Yet another graduation is at the horizon for The African Leadership University School of Business (ALUSB)! On Saturday, 21st March the third cohort of ALUSB students will be walking the graduation stage at the Kigali Convention Centre in Rwanda as Masters of Business Administration. ALUSB is pleased to announce that the keynote graduation speaker will be none other than Ibukun Awosika, a driving force in business, entrepreneurship, and philanthropy on the continent!
About Ibukun Awosika
When it comes to business, Ibukun Awosika is a known pioneer. She currently serves as the first female Chairman of First Bank of Nigeria Limited. She’s also the Founder and CEO of The Chair Centre Ltd, a market leader in the office furniture and banking security systems industries. Her entrepreneurial ventures have earned her multiple awards, including the prestigious International Women Entrepreneurial Challenge (IWEC) Award as a nominee of the US Department of State.
In addition to her strides in business and entrepreneurship, Ibukun is a continuous advocate for the social, economic and educational advancement of women and youth across the continent. Through her personal projects and alignment with organisations such as The African Leadership Initiative, Women in Business, Management and Public Service (WIMBIZ), Aspen Global Leadership Network, and more, Ibukun strives to empower entrepreneurs to create jobs for the large unemployed youthful population.
“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 is no stranger to the academic space; she’s a Chemistry graduate from University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University), Nigeria; and an alumna of the Chief Executive Programme of Lagos Business School, the Global Executive MBA of IESE Business School, Barcelona-Spain and Global CEO Programme of Wharton, IESE and China European International Business School (CEIBS).
Having Ibukun as the keynote speaker continues an ALUSB tradition of welcoming a wide range of prominent, African individuals to address its graduating class. Former graduation keynote speakers have included Strive Masiyiwa, renowned businessman and philanthropist, and Donald Kaberuka, Former President of African Development Bank.
The Class of 2020, “Umoja”
The pan-African MBA Class of 2020, Umoja, of which one third is women, represents 15 African countries of residence.
ALUSB will celebrate the accomplishments and achievements of the Class of 2020 Umoja with a week full of events that will culminate with the graduation ceremony. The week’s events will include their final intensive, special guest speakers, and family events!
CATHERINE CHUMO ’20 IS AN INFORMATION OFFICER AT Africa Network for Animal Welfare (ANAW) in Kenya and is currently enrolled in the MBA for Conservation Leaders! We had the privilege to chat with her about her experience and work in the conservation field.
Catherine’s interest in nature and animals started at a young age. After visiting the Nairobi National Park as a child with her family, she knew she wanted to work in a space that would ensure the safety of wild animals. Today, Catherine is an Information Officer in the Communications Department of an international conservation organisation.
At ANAW, Catherine gets to experience the best of both worlds as she works both in the field and in the office!
While in the office, her responsibilities mainly revolve around planning and information management. As an Information Officer, she is tasked with ensuring that information and communication channels run smoothly and efficiently.
Similarly, her role in the field revolves around organising conservation initiatives in different parts of Kenya. This requires input from different members that make up the community, volunteers, government, partners, conservation stakeholders, donors, graduate students, and schools.
Catherine’s weekly schedule…
A typical weekday starts as early as 4 AM for Catherine. She starts her day off with a work out session after which she gets ready for work.
Her first task in the office, after a cup of coffee, is reviewing MBA work. This is to make sure she is set for the week and is up to date with assignment deadlines.
At around 8:30 AM Catherine has a team check-in where they lay out the agenda for the upcoming week. A huge bulk of the rest of the day is meeting with stakeholders and partners to work on different projects and collaboration opportunities. She often closes off her day by sending out communications and responding to emails. Her evenings are reserved for school work.
While in the field, Catherine starts her day with one of her favorite things; work out sessions in the wild. The team then has breakfast at 8 AM. After a briefing, the team heads out to different sites where they start working on different tasks such as de-snaring, animal rescues, human-animal coexistence activities, companion animal vaccination campaigns, and working with wildlife guardians for patrols.
ANAW team members, including Helen Jerotich, Eunice Robai, and Kate Chumo, rangers and Soysambu Conservancy staff during a full day of snare-removal at the Soysambu Conservancy northwest of Nairobi. Kenya, 2016.
ANAW projects include community mobilization that is focused on women within different communities that they operate in. These initiatives are designed to inform women of the dangers of poaching and to provide them with alternative sources of income such as basketry. The organization also works with young men to turn lethal snare traps into snare art.
