An Interview with ALUSB Guest Faculty Micheal Ikpoki

An Interview with ALUSB Guest Faculty Micheal Ikpoki

We had the honour of interviewing Former CEO of MTN Nigeria, Business Advisor and CEO of Africa Context Consulting, Micheal Ikpoki, in between his classes in March.

This video summarises Michael’s superb insights on some of the important nuances of doing business in Africa, gives excellent advice for rising leaders on the cusp of entering the “C-suite” and provides some context on why he chose to teach at ALU School of Business.

Interview extracts:

What is the key to doing business in Africa, that most people overlook?

“Actions from the regulator and government are the biggest risk to any business, bigger than the risk of market actions…we are all trained to deal with the competition but as leaders we are not well-equipped to deal with others issues in the external environment, namely government and regulatory issues”.

What brought you to teach at the ALU School of Business?

“It’s very clear that if you look across Africa there’s a lot of positive movements taking place and governments are becoming more accountable. citizens are now beginning to ask for change and in the midst of that there’s going to be a lot more expectations on companies and business leaders need to live up to that. That is where the gap is and what you are doing here at African Leadership University…trying to create Africa-centric leaders is critical and a big gap that we need to fill”.

What advice do you have for someone joining the C-Suite or making a partner for the first time?

I would capture it in one word, “PRESENCE”. Now your decisions have a lot more impact….you affect the lives of more people, because people now look up to you, you become a role model, it becomes your responsibility to cultivate more role models across the organisation”.

Watch Micheal Ikpoki’s fantastic full interview below!

Sidumiso Sibanda ‘19 has a message for women who are considering applying to the ALUSB MBA

Sidumiso Sibanda ‘19 has a message for women who are considering applying to the ALUSB MBA

Sidumiso Sibanda ‘19 runs a non-profit organization in Ghana and Nigeria in skills development and training for young people. We sat down with her at our last March intensive, to ask her about what attracted her to ALUSB, how we have developed her as a leader to date, and if she has a message to women who are thinking of applying to this MBA programme….and she has an incredible message!

Interview extracts:

Why ALUSB? “I’m really focused on Africa because this is where I’m from, this is where I want to be, this is the continent that I want to make the biggest difference on.”

On leadership development: “I started the programme in July 2017, and if you had asked me in June what I thought about myself as a leader, I would have said, I think I’m a great leader. In the last seven months, ALUSB has completely wrecked my life!

The combination of the academic content that we are doing, all the Leadership Lab material which really focuses you and causes you to reflect a lot on the decisions that you are making…it almost feels like I am ripping myself apart to build myself back up again.

Her message for women: “I think I have found a community of women that are strong and supportive.. but more importantly I also found a community of men, and African men at that, who are genuinely interested in what we have to say. I’ve found a set of brothers who genuinely love me even with all my faults, who don’t silence me, who encourage me…and I have never heard anybody who goes to any other business school ever saying that about their classmates.”

Watch Sidumiso’s fantastic full interview below!

A pioneering new business model in conservation: The case of The Ol Pejata Conservancy

A pioneering new business model in conservation: The case of The Ol Pejata Conservancy

ALU’s School of Wildlife Conservation (SoWC) is developing leaders with a mission to conserve Africa’s heritage.


A sanctuary for wildlife in East Africa, the Ol Pejeta Conservancy was established in 2004 with a new vision for conservation: to make conservation pay for itself without having to rely on government subsidies or donor funding. Their solution: to integrate the cattle business within a wildlife sanctuary.

The results: a system of land use that produces 60% more employment than the two enterprises would separately, taxable revenues for the Kenyan exchequer and a sustainable wildlife conservation model that that pays for itself. As wildlife has flourished, oversees visitors have grown from 12,000 to 85,000 visitors per year and Ol Pejeta is turning over more than $12M in revenue. Over $1M is reinvested back into the local community.

In order to share and develop expertise from pioneering new business models in conservation, Ol Pejeta engages with like-minded organisations, notably in the education sector. The ALU School of Wildlife Conservation (SoWC) is one such organisation, developing future and current leaders who make it their life’s mission to conserve Africa’s natural heritage. Students across ALU’s undergraduate and MBA programmes benefit from the ideas, expertise and network that SoWC brings to the table.

Regarding current leaders, ALU School of Business welcome it’s first class of conservation leaders in 2017 to join its MBA programme. Students hail from leading conservation organisations including; Serena Hotels, African Wildlife Foundation for Nature, Singita, Tanzania Parks Authority and New Forests Company.

