Every year, the ALU School of Business (ALUSB) strives to find ambitious professionals for our MBA programme. And every year we are blown away by the amount of talent on the African continent. With the Chairman’s Scholarship for Excellence in Business, ALUSB seeks to honour this greatness by presenting a full-tuition award to rising business leaders with a track record of leadership at the workplace and in their communities. Our March 2019 cohort recipient has it all: leadership potential, a passion for uplifting her community and an ambitious vision for the future. ALUSB is proud to present our new Chairman’s Scholar: Mahder Zewdie Gebretsadik!
Mahder is the current Marketing Manager at EthioChicken, a poultry company that works with rural farmers to reduce malnutrition and poverty in Ethiopia. Leading the Marketing and the Customer Insights team, she works on developing the brand visibility, market activation and measuring satisfaction levels and the impact of the business on the livelihood of Ethiopian rural smallholder farmers. Mahder is now helping to establish similar teams in Rwanda, as EhtioChicken expands into East-Africa.
Although Mahder is very successful at what she does, there was a time where she didn’t even know what marketing was. Like many of us, Mahder was only aware of a limited list of career options growing up: become an engineer or become a doctor. But thanks to her parents, who instilled her with a winning mentality, she realised where her true strengths lay. So after a short stint as an engineering student, Mahder set out to get her bachelor’s degree in Marketing Management.
“My purpose in life is providing enough. When it comes to food, I want people to have enough, especially kids. And in terms of education, I want people to have enough knowledge to contribute to their society.”
A decade into her professional journey, Mahder has used technology and data-centric knowledge to solve business as well as social problems. This passion for social change is part of a bigger sense of purpose: “I grew up in Ethiopia, and I didn’t come from a rich family. We never had enough growing up. So my purpose in life is providing enough. When it comes to food, I want people to have enough, especially kids. And in terms of education, I want people to have enough knowledge to contribute to their society.”
Mahder has achieved a great amount in her professional life and has had a positive impact on countless Ethiopian livelihoods through Ethiochicken. But despite her previous achievements, Mahder still has many aspirations for the future: “If you look at the numbers in Africa; it doesn’t always look good for women. When it comes to hunger, women are more hungry. When it comes to literacy, women are more illiterate. We’re missing women, and if we’re missing women, we’re missing the next generation of leaders in Africa. So in the future, my projects are going to be particularly impactful for young people and women.”
Mahder Zewdie will join the ALUSB MBA Class of 2020 this March.
Obonye Malope ’20 is the Director of Marketing at the First National Bank of Botswana and embarked on her ALUSB journey this past July. Preparatory to starting the MBA programme she set several goals, but most of all, Obonye wanted to develop herself further as an African leader. We sat down with Obonye to talk about her objectives for pursuing an MBA and why the pan-African programme at ALUSB resonated so much with her.
Before applying to ALUSB, Obonye had been looking for an MBA programme for quite some time; 10 years to be exact. “I could never find one that went beyond just “ticking off a box”. I never really found a programme that interested me; I would look at the syllabus, the course content and it wouldn’t really grab my attention.”
But when she learned about the pan-African programme at ALUSB, she finally felt like she found an MBA that aligned with her vision. These are the three things Obonye wanted to get out of the MBA programme at ALUSB:
ALUSB is all about increasing the business acumen in Africa and encouraging Africans to come up with homegrown solutions for problems on the continent. We ensure this by offering an education that is tailored to the African context through case studies on African businesses, African research and the application of that theory to solve existing problems.
This vision of self-sufficiency greatly resonated with Obonye, “I think we always associate leadership with countries outside of Africa. When people want to study leadership, management or business, they often assume that they have to go to the US or Europe. But no, we need to invest in ourselves! We don’t always have to look for foreign investment.”
2 A DIFFERENT PERCEPTION
Secondly, Obonye turned to the ALUSB MBA programme to get an education that went beyond surface-level perceptions of Africa. “A lot of our history portrays warfare, disease and the more negative side. But, there is also a very beautiful side to Africa; the celebrations, the different cultures, our perseverance… But that side rarely gets shown.”
