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: JerryLynn Kariuki, Intern, ALU School of Business
The COVID-19 pandemic has created the largest disruption of education systems in history. Students and teachers have had to adapt to the world of virtual learning; a world that comes with its own set of challenges. Luckily, Chidi Afulezi, ALUSB’s Head Faculty for Product, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, is no stranger to challenges and he took this one head-on. We caught up with Chidi to learn more about his experience as an educator during a pandemic and get some tips on how to make the most out of virtual learning.
Q. How has COVID-19 impacted your work as an educator?
Chidi: One of the main impacts has been losing the personal face to face connection I previously had with my MBAs. It’s not possible to truly replace the particular aspects of in-person learning, such as body language or feeling the tension in a room when navigating difficult conversations.
Fortunately, ALUSB had already stepped up with virtual learning. The virtual learning experience was made more comfortable by hosting webinars, using emails and other platforms to communicate with students. I believe the broader ALU community is looking up to ALUSB as a benchmark for how we do virtual learning. As a faculty member, I am proud to know that it is not just the MBA’s who are getting some form of instruction but the whole ALUSB community is learning. I believe that among the many offerings, this element makes ALUSB an exemplary learning institution.
Additionally, this experience has prompted me to up my game in terms of the equipment, technology and tools I need to provide an engaging learning experience. Looking at it from teaching methodology, I had to find ways to bring empathy, energy, kindness and firmness to support my students through this challenging time and ensure we produce bonafide MBAs.
Q. What are the benefits of online learning/teaching?
Chidi: Through virtual learning, there are opportunities to bring more people into the classrooms.
There is also an opportunity to combine classes and to extend the executive education classes, not just to our students but to other corporate organisations.
Moreover, going virtual has allowed me to be with my family. While travelling was exciting, spending more time with my family has been a blessing which I genuinely appreciate, and I consider this a benefit of the transition to virtual learning.
Q. What are your highlights from our second online intensive this past July?
Chidi: The first thing I can point out is the ALUSB Operations team who stars in their execution of the virtual intensives. The group organised and ran a world-class virtual learning experience that was engaging for both the educators and the students.
My second highlight was the interaction with students, especially during the capstone presentations where they shared some of the projects they have been working on to solve challenges they have identified all over the continent and in different sectors. It was a learning experience for me too, and I felt inspired by their excellent work.
Q. What is your prediction for the education sector post-COVID-19?
“The education sector in the world, and more specifically on the African continent, is about to see some significant disruption.”
Chidi: The education sector in the world, and more specifically on the African continent, is about to see some significant disruption. Essentially, COVID-19 is an accelerant rather than a change agent. Previously, the changes happening in the education sector were moving at a slower pace. But with COVID-19, I anticipate the acceleration of significant shifts in the industry. I believe we are going virtual, and this will translate to more students having access to education.
Notably, this is predicated by the availability of supportive infrastructures such as internet connectivity and electricity. Universities and other physical structures will not disappear as these too have their significance in society. However, virtual education may become more predominant.
In addition to this, educators will need to be exceptional at what they do to attract the kinds of people who stick around virtually. This will be an opportunity to highlight the ‘superstars’ who can deliver instruction and teach via virtual mediums.
Finally, Chidi shared the following practical tips to make the most out of online teaching:
- You have to be interesting. While delivering content virtually, you need to make the delivery of your content exciting and simplified. An educator needs to be very engaged to ensure that students don’t get disengaged. This could mean having visual content that is well thought out and keeping your energy levels high.
- Get the right tools. Improve your delivery by ensuring that you have the right equipment to deliver online learning.
- Learn from other educators who are doing well.
- Find something that your students and team can look forward to. It is important to have something that brings you together and lifts your energy levels.
Want to read more stories from our ALUSB community? Here are some links to get you started:
Applications to join our MBA classroom in March 2021 are now open! Start your application today at: http://bit.ly/APPLYNOWM21 !
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.”
Gloria Karambizi ’20 is s a Student Loan Manager at Kepler, a nonprofit organisation, where she assists students in getting access to loans and scholarships to pursue higher education.
We had the pleasure of sitting down with her and discovering how she balances her roles as a Manager and an MBA student while also making time for friends and family.
Gloria’s week starts with a twenty-minute drive to work at 9 a.m. She emphasises that a twenty-minute commute is a lot in a Rwandan context as there is not much traffic or the roads. Her days in the office depend on the plans of the organisation. Currently, Kepler is getting ready to enrol new students to the programme. As a result, her priority is planning in preparation for the incoming batch of new students.
Her primary focus is on creating an efficient system, given that the organisation is working on a relatively new programme. She hopes that through collaboration with different stakeholders, she can develop a replicable process within the programme that can be used in the future.
On most weekdays after work, she meets up with some of her ALUSB classmates. During those meetups, they catch up on schoolwork, keep each other accountable and act as a support system for their academics, work, and personal lives. Notably, she likes to spend Friday evenings at career events and professionals’ meetings that happen around Kigali. She considers these events a great opportunity to network and interacts with other professionals, especially those within her line of work.
“My classmates and the ALUSB community are phenomenal; I get inspired by them every day.”
Weekends are family-time for Gloria. She values spending time with her family and consequently ensures she makes time for them every week. They spend time cooking together on Saturday, go to church together on Sunday, and watch a movie afterwards.
On motivation: “I am glad that I’m doing something that is already bringing change to the continent. This motivates me to wake up because I know what I do matters and that I am helping other people.” Gloria credits her motivation to the fact that she is doing what she loves. She is driven by the desire to help people and impact peoples lives positively and works towards this every day. Gloria also genuinely likes the ALUSB MBA courses: “The Leadership Lab course has been instrumental in making leadership practical in my day-to-day activities. Through this course, I have been able to apply myself as a leader in different spaces.”
“I now see myself as a leader.”
Finding work-life balance: Gloria credits her work-ethic as the foundation of her being able to balance the different roles and responsibilities in her life. She keeps a 9 to 5 policy which gives her room to spend time with family, friends and work for school. “It’s not an easy process, but it is one that gets easier with time and patience.”
On teamwork at ALUSB: “You have to plan accordingly, and you should do this earlier on,” Gloria advises. To have efficient group work, team members must plan early on the dynamics of their team. Through early planning, Gloria has been able to work efficiently within a pan-African team.
Advice to prospective students: “Students should ensure they stay up to date with course content and assignments to avoid a build-up of workload.” She also highlights her classmates as one of the critical assets one will gain in the rigorous MBA programme. “Your classmates will be your family.” she declares.
ALU School of Business prides itself in being able to enlist African business titans as Guest Faculty. A great example of this is Steve Okeyo, currently operating as the Managing Director of Mobile Devices at Telkom Kenya.
Steve earned an extensive track record in Sales, Operations, Management, and Strategy through experiences in roles such as Director for Regional Sales and Operations at Safaricom, Director for Sales Force Effectiveness at Lafarge, Commercial Director for the Bamburi and Hima Cement Companies and more. We are honoured to have had him share his experiences with our ALUSB MBA students and now, with you.
Watch the interview below to learn more about Steve’s experience a Guest Lecturer at ALUSB, his vision for Africa and his advice for rising business leaders!
His impressions of ALUSB MBA students
I like the fact that students come from different countries.
“I like the fact that students come from different countries. If I draw examples or case studies from the different countries, more often than not there will be a student from that country in class. And they can