Pursuing an ALUSB MBA
Although her work in the conservation field was fulfilling, Catherine was looking for a bigger platform that would allow her to work with others and take up the pressing issues in wildlife conservation. This led her to the MBA for Conservation Leaders! Besides these professional needs, Catherine was intrigued by the vision, innovation, and network that ALUSB offers and this made her decision to join the School of Business a no-brainer.
On handling roadblocks: Through Leadership Lab and other courses in the MBA programme, Catherine has learned to handle roadblocks with a healthy dose of emotional intelligence and calmness. “Leadership Lab really comes in handy when handling roadblocks especially those that require conflict resolution.”
Advice on working with different communities: While working with different communities, Catherine notes the importance of recognising and acknowledging the different dynamics within a community. She puts emphasis on the need to understand the community’s needs and priorities in order to move forward. She states that this is crucial especially in dealing with human-wildlife conflict, “You have to be a people person when working with a community,” she says.
The experience as a woman in a male-dominated field
Catherine acknowledges that working in a male-dominated field comes with some challenges in the field and in the boardroom. How does she deal with these challenges? A positive mindset and an assertive attitude! She also chats with some of her classmates, especially the women, as a way to keep her motivated and inspired. Catherine emphasizes that while being a woman at work comes with its challenges, being the only female student in the conservation MBA programme has been a great experience for her because of the support she has received from fellow classmates!
Her highlight at ALUSB
“My growth as a conservation leader has been heavily influenced by my classmates’ support and inspiration.” She also points out that the intensive held in Mauritius was a significant moment in her journey as a conservation leader. She was able to learn more about structural challenges experienced in conserving marine species. She gained tools from the marine conservation toolkit which she seeks to incorporate in her work.
“My growth as a conservation leader has been heavily influenced by my classmates’ support and inspiration.”
Advice to women seeking careers in environmental conservation
“Volunteer and take part in conservation programmes while in school. This will allow you to learn and give you skills which can give you a head start in your career. At the same time, connect with other women in the field as this will become a strong support system to help you get through challenges specific to women. Finally, always remember that everyone has so much to bring into the world of conservation therefore, you should be assertive and trust your instincts.”
Edward Shila ‘20 is an East-African in every sense of the word: he was born in Tanzania to an Ugandan mother and Tanzanian father, he studied in Kenya, he works as the Managing Director of Dentsu Aegis Network in Dar es Salaam and is currently pursuing his MBA in Kigali.
Most of his time, however, is spent in Tanzania, where he oversees the day to day activities at Dentsu Aegis Network, a global advertising, and marketing agency. “We help brands come up with strategies, communication plans, media plans, digital plans, creatives, production and overall below the line activities.”
As a Managing Director, Edward naturally has a lot on his plate: “A big part of my role is about tracking the financial performance of the business. It’s thinking about how we are performing against the revenue targets that we’ve set for ourselves and offering the team reports on how we will be able to achieve the numbers. Apart from that, it’s also about managing relationships between the business and our clients; whether it’s beer brands or telco’s, we have to make sure that we’re really delivering and the clients are happy.”
Even with all these responsibilities on his plate, Edward still decided to go for his MBA. His reasons were twofold: leadership and growth. “I’ve always been interested in leadership and I wanted something that was going to help me grow in my career. I wanted to move into the C-suite level and most of the places I’ve been interested in require you to have an MBA or at least a Master’s degree. I thought it was the right time for me to go and do that.”
His search for the right MBA, however, took some time: “I finished my undergrad in 2010 and in these 9 years, it was a struggle to find a school or an MBA programme that was different… until I found ALUSB. I chose ALUSB because it’s a different type of degree or rather, a different type of MBA; from what you’re being taught to how it all weaves together in everyday business operations or leadership and management.
The first thing that really stood out to me was the focus on leadership and building future African leaders. The other thing that stood out to me was the fact that it’s a pan-African MBA. ALUSB gives you the chance to learn and experience other pan-African leaders, expand your network and increase your opportunities.”
How does Edward juggle his roles as father, Managing Director and MBA student? Read on to discover his day-to-day and how he approaches work-life balance!
1. Maintain a routine
This new addition in his life required a little adjusting. To keep everything structured, Edward maintains a strict routine: “Every morning for me starts with trying to get to the office at 6.30 or 7 AM. I start the day by reading the bible, listening to music and I meditate for about half an hour. And that is followed up by me catching up on my studies up until 9 AM. At 9, I start working and checking my emails. By 11 I have a weekly status meeting. The commonality here is that up until 9, it’s routine.”
This routine continues throughout the week. It’s at the beginning of the weekend that Edward gets to change it up a bit: “What my Saturdays look like, all depends on the workload; sometimes I come into work or catch up on assignments. And on lighter days, I spend time with the kids, take them out for dinner, swimming or something else. Sunday is church day. After church, I go back home and I spoil the family.”