“I really wanted to get exposed to the richness of the many cultures that make up Africa. I wanted to learn more about Africa from Africans and people who are in that environment. And the programme gives me exactly that. There are about 20 African countries represented in my year alone. “
“Building a network across Africa was important to me because I wanted to get to the point where I could work anywhere on the African continent.”
3 AN AFRICAN-WIDE NETWORK
The third goal Obonye had when starting the MBA programme at ALUSB, was to expand her network. “Building a network across Africa was important to me because I wanted to get to the point where I could work anywhere on the African continent. The MBA programme is essentially about networking and growing these strong bonds so that you can reach across to them when you need them. For example; If I want to expand my company to Tanzania, I can just reach out to a classmate and say: “hey, help me understand the local landscape.”
But Obonye didn’t only gain an African-wide network at ALUSB, she also gained a family. “I have been touched and encouraged by the family that is the entire class of 2020. These people are now family, they’re not just a cohort or just classmates. The level of transparency and generosity is amazing. That is something that is going to last beyond the entire MBA programme.”
Motlatsi Mkalala ’19 is a South African, an Area Manager at Standard Bank, and a rule breaker. We had the pleasure of sitting down with this maverick to discuss his decision to pursue an MBA at ALUSB and his thoughts on taking non-conforming leadership decisions.
“I’m a person who does not conform; I don’t follow rules, I recreate them.”
Here are some interesting excerpts from Motlatsi’s interview, you can find the full video
Although Motlatsi was thinking about applying to a business school for a long time, he had become a bit anti-MBA over time: “I thought everybody was getting an MBA and that it was losing its value.”
But the Pan-African programme at ALUSB made him reconsider: “When I heard about ALUSB, I got excited because it was a Pan-African MBA and the first of its kind. I thought the MBA would give me a greater understanding of the issues and challenges the continent has and a context of where I would want to go next.”
ON LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT
is at the heart of ALUSB’s vision and is a constant presence throughout the MBA programme. We adhere to a unique V^3 model
, which uses a mixture of Virtue, Value and Vision,
to develop well-rounded leaders. Not only do we craft their leadership through top-quality content and coaching, but the students also learn to lead
through on-the-job practices and experimental activities.
When asked about the leadership development programme
at ALUSB, there’s one thing that immediately comes to Motlatsi’s mind: “We learned how to be bold and take bold decisions
. And you start to reflect and think: do I take bold decisions in how I run the business? Or am I always comfortable because I’m scared to be the one that stands out? That has challenged how I influence the team or my boss to take a different stance.”
Watch Motlatsi’s full interview below:
Three years ago, Yves Iradukunda ’19 started at MASS Design Group in Kigali, Rwanda as the East-African operations manager. Now, he’s the senior director of operations and mainly works on bringing in new talent, kickstarting new projects and managing relationships with MASS’s different partners.
With responsibilities that are constantly evolving and expanding, Yves still managed to complete his MBA journey at ALUSB without jeopardising his responsibilities at work.
We talked to Yves about his time at ALUSB and the 4 elements that determined his academic and professional success throughout the MBA programme.
1. Knowing your “why”
Whether you’re a budding entrepreneur or an established leader, identifying the meaning behind your decisions is essential for a purpose-driven and significant journey.
Yves’ reasoning for pursuing an MBA was twofold. Not only did he want to take advantage of the general management training that a Business School provides, but he specifically wanted to expand his knowledge on entrepreneurship and leadership.
“Ideally an MBA was going to allow me to understand my previous experiences through different lenses. I really wanted to know what it meant to inspire; not just the people that I work with, but also the broader society, through the work that we do.”
Knowing his “why” and identifying his goals kept Yves focused and intentional during the ALUSB programme.
2. Choosing the right fit
Even though it is an essential building block, knowing your “why” is not the only thing that will keep you motivated. It is equally important to find an institution that suits you academically and personally. Yves found his match in the Pan-African centred programme at ALUSB.
