We were graced with the opportunity to chat with Mutwakil Abdul Mageid 20’ to learn more about the outstanding work that he and his colleagues are involved in with Sudan Bukra- an innovative solution to freedom of speech in Sudan.
Sudan has been through some major political changes in the past months. A fight for democracy, a change in leadership, a massacre of over 120 lives, and a nationwide Internet shutdown, which silenced protesters and left millions of Sudanese people without access to information, e-commerce and the ability to communicate with the rest of the world. It was at this point that a group of Sudanese professionals, including Mutwakil Abdul Mageid ‘20, decided to take action and start Sudan Bukra, a free-to-air, crowd-sourced and crowd-funded broadcasting channel that provides civic education to the Sudanese community.
Mutwakil Abdul Mageid is a key account manager for Ericsson, currently managing MTN accounts in Sudan, South Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, Zambia, and Eswatini. He is also a Class of 2020 ALUSB MBA student.
In describing what led him to ALU School of Business (ALUSB), Mutwakil says,
“I was in pursuit of an MBA that is relevant to my inspiration as well as my big-picture plans – an MBA that is relevant to Africa. I did not know this existed until I came across the ALUSB MBA programme, which focuses on doing business in Africa and on leadership – the two main things that I was looking for!”
Could you share with us some context on the events that took place leading up to the internet shutdown?
“On 19 December 2018, the people of Sudan started a movement of ‘Freedom, Peace, and Justice’, seeking political change from a thirty-year regime of dictatorship. After months of protests and demonstrations, Sudan was able to remove Omar Bashir from power, along with his regime, but only for the minister of defence to take over.
This resulted in the people of Sudan returning to the streets. On 6 April 2019, they rallied in front of the military headquarters and vowed not to move until the execution of the declaration of freedom. A declaration was signed by all parties and civil societies asking for a democratic transformation. Two months later, the military took over power and suddenly there was a massacre at the sit-in area in Khartoum, resulting in the loss of over 120 lives, which was quickly followed by a total internet shutdown the following day. The main purpose of the shutdown was to cover up on-going violence and silence protestors. There was also a blackout, aimed at dispersing the protestors from the sit-in area.”
Protestors using their mobile phone lights at the sit-in area, Khartoum
What is the story behind the Sudan Bukra?
“Sudan Bukra means Sudan Tomorrow. Based on a contextual meaning of the Arabic word “Bukra”, it alludes to hope and optimism.
We named this project Sudan Bukra to communicate a message of hope for the future of Sudan.”
Mutwakil continues, “Based on how dictatorship works, my colleagues and I knew that the people in power would try to cut off social media since it’s something that they can’t control. We wanted to find a means by which the people of Sudan could still reach out to each other using a combination of traditional media (Television) and content from social media. We came up with the Sudan Burka TV channel as a solution for the freedom of speech. We receive information from the ground, transform it into content for TV and broadcast it. At the same time, we use it as a means to communicate the progress of negotiations, as well as details about the demonstration schedules as organised by the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA)”.
Given the risks that you face, what drives you to continue your work with Sudan Burka?
“The main thing that keeps us going is the hope that we have for Sudan. We want the best for the people of Sudan and we believe that having access to information is a way to build our country”, explains Mutwakil.
Sudan Bukra has already reached millions of people, a fact that was confirmed when over 4 million people attended a demonstration organised by the SPA and broadcasted through their platform. It is a pillar of hope and a testament to the resilience of the Sudanese people.
Mutwakil states that he and his colleagues hope that Sudan Bukra will continue to be a platform of civic education for the people of Sudan beyond the current political climate. He envisions a Sudan where the people are informed about democracy and good leadership, leading to the overall transformation of Sudan.
“Do not focus on who will solve the problem, but focus on how the problem will be solved,” Mutwakil Abdul Mageid ‘20.
A true leader for the African Century, we are proud to have Mutwakil as part of our student body and are eager to see the transformation that he and his colleagues will help bring about through Sudan Bukra. Through Mutwakil, we are reminded that leadership is not a position we occupy, but an attitude and a lifestyle of service, vision, and purpose.