About 300 future leaders across the continent started their undergraduate programme at African Leadership University Rwanda, and 100% of whom will be exposed to the basics of wildlife conservation as part of their first year curriculum; 25 full scholarships have been awarded to those who chose conservation as their life’s mission.

Watch the stunning video below to learn more about the inspiring work of The Ol Pejeta Conservancy and ALU’s School of Wildlife Conservation!

Highlights from MBA Intensive Week: a week in the life of ALUSB MBA students!

Highlights from MBA Intensive Week: a week in the life of ALUSB MBA students!

Our MBA students return to Kigali every 4 months. They come to be inspired and to learn from tremendous leaders from across the continent and from awesome ALUSB faculty. They network, participate in social activities and spend valuable face time together. We have compiled highlights from this week to give you a behind-the-scenes glimpse into an ALUSB MBA intensive.

Saturday 3rd March

MBA students working in the conservation industry kicked off the MBA intensive week with ALU School of the Conservation-led visit to Akagera National Park. Students discussed the Park’s strategy to combine business and conservation with the Park’s leadership team.


Talking integration of business with Philbert from the Akagera team: “We are focusing on new business models, such as charging concession fees from eco-friendly businesses allowed to operate within the park”. 

Sunday 4th March

Thank you Dr. Deqo Mohamed for inspiring us by sharing transformative work you have done with communities in Somalia. Your leadership and vision are a challenge to our generation to do more for our continent” – Yves Iradukunda ‘19.

In the run-up to International Women’s Day 2018, ALUSB’s first Women in Management session took place, guest starring two phenomenal role models, Dr. Deqo Mohamed & Ms. Ayesha Bedwei.

Monday 5th March

Class of 2019: Vice Dean & Prof. Catherine Duggan kicks off her blistering Political Economy course with the quote, “I think of your job as a leader as absorbing complexity and transmitting clarity” ~ Yaw Boateng. The Class of 2019 then explored 30 years Chinese economic development, preparing to project next 20 years:  of African development.

CLO Ryan Findley leads the Class of 2019 through the Renaissance Dam Simulation, a pan-African Leadership lab exercise, combining V3 challenges with negotiation skills.

Tuesday 6th March

Guest faculty Gbenga Oyebode, a successful lawyer, business adviser and board member for several companies, including MTN Nigeria,  led a Doing Business in Africa session with Classes of 2018 and 2019. He then joined a subset of students for lunch and discussion.

“You need to have a strategy to manage the success of your company”. Guest faculty Micheal Ikpoki, the former CEO of MTN Nigeria, currently business adviser and CEO of Africa Context Consulting, an Africa-focused business advisory company, explores the importance of stakeholders management in Africa with our Classes of 2018 and 2019.

Wednesday 7th March

ALUSB CAO, Dr. Emmett Tracy, led an all-day Business Strategy session with the Class of 2018, building on their McKinsey Academy courses.

Thursday 8th March

International Women’s Day #IWD2018, Celebrating intelligent, passionate, beautiful women who are changing Africa.

After spending a day in the field with local organisations, our Class of 2019 presented their BUILD-structured findings and recommendations.

Friday, 9th March

Guest faculty Nicola Galombik, Executive Director of Yellowwoods, leads her “Where Value meets Virtue” session, focused on the importance and pursuit of shared value in African economies.  

Building Leaders for the African Century, with Bill Egbe

Building Leaders for the African Century, with Bill Egbe

I had the pleasure of interviewing ALUSB all-star faculty member, Bill Egbe, during his time at the business school in Kigali. Here’s what he had to say about how ALU School of Business is building leaders for the African century:

“[I am] an experienced corporate executive, and former president of Coca-Cola South Africa. I’ve been retired for about 18 months now. So I consider myself a pensioner after thirty years of being in the corporate trenches in the US, in Latin America, in Europe, and in Africa. I thought it was time to focus on something different other than corporate life.

[Coming to ALUSB], I was really intrigued by two elements the business school was focused on. It is really focused on trying to build a new generation of ethical and entrepreneurial leaders for Africa. And I think those two elements that, especially in the context of Africa, makes a lot of sense to ensure that people are nurturing the sense of entrepreneurship to accelerate the development on the continent.

The continent is not going to be developed by big corporations; entrepreneurs will drive the development. Not the politicians either; entrepreneurs will drive the development. So we need to make sure that we are building a new generation of leaders who are focused on grabbing the entrepreneurial activities.