2. Handle your challenges
“I’ve always been an optimistic person and I’m very solution-centric. I’m always keen to find a solution to a roadblock and maintain a positive attitude. So whenever there’s a roadblock, I always believe that that is where solutions are supposed to come out of. Being able to do that really helps me to focus on the issue at hand and think about how to move forward.”
3. Find your motivation
“There is more that needs to be done and that keeps me going.”
“Two particular things motivate me to keep going. One is my ambition. Seeing where I come from and where I am today… It is a journey that I’m really proud of. So I keep increasing the bandwidth because I know that I’m not there yet. There is more that needs to be done and that keeps me going.
Apart from that, my daughters really inspire me. Even though they’re small, they seem to be very wise. After a long day, they are really able to lift my spirits and make me feel motivated and really give me the energy I need for the next day.”
4. Make sacrifices
Work-life balance simply means being able to regulate the amount of time and energy that you spend on your work, yourself and things that are personal to you. How do you split your time between your work, school, your health, and your family and friends, while also doing things that are good for you? For me, I always make it a point to not work during the weekend and I make an effort to go home early and not stay up late.
It is a challenge, it is hard and it’s quite a lot of work and a lot of effort to try to maintain that. In my case; I’m doing an MBA, I have work, I have a life and this means that the life part has to suffer a little bit for a time for me to be able to complete this. But whenever time permits, I compensate for the times that I wasn’t able to be there.
We had the privilege to have a chat with Christopher Williams, African Leadership University President, as he shared his insights on the future of business on the continent, African leadership and the difference between managers and leaders.
On the future of Africa: All the elements are there.
“All the elements are there. A young population, a growing middle class, a strong interest in development after long periods of economic challenge. It also satisfies a bigger need that the global community has, like I said, to reach new markets. So I think the two coming together promises a lot for Africa.
(…) we now have to be aware that this is an opportunity and this is a moment and this is a window we have to take advantage of. I’m very excited about the role of a school like ALU because it plays exactly in that sweet spot of the expectations, the opportunities, and the demand for Africa’s role in a growing world. So it’s all about the question of how fast we can prepare and how we will embrace technology as part of the solution.”
“… this is an opportunity and this is a moment and this is a window we have to take advantage of.”
On his leadership heroes
“(…) But if we bring things closer to home, as we look day by day at people we can relate to more directly, I think the school and the students and faculty should draw inspiration from Fred himself. What Fred has decided to do is not easy. I don’t think too many people growing up aspire… Well, they might aspire to do different things. I think they might aspire to even create companies but not many people aspire to found universities. That is a very complex endeavour and so he chose the difficult one of at least those two choices. And the fact that the faculty and the staff and the students, so early in the life of this institution, have come along on this journey shows that everyone has a little bit more focus and comfort doing something extraordinary.”
“… they should be able to look at the environment and look at their companies and look at their countries and look at the world and say: ‘what next?’ or ‘what if?’.”
On the difference between leaders and managers.
“Managers live in a functional space and they can manage operationally what needs to be done. Leaders think about a potential or vision or future that doesn’t exist today and they capture it as eloquently as they can and then they make people get excited about it and go after it. So they should be visionaries, they should be able to look at the environment and look at their companies and look at their countries and look at the world and say: ‘what next?’ or ‘what if?’.”
Watch Christopher’s video below:
OLATUNDE IMMANUEL ’20 IS A REGIONAL SALES DIRECTOR FOR WEST AFRICA AT IDEMIA, AN AUGMENTED IDENTITY COMPANY SPECIALIZING IN SECURITY AND IDENTITY SOLUTIONS.
We had a chance to have a chat with Olatunde and discuss how he combines his different roles: father, regional sales director, and ALUSB MBA student.
Being the Regional Sales Director for West Africa, a lot of Olatunde’s week is spent traveling between his most established markets: Nigeria and Ghana. “Usually, I’m traveling every two weeks. When traveling, I usually leave Lagos on Wednesday morning and try to be back on Saturday morning. Last week, I was in Accra, where we have a lot of customers in the telecommunications industry like Vodafone, MTN, Airtel and Tigo. I meet with them and try to understand what their needs and strategies are in terms of what volume of sim cards they want quarterly and what other technology solutions they are planning to deploy.”
His schedule is very flexible, even when he’s working from home. But there is one thing that remains a constant: school runs. “We have two boys and a girl and when I’m not traveling, I always pick up the kids from school. When we get home, I sit with them and make sure they do their assignments while I do my office work.”