“There are so many untapped opportunities on the continent and ALUSB’s focus on the African context made the school really attractive and unique. I am now able to tap into a vast network of professionals that are operating in different markets and expand my understanding beyond my own experience. If you’re really interested in increasing your knowledge and expertise on the continent, this MBA is the right programme for you.”
3. Being intentional
In the course of the last 15 months, Yves’ responsibilities at MASS Design Group have both changed and increased in terms of expectations. But despite the added pressure, Yves found a way to stay on top of his schoolwork.
“You have to be very intentional. There have been many weeks where it was a struggle to dedicate the needed time to my course material, but that means that the weekends are for catching up. So if the week has been hectic, be intentional in the weekend and really make time to study.”
4. Having a strong support system.
Having a support system is imperative when embarking on any journey, especially a challenging one like this. Yves was lucky to have many morale boosters around him.
“My wife and newly born daughter are really the main sources for my motivation; it’s rewarding knowing that they have my back. That aspect of family support is very important.”
Yves colleagues at MASS Design Group were also a source of motivation during his MBA journey: “Seeing the impact of the work that we do, is very inspiring. My colleagues are dedicated, passionate and never compromise on quality. A work environment like that is encouraging and motivates me to contribute to them as they contribute to me.”
Finally, Yves states that his MBA journey would have been impossible without his classmates. “Even though the ALUSB MBA is a remote programme, we remained connected throughout the year, not just at the intensives. We WhatsApp on a daily basis, call each other, offer support in difficult times and celebrate the exciting ones. Without those people, what you’re learning loses meaning.”
And even though Yves graduation from ALUSB is quickly approaching, he’s not planning to stop learning anytime soon.
“I think learning itself is a lifelong journey. The MBA programme opened my eyes and kickstarted a lifelong learning journey. It helped me realise how much more opportunities are across the continent. So the upcoming graduation is not a final destination, it’s the start of a new journey of learning and collaborating with other people.”
Patience Mapeza ’19 is a Senior Retail Banking Manager for NMB Bank in Zimbabwe. She joined NMB in 2002 a few years after the former merchant bank registered as a commercial bank. She has risen steadily through the ranks ever since. Patience now manages over 14 bank branches across the country, working hard to drive a more financially inclusive society. This week we followed Patience for a week and observed her as a senior professional, guardian and team leader.
Patience’s Monday begins early. She wakes up at 4:00am to catch up with her MBA assignments. As legal guardian to her nieces, aged 17 and 19 years respectively, she then checks in on the girls to make sure that they are ready for school, then drops them off and then heads to work.
Patience usually arrives at work by 8:00am, where she will first respond to emails that are pending from the weekend. She checks in on the status of her 14 branches, ensuring that any issues are addressed immediately. Patience closely monitors how each branch is operating, ensuring that customer satisfaction levels are optimised and that her branches are staying ahead of their competitors in offering financially inclusive customer solutions. If issues occur that require her presence in a branch, Patience will leave her office and head out to that branch.
Other priorities in Patience’s weekly schedule comprise business development meetings with her Executive Directors. “People know I have an opinion, but I have to work extra hard as one of the few women in senior positions at the bank, to ensure that no balls are dropped”.
On weekends, Patience catches up with her friends and family. She is blessed with an amazing network of professional women, peers with whom she can share, who advise and encourage each other with a view to promoting more women in leadership across their respective industries.
Golf is also a favourite past time, and Patience will play a round with friends when she can find the time.
After church on Sundays, Patience hosts her family for a meal. “My family has been so supportive. They always motivate me to work and give me the space I need to work on my MBA assignments. I send the girls to my parents over the weekend, freeing up time for study”.
A perfect week for Patience is when she is able to accomplish her set objectives at work and satisfy her customers. The ALUSB Intensive weeks have always been a highlight of her MBA journey. “ALUSB brings together diverse, amazing professionals from across the continent. We share, engage and network. And I am ever impressed by the high quality of our guest lecturers.”
On Motivation: Patience believes in the power of prayer. She adds, “My home is my sanctuary. I reflect on how I can grow as a guardian, leader, and business woman. My country, Zimbabwe, has gone through a series of challenges. It can depress you, so I always try to stay positive, because I do not know what tomorrow may hold”.