I also like the fact that they have this unique model of taking experienced leaders in business, NGOs, private sector, public sector, bringing them into an MBA programme. The students spend some time on campus through face-to-face intensives, using cutting-edge technology to engage students when they are off-campus. The students’ interaction with top-level global academics and experienced business leaders make a combination that is going to be very dynamic in shaping how successful they will be as they go on to play leadership roles on the continent.

And I just want to be a part of that.”

Watch Bill’s full interview here:

Is this the African Century? I’m betting my career on it.

Long ago I bet on Africa. Now I’m all in. Let me tell you why.

I spent nearly a decade as a professor at Harvard Business School telling people about Africa from the confines of my wood-paneled office. Explaining the promise of the continent to people who had never been; reassuring people who were nervous to go. Encouraging students with African parents to follow their hearts back to the continent. Trying to tell the story of African business — the innovation and excitement that I see every time I set foot on the continent — to as many people and in as many ways as I could.

But studying it and talking about it from afar did not take me far enough. When you see something really exciting, in which you really believe, there is only so long you want to sit on the sidelines — there is only so long you can allow yourself to be on the sidelines.

I grew up living in Chicago but dreaming about Africa. By the time I was born, people in my family had lived in Africa for decades: my father lived and taught in Ghana in the early 1960s, just after he finished university. His cousin taught for years in Nigeria. My aunt spent decades as a doctor in Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, and Malawi. I grew up hearing stories about my father’s time in Ghana, where he developed strategies for bargaining in markets, took lorries across West Africa, and learned enough Ewe to sit in the shade and joke with groups of elderly men.

When I was a child, my father’s African friends would come to dinner, unannounced, late in the evening. Our table would suddenly heave with food while everyone talked late into the night about the politics of Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, and elsewhere. Even as a child I was mesmerized by the combination of optimism, realism, and engagement in those debates — and, more than anything else, with the stories and the laughter, which roared throughout the house. The people sitting around our table believed that they could — that they had to — change the course of the continent, even in some of Africa’s darkest days.

By the time I took my first trip to the continent the Cold War and apartheid were behind us, but a different kind of story about Africa had emerged. Africa was, The Economist declared, the “hopeless continent.” Undeterred, I lived in Uganda for two years and learned enough Luganda and Ateso to bargain in markets and joke with elderly women sitting in the shade. Even at the time, the idea that Africa had “more disaster than hope,” as the magazine had written, seemed wrong on its face.

After earning a Ph.D. studying African markets and institutions at Stanford, I took a job as a professor at Harvard Business School. Even as I talked about Africa to the Western business schools that are hoping to shape the rest of this century, I realized that these were not the schools that were going to create the African century. What comes next is going to have to come from within Africa, not from offices in places like Palo Alto and Boston.

The African Century

Why am I so bullish on the future of Africa? In the long run, demography, institutions, and leadership create the destiny of nations, regions, and the world.

Demography is on Africa’s side.

The continent is young and growing, even as populations in other regions are aging and shrinking. In the past decade, the biggest economies in Africa have grown at more than twice the global average and more than four times faster than the United States. While low commodities prices have recently caused a temporary setback, booming consumer demand and a rising middle classpromise longer-term economic expansion, and these opportunities are reflected in dramatic increases in investment on the continent.

By the middle decades of this century, one in four people in the world will be African, and the continent will have the highest ratio of working age to non-working age people in the world. Youth and market size fuel innovation and private sector development; if the continent can harness this population growth, rather than being overwhelmed by it, then Africans and African business will be a key driver of growth in the 21st century.

Africa’s institutions are on their way.

Between 2014 and 2015, the World Bank reported that nearly one third of all of the business-friendly regulatory reforms in the world were in Africa. The continent still has a long way to go, to be sure, but the trend is encouraging. Today’s leaders in both the public and private sectors can help to pave the way for long-term institutional improvement and economic growth on the continent.

Leadership, particularly in the private sector, will be the way forward.

In spite of recent concerns, the most exciting stories of opportunity in Africa are no longer about commodities exports to other regions, but about production, consumption, and trade within the continent. Economic diversification has buoyed African economies even in the face of a dip in commodities prices, thereby saving the region from the negative growth rates that have plagued some other export-dependent areas. Regional integration has meant that Africans are increasingly trading with other Africans, and firms from the continent are investing elsewhere on it.

These trends have made Africa a hothouse for innovation.

Entrepreneurs, firms, and even governments are developing new technologies, systems, and approaches to reach new markets and create new products for a continent brimming with early adopters. A generation of young, innovative African leaders is looking for ways to leapfrog old constraints and create economies built for the twenty-first century.