Diana Kizza ’20 describes herself as an economic catalyst with a passion for healthcare. She is currently a Senior Programme Manager at the Clinton Health Access, where she is managing a programme on Sustainable Health Financing. Watch the video interview below to learn more about Diana’s decision to pursue an MBA at ALUSB and how her journey has been so far.
“…we need to remember and learn or relearn to dream big for Africa. We owe it to our continent to dream big despite the challenges that we’ve seen, despite the pain and the tears. There’s no better time than now.”
What led you to ALU School Of Business?
“I didn’t want to go back abroad because everything that I learnt abroad was only applicable abroad and not really in Africa. It hit all the right buttons. So you meet all the right people; people who work in Africa and are excited and passionate about changing Africa. You meet people who have the skills and the networks to help you link to who you need to go to, to get answers and help and support. And for me, those are two really big things. And third; the leadership component. Because I believed that there was something in me. I needed to find a way to get it out, but I couldn’t find where to get it out from. But reading the ALUSB course content and just reading through the profiles of students that have been here before, I realised this is the perfect place to gain those kinds of skills.”
How would you describe your ALUSB experience so far?
“It was very disruptive because you have this way of life. You think that you’re moving along a certain path and all of a sudden you’re hit by a bolt of lightning and you realise that you can do more, it’s you who’s limiting yourself. You see the challenges all around you and I’ve learned through this programme that those challenges are opportunities that you need to recognise. We hear about Mo Ibrahim, we see Kagame at the first graduation ceremony of ALUSB. I think what that brought for us is that, you know, despite our background, despite what has happened in our past, we need to remember and learn or relearn to dream big for Africa. We owe it to our continent to dream big despite the challenges that we’ve seen, despite the pain and the tears. There’s no better time than now.”
Watch Diana’s full video interview here:
We live in a high-paced environment where emerging leaders are often expected to come with strong leadership, ownership and accountability behaviours – all on top of sharp technical skills. I don’t know about you, but unless you’re one of the few born leaders, leadership is something that needs to be developed and nurtured on a consistent basis.
Regardless of your career level or industry, executive coaching can be an amazing tool to make your development process as an emerging leader more thoughtful, intentional and smooth. Why figure it all out on your own, when you can have the assistance of an outside expert?
We reached out to ALUSB Alumna, Akua Nyame-Mensah, who is a strategic advisor and professional coach, to explore what executive coaching entails and its benefits for your personal and professional life.
Before immersing herself fully into coaching, Akua worked for Africa’s first tech unicorn, Jumia, where she helped build the real estate platform, Jumia House in Ghana and went on to lead Jumia House Nigeria. It was during her time at Jumia that Akua took her first step towards becoming a coach by getting her professional coaching certificate at TeamBuilding Africa (TBA) Consults. “For me, a coach is not necessarily an expert. The client is always meant to decide what we focus on and what’s important. My job is to help facilitate them, help guide them, help identify potential challenges, pitfalls and distorted thinking. I believe that people are already quite good by themselves and it’s my job, as the coach, to take them from functional to optimal.”
Here are some of the main benefits of executive coaching through the lens of Akua:
1. An improved sense of self-awareness
Self-awareness is where growth begins. It is the first step towards breaking away from your comfort zone and seeing things differently. A coach can be a catalyst for this development by helping new leaders see themselves from an outsider’s perspective. “Coaching involves a lot of self-study and self-reflection for the client. We all have an idea of who we are, how other people perceive us and then there’s that bit of you that’s always going to be hidden. Through coaching, you can get a better idea of who you are and how you present yourself to others. That knowledge can help you influence people better, leverage your strengths and identify key people that will help you improve your areas of growth. A greater sense of self-awareness can also lead to better time management because you have a better understanding of what’s important to you.”
2. A better understanding of your strengths and growth areas
Some skills may be fine as mid-level employees but as you enter into senior leadership roles, new expertise is needed. Coaching can help you identify those growth areas and help you develop them further. ”Through coaching and self-coaching myself, I learned more effective ways to have conversations about things I don’t necessarily agree with. I was always confident enough to say “no, I don’t agree with you”. But now I am able to approach it in a more productive way, like: “we have different ways of looking at this, I can see it from your point of view, this is mine…”. Just being a bit more diplomatic in my approach has had a huge impact on my professional life.”
Inversely, you might already have some leadership skills that you’re not even aware of. In that case, people like Akua can be the mirror that you need to recognise the uniqueness and value of the capabilities that you already have. “As a coach, my interest really lies in providing or helping to facilitate a conversation where people get fresh ideas, fresh perspectives and see things from a different point of view. My goal is then to help them move forward and leverage their resources, all while keeping them accountable. Every coaching session is a little bit different. If people feel a shift, have thought through a behaviour change or get a new idea for business development, that’s a successful conversation.”
3. Better leadership skills
As a leader, your responsibilities go beyond your own performance; you’re also managing a team that looks to you to make the big decisions. Executive coaching can help emerging leaders drive innovation and autonomy within their teams. “I have always been really interested in leadership and I have always been involved in leadership to some extent, both in sports and in my career. A lot of my initial interest in coaching came from wanting to be a better leader for those below me and a better colleague and support to those above me. What I quickly realised from my time at Jumia was; just because I had an extremely Ghanaian name or even had the opportunity to live in several African countries, didn’t mean that I would be able to be an effective leader in Ghana or be able to effectively influence people towards a goal. Not everyone is going to listen to what you have to say. You have to think of different ways to motivate people. You have to become comfortable with trying different things, you have to become comfortable with failing a little bit more openly.”
Are you ready to question your assumptions about yourself, discover your strengths and growth areas and become a better leader? ALUSB is offering one 60-minute executive coaching session with our very own Akua Nyame-Mensah ’19, People & Business Strategist and professional certified coach!
To qualify for these offers, you must:
- Submit your complete application by end of day 24 June 2019.
- Gain full admission to and confirm your seat in the ALUSB October 2019 MBA programme, in order to be connected to your executive coach.
- Conduct your coaching session(s) before 27 October 2019.
Don’t hesitate and submit your application at bit.ly/APPLYALUSB
We had the honour to sit down with one of the key figures behind the unique MBA collaboration between ALU School of Business and ALU School of Wildlife Conservation: Dr Francis Vorhies, Academic Director at ALU School of Wildlife Conservation, discusses the vital nexus of business and conservation – and how ALU is addressing the leadership deficit in the conservation field.
Francis Vorhies has racked up over 30 years of experience at the intersection of business, biodiversity and development. In short, he is the perfect interviewee to give us a look into the world’s first MBA programming for Conservation Leaders!
What drew you to work in conservation?
I moved to South Africa in the ’80s to work on the promotion of an equitable market economy for the post-apartheid era. During my time there, I visited a private wildlife ranch and met a couple who were saving wildlife as a small business. It wasn’t a national park, it wasn’t government-run; it was just a small company making money by saving nature. I never thought about conservation as a business opportunity before, but that was a turning point. Since then, I have been looking for ways to combine business and conservation across the African continent.
Could you tell us more about the ALU’s MBA programming for conservation leaders?
The African Leadership University in Kigali, Rwanda, has established the world’s first MBA experience for rising leaders in the conservation field. The collaboration between ALU’s School of Wildlife Conservation (SoWC) and School of Business (ALUSB) combines ALU’s rigorous, 20-month MBA degree with a specialisation in Conservation Leadership. SoWC’s specialisation includes five modules covering topics like Business & Biodiversity, Conservation Governance & Management, Conservation Markets & Finance and more, which are delivered in the classroom, via distance-learning modules and a field-based module.
The conservation-specific modules are designed to complement ALUSB’s MBA programme and help conservation professionals to apply MBA learning specifically to their field. For example, where the main MBA programme looks at management, we will look at conservation management. When they look at strategy, we’ll look at conservation strategy and policy.
The fifth course, Conservation in Practice, is a field module where the students will spend a week out in the field looking at conservation management. The lectures, the intensives, the assignments, the readings, the videos and the group exercises will be wrapped around these five modules.
What’s the one thing that sets the this conservation-focused programme apart from others?
At the moment, it’s the only game in town. It’s the first real attempt at putting together a high-quality MBA experience that is focused on the African challenges and opportunities for the conservation sector.
