective to a collective outlook. I am excited that I can now fully focus on living out all that I have learned over the past 20 months and take advantage of the incredible pan-African network and friendships I have made to expand my business into other African markets after graduation.”
Jean Didier Akpona, Special Projects Manager, African Parks – Bénin
“ALUSB gave me tools to increase my capacity in the conservation business and increased my leadership acumen. After graduation, I will challenge myself to support the programme in order to benefit more French-speaking countries in Africa. My second biggest challenge is to support conservation in Africa by challenging young conservationists in Africa.”
Josphat Ngonyo Kisui, Executive Director, ANAW – Kenya
“ I am excited to be together with my colleagues during this graduation. My plan after graduation is to provide servant leadership. I also hope to use the skills and knowledge I gained to advance the continent of Africa.”
Rachelle Elodie Konan, Territory Manager for West Africa – Ghana
“Networking with diverse leaders across Africa is the highlight of the ALUSB MBA programme and I am happy to have achieved one of my FY 2020 goals by further enhancing my skills set. My plans after graduating include implementing most of the key leadership learning in my day to day life and seeking greater heights.”
Simon Kioko, Co-founder and Managing Director of You and I – Kenya
“The personal growth journey I went through thanks to Leadership Lab is priceless. I have seen my leadership strengths and skills significantly improve. I am a better leader now and I cannot wait to use what I have learned in my country and continent which desperately needs good leaders. I am excited about the opportunity to look back and celebrate doing hard things. It is a great milestone to get to this level. After graduation, I plan to keep working on ‘You and I’ which was my E&I project and also my capstone project. The world is counting on ‘You and I’ to make a difference.”
Graduating is a big accomplishment under any circumstances, but especially now, it is a true testament to resilience. The Class of 2020 has worked remarkably hard to get to this point and we are thrilled to celebrate with them and to cheer them on as they cross this final threshold!
The Class of 2020 graduation ceremony will be happening on Saturday, 7 November. The ALUSB community will be gathering online from across the world to celebrate the amazing achievement of the Class of 2020. In the graduating class, we have 17 countries represented, including Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania, Benin, South Africa, Ghana and Nigeria and a range of companies including the World Wide Fund for Nature and African Wildlife Foundation in the conservation sector, Coca-cola and Unilever in the manufacturing sector, and Standard Bank Group and Africa Reinsurance Corporation in the financial services sector.
As the anticipation begins to build and excitement mounts, ALUSB is also pleased to announce that the keynote graduation speaker will be none other than Ibukun Awosika, the first female Chairman of First Bank of Nigeria Limited and a driving force in business, entrepreneurship, and philanthropy on the continent!
“I come from a place where there are opportunities staring you in the eye. But it’s looking for the people who have the heart and the courage to do it and do it right.” – Ibukun Awosika
To attend the graduation ceremony, kindly RSVP HERE and let’s celebrate the #ClassOf2020 together!
Author: Philip Mbwaya, ALUSB Marketing Coordinator
We had the chance to have a panel discussion on Strategy and Leadership with two industry experts: Jito Kayumba, partner at Kukula Capital, and Emmett Tracy, ALUSB Dean and Professor of Management and Finance.
Both panellists have vast experience leading teams and organisations and shared 5 insightful pieces of knowledge about how leadership and strategy can contribute to your career success! Read on to discover all of them:
1. Leadership and strategy go hand in hand
As a leader, it is important to have a holistic approach in your operations, which includes having an effective strategy that you plan to execute.
“There may be leaders without effective strategies and there may be strategy persons without good leadership skills.”- Emmett Tracy
It is important to develop a leadership and strategic mindset to ensure that you achieve your organisational and career goals.
2. Inclusiveness is key
“If you want to execute a sustainable strategy, the organisation has to be part and parcel of the strategy, that involves all employees having an awareness of it.” – Jito Kayumba
Systems thinking is a crucial mindset in implementing a long term strategy.
All members of the organisation need to therefore have a holistic approach in executing their day to day role and realising how different departments work to achieve the common organisational goal.
If all team members are included and aware, it boosts motivation and makes them feel empowered to take initiative beyond their daily duties.
3. It is important to set milestones
In order to determine whether your strategy is working, you have to set milestones and metrics.
“You have to set and see the future unfold ahead of your current situation, it can help in planning and assessing your progress.” – Emmett Tracy.
As you execute your business strategy, you have to frequently assess the performance using the set milestones. The milestones should in turn encourage flexibility in case a part of your strategy is not working.
4. Communication is a crucial skill
“Leadership is a lot about presence, vision and communicating through words or action.” – Emmett Tracy.
Once you have a vision and direction, it’s time to express your ideas to your organisation. Effective communication enables a smooth flow of information throughout the organisation.
How can you effectively communicate in times of crisis?
“In communicating in times of crisis, it is important to have the confidence to communicate effectively. One way of developing confidence is by having a strong team around you. The greatest asset you can have as a leader is the kind of people you have in your team.” – Emmett Tracy.
5. Authenticity is important in shaping your leadership journey
“Nothing is more important than being your authentic self. Your authenticity is attached to your story.” – Jito Kayumba
When a person has a great sense of self-awareness and they are able to appreciate their situation, they are able to add more value to an organisation.
Embrace your journey and show up as your true authentic self in order to thrive as a leader!
The Master of Management programme is designed to bridge the gap between employer needs and the skills young professionals and recent graduates have. Are you seeking to accelerate your career and develop your leadership skills and business acumen? Start your application today at: https://bit.ly/MMAPPLY21!