The prices of commodities will always move cyclically. In the long term, however, Africa’s relentless ambition for innovation and entrepreneurship — coupled with the energy of its young people and the commitment of its leaders — can win the day.

Leadership for the African Century

Amidst this rapid, innovative change, African organizations often find themselves struggling to find and develop talent that will allow them to build nimble and sustainable ventures; to identify and develop leaders who can contribute to their organizations now and help guide them into the future. While organizations are invariably impressed by the enormous amount of raw talent on the continent, they often describe the difficulties associated with training or identifying individuals who possess the initiative, values, self-awareness, critical thinking skills, and drive to excel in increasingly complex managerial roles. If young leaders are going to build the African century, then we must help to cultivate these young leaders.

An increasingly pan-African market must develop its own class of pan-African business leaders. As firms in Africa do more and more business across borders, their managers must have knowledge about innovations and best practices drawn from many African countries — as well as professional networks that span the continent. They must, moreover, be able to do all of this with a global perspective, understanding not only how global trends will affect African firms and markets, but also how and where their own firms can expand beyond the continent.

How, then, can we develop a generation of African leaders?

Some African business leaders will, of course, be educated abroad, at schools like Stanford and Harvard. Yet no matter how universal we like to imagine business practices are, doing business in Africa is simply not the same as doing business in the West, and the markets on the continent are not adequately represented in the standard Western textbooks or case studies. As a recent report on African business education noted, “Western solutions to the challenges of management and leadership are not, on their own, fit for purpose for modern Africa.” Nor have Western business schools come around, for the most part, to Africa’s long-term promise. My classes at HBS were typically two-thirds American students, one third international students, and only about 2% African — which meant that there were usually only one or two Africans in a class of more than 90 students. Most HBS students study only a handful of cases on Africa amongst hundreds of cases on firms from the United States and other regions.

As long as Western business schools are designed for Western students, the African leaders who are going to transform the continent must, for the most part, come from African schools.

Telling the story of African business

The great business schools of the last century — Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, and others — grew to prominence by providing an analytical mirror for the great businesses of that century. American capitalism and American business education grew in tandem, with each providing key data and insights to the other. Many of the best practices that we think of as universal are the products of this critical collaboration.

Who, then, will hold up a similar mirror to the African Century? It will not, for the most part, be schools in America and Europe. Instead, it will be Africa’s top educational institutions, both new and old. The template for the African Century will be written by people who are on the continent. All day, every day. Analytically, emotionally, and physically.

The top educational institutions across the African continent are now working — and must continue to work — together to train the generation that will define the coming century. Those of us who love the continent, who understand it as a unique, vibrant place all its own, must be the ones to tell the real stories of African business. We must educate an almost endless generation of African talent: the hundreds of millions of young people who will help define this century. We must tell the stories and write the cases that will be used around the world for the next fifty years because they mark the moment when it was clear that the world had changed. The moment the tide turned. The moment when we were able, together, to peer into our shifting global future.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie tells us, “Stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also repair that broken dignity.”

Stories such as these have never mattered more — Africanstories have never mattered more.

The story of African business, of African leadership, and of the African Century is being written even as I write this, and it is far from having a foregone conclusion. The success of the coming decades depends on the decisions that leaders, educators, and young people on the continent make now.

We, today, have the chance to help create the African Century. I have embraced the risk and promise of this opportunity and joined a new African business school, the African Leadership University School of Business (ALUSB), where I am committed to telling the world the story of African business and helping to train the next generation of African leaders. There is no more important work to be done than helping to educate a continent. I am confident that there is no greater way to influence what has the potential to be one of the most important transformations of the world economy of the twenty-first century.

So now, even while some people are worrying again about Africa, I am doubling down on my bet. I have long told my students to look for opportunities that other people cannot see or will not follow. It is time for me to follow my own advice.

I want to help tell this story. But I cannot tell it from the sidelines. Nor should you. Each of us has the opportunity to change the world and to influence the future by telling the stories of what we are seeing every day. Join me and join us in telling your story of African business and leadership, and in helping to realize your vision for the future of Africa.

Catherine Duggan is Professor of Management and Political Economy and Vice Dean for Strategy and Research at the African Leadership University (ALU), Rwanda. Prior to joining ALU, she was a professor at Harvard Business School (HBS) for nearly a decade, teaching courses on political economy and leadership to MBA students and executives. She has also taught in MBA and executive education programs at Saïd Business School (SBS) at the University of Oxford, and the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS) at the University of Pretoria.

Interested in learning about ALU School of Business? CLICK HERE.

This article was originally posted on Professor Duggan’s Medium Account.