And after the family has gone to bed and it’s quiet, it’s time for Olatunde to do some ALUSB MBA work. His decision to pursue an MBA was mostly career driven. “I wanted to move up in my career and I thought having an MBA programme would provide me with the right tools to realize this.” And Olatunde was right. When he started his MBA journey at ALUSB, he got promoted from Regional Sales Manager to Senior Director. His new goal? Vice President for the whole of Africa. “For me to be able to reach that goal, it’s important for me to understand the African market. I thought an MBA program would allow me to build contacts across the entire continent, not just in West Africa. That is one of the main reasons that I chose the ALU School of Business, because of its pan-African uniqueness. We have good business schools here in Nigeria but they are kind of localized. And I didn’t want to do an MBA in Europe, for example, because the core of my job is in Africa, so I wanted an MBA that I could utilize in the future as I develop myself further on the continent.”
“It’s easier to go on a journey with a group of people than to work alone.”
When asked about the highlight of his ALUSB MBA journey so far, Olatunde is quick to bring up his classmates. “ I have phenomenal classmates. It’s easier to go on a journey with a group of people than to work alone. My job requires a lot of traveling so having awesome classmates that check up on me and let me know when an assignment is due is very nice. We understand one another and encourage each other. That’s the way we roll!” Even though Olatunde receives a lot of motivation from his classmates, he’s mostly self-motivated.
On doing business in Africa: I have traveled across Africa and I have noticed a few things. One of the things that I think is an issue on the African continent is knowledge of the market sector. I work in the telecommunications and banking sectors, that’s why I wake up to read the news first thing in the morning. I understand my sector and government policies surrounding it, do research and subscribe to journals that I read daily. It would save your life!
Secondly, I think that the networks are also key. The deals I have been able to achieve, are a result of knowing people. Our customers need to know that you’re valuable enough for them to be able to trust you.
Thirdly, when you do business in Africa; give your word, own the promise, deliver and overdeliver.”
Joachim Nzuzi ’20 is from the DRC, operates as the CEO at Africa Rising Consulting in Johannesburg and is the Chief Operating Officer at Realbanc Limited in Lagos. It doesn’t get more pan-African than that! With this much experience on the continent, Joachim is the ideal person to talk to about doing business in Africa.
People often say; you don’t choose your career, your career chooses you. And Joachim agrees. “I started looking after peoples assets in South-Africa, I was advising them about investment opportunities and such. And my current business partner, who would often travel to South-Africa, would come and ask me for advice about which area would be best to invest in; in terms of properties. So one thing led to another and then he asked me to come to Nigeria to help him restructure his company. I always had a passion for real-estate. And that’s really how I got into it. So, it’s not as if I chose it, it kind of like chose me more than anything.”
Realising he was growing in his career, Joachim decided that an MBA would be the perfect tool to help him take on these new responsibilities. “I started to identify some gaps and I felt that an MBA was going to give me a better perspective on how to make good managerial decisions.”
About 16 months in his MBA at ALU School of Business, Joachim has no regrets, only lessons. Here are a couple of things that he learned from his vast experience and knowledge of doing business on the continent and his time at ALUSB.
1. Be patient with the continent
Take it easy. I know people say; ‘the higher the risk, the higher the return.’ But you have to be very patient with the continent. You have to take a long-term approach when it comes to doing business in Africa. It’s not going to happen as quickly as you think, but if you stay consistent, things will turn around. There is so much great potential in Africa and I will always say to people: take your time when doing business in Africa and stick to what you know.
“You have to take a long-term approach when it comes to doing business in Africa.”
2. You have to educate yourself
“If you want to do business in Africa, there are just so many factors that you have to take into consideration. Having a local context on different fronts protects a business from risks that could result in considerable losses. I’ve invested money in the DRC and I’ve lost money. Mostly because I was not very in tune with what was going on in the country. So, if you do not know the environment, you’re going to lose money.
There are a lot of things that ALUSB has reaffirmed as far as doing business in Africa is concerned. But the one thing that I learned is to consider all factors. The old me would go into new territory without even thinking. But ALUSB has taught me the ability to look at things that other people are not looking at. My approach was very limited, but now it’s much broader.”
3. Good leadership is essential
“A lot of things have changed regarding my perception of leadership especially after learning more about the V^3 leadership model at ALUSB. So now, I think a great leader is someone who understands the needs of their people more than anything. And it’s not just about telling people what to do; it’s listening to the needs of the people and finding a way to meet that need. It’s not about you taking the people where you want to go, it’s about taking the people where they need to go. And that is the kind of leadership Africa needs right now.”
“It’s not about you taking the people where you want to go, it’s about taking the people where they need to go.”