On Roadblocks: ‘I am an empowered woman. I try to identify opportunities in spite of the challenges faced by women. Zimbabwe is a patriarchal society where a woman with an opinion is not always well received, especially if unmarried”. Patience embraces her values, virtues, and vision as a woman, striving to look out for fellow women. “It sometimes makes people uncomfortable, but I feel that if life brings challenges to our doorstep, it is up to us to turn them into opportunities”, she adds.
On Teamwork at ALUSB: Throughout her MBA, Patience has realised that working as part of a team and listening to her team mates makes things easier. “My ability to go through this programme is in part due to my supportive teammates. I was not sure that I would be able to keep up with the pressure, but with time, I have come to embrace it.
“The ALUSB MBA is doable, possible and I have embraced the ALU term #DOHARDTHINGS! I doubt that there is anything the programme can throw me that I won’t be able to handle.”
Patience has a message for people considering the ALUSB MBA: “This is the perfect opportunity for you to be a changemaker. ALUSB has given me the opportunity to see what I was not able to envision before”.
Patience looks ahead to life after graduation as a significant time of application, when the MBA Class of 2019 puts all the skills and knowledge that they’ve acquired along this 20-month journey, into practice. She also looks forward to creating suitable banking products in Africa to ensure that Africa is banked differently and banked better. ‘I now see normal tasks as opportunities.” she concludes.
Arnaud Niyongabo ’19 has been with Village Health Works in Burundi for the past seven years. As he embarks upon the final weeks of his ALUSB MBA experience, the winds of change are blowing in a new direction.
Arnaud just accepted a job with Kaz’O’zah in Bujumbura, an organisation that works to “encourage artisans to become skilled craftsmen, reach their full potential through skills development, hard work and determination, and then thrive as self-sufficient income-earners”. As Arnaud embarks upon his new horizon, enjoy this week-in-his-life as a husband, father, leader and ALUSB MBA student.
Monday, 21 January starts early in the morning. Arnaud grabs a cup of his favorite Arabic coffee and then takes his two sons, aged 3 and 4, to school. As he navigates the traffic on his way to work, he reflects on the challenges faced by the people of Burundi. Arnaud fully intends to play his part in improving the lives of many.
At work Arnaud meets with his team, where they discuss the events of the previous week, analyse their objectives and reflect on how they can improve. Arnaud creates a space for his colleagues to voice their challenges, leading brainstorming and problem solving sessions, ending with a clear way forward for the week.
“The MBA’s DBIA [Doing Business in Africa] course has taught me how to be resilient. Sometimes you just have to be ready for what’s coming your way. Expect the unexpected and adjust it to your goals, then keep moving forward”, he says.
Tuesday to Thursday sees Arnaud in the field with his clients, comprised of artisans, women, NGOs, restaurants, farmers and young people. Arnaud and his team are responsible for equipping their clients with the skills they need to become financially sustainable.
On Friday, Arnaud returns from the field, full of new information and progress reports to share with his team.
On motivation: Arnaud has a clear source of motivation for both work and school: “My wife is my greatest source of motivation. She ensures that I keep track of my studies and work”, he explains. This is turn drives him to be a better leader and husband.
On teamwork: Arnaud attests to the learnings from his ALUSB teammates. He is impressed by the diversity and commitment among his MBA classmates. He describes them as “a group of change agents with the passion and zeal for making their communities better places”.
A perfect week for Arnaud is one where he is able to spend quality time with his wife, keep his two little boys happy and healthy, go to church, visit family and friends, meet his professional objectives of the week without roadblocks and submit all his ALUSB assignments on time.
Arnaud has a clear message for the newly admitted MBA candidates who will be joining ALUSB:
“Do not look at the MBA as just a tool to learn about business concepts or to help you move forward in your careers. It is also about human connections, about creating a strong network with your classmates, and about how you want to grow as a business leader”.
As he looks ahead to graduation, Arnaud is committed to continuing the projects that he started with his team mates, and to working to maintain the precious ALUSB relationships that he built over the past 18 months.