It’s a unique thing that we are doing at ALU: we’re looking at conservation as a platform for economic development, for growth, and for job creation. The programme is business-focused.We’re focusing on how the conservation sector can grow, how it can deliver goods and services, and how it can create inclusive employment opportunities.
But, what makes the programme unique is not so much people like me, but the cohort of mid-career students who are coming from different countries and different organisations. Enabling them to work together and develop their business and leadership acumen in the context of conservation challenges is really something special. The most exciting thing for them is having this 20-month space to go on a learning journey and become actual leaders in the conservation sector.
Why was the programme created?
The conservation sector has a real leadership deficit. That doesn’t mean that there are bad people in the sector or that they are uneducated… But the sector is mostly dominated by people who have studied natural sciences. And that is fine, but the conservation sector, like any other sector, is about much more than science. It’s about people, it’s about managing different groups, financial flows, marketing, product lines, value chains, and so on. There’s a real need for more leadership acumen in the conservation sector and ALU’s School of Business is the only school that offers an education that meets that need.
Who is the programme for?
Firstly, the programme is ideal for people who are already active in the conservation sector; people who either work for an NGO, are in public sector conservation management, or people who work in the eco-tourism sector, for example. But the programme is also very useful for people who don’t work in the conservation sector, but in intersecting industries that could threaten or damage the natural environment. Think of industries like mining, oil and gas, infrastructure… Finally, this programme is also a good fit for people who work in conservation-dependent sectors. These are industries that are dependent on nature like fisheries, agriculture, ranching and so on.
Essentially, this programme is designed for people who are interested in the business of conservation.
Why is the intersection of business and conservation so important?
If we don’t make conservation viable as a business, it’s going to be replaced. So conservation needs business, but there is also business to be made in conservation. Yes, we need zoologists, biologists and ecologists. But we also need leaders, we need entrepreneurs, and we need managers. So that’s what we’re trying to provide through this programme.
What are the outcomes that organisations can expect?
When the students do return to their organisations after the programme, we see that they have a much better chance of connecting the dots between the different parts of the organisation. We see that these students are able to play a more strategic and productive role in their organisation, either as a manager or by starting up new businesses in the conservation sector.
What kind of impact do you expect to see through this MBA?
In Africa, the impact would be to make conservation a viable business sector on the continent so that Africa’s wildlife can proven as a positive force for economic growth, increased revenues and job creation.
We had the honour of sitting down with one of our ALUSB MBA guest faculty, Professor of Finance and Dean of Hult International Business School’s Boston’s Campus, Dr. Gonzalo Chavez.
Professor Chavez has taught finance all over the world and we were delighted to host him for his first teaching engagement in Sub Saharan Africa! In this interview, Professor Chavez talks about his experience teaching our ALUSB MBA students and he leaves us with two pieces of advice for rising African leaders.
We’ve compiled some interesting excerpts from Gonzalo’s interview, you can find the full video below:
On teaching ALUSB MBA students for the first time.
“It has been a pleasure. The group is very collaborative, very dynamic, very positive. What I’ll always remember them saying is: “Let’s do this!”. And that is the kind of attitude one needs, not only in a class environment. That is the kind of attitude one needs as the next business leaders“.
Advice for rising African leaders.
For the leaders that want to take on the challenge of realising Africa’s potential, Dr. Gonzalo Chavez has two pieces of advice:
- “Continue to challenge yourself to adapt current knowledge to the African reality. As a leader, you very frequently have to make decisions that have a financial impact, but you cannot be the expert in every single field. Force yourself to ask about the practical implications. Don’t just look at it from a metrics perspective, but ask: “what does this metric mean?” Go back and just remove yourself until you get to a point where it all makes sense.”
- The second piece of advice Dr. Chavez has for this cohort of African Leaders is to be a promoter of education.” The reason why they are leaders at this point is because they are being trained and they have the education. Their responsibility is also to make sure that that continues. Because the level of education in this continent’s population is going to be a deciding factor in what happens in the next 10 to 15 years.”
This leads us nicely to Gonzalo’s closing question:
“What are you doing to make sure there are others like you?”
Watch Dr. Chavez’s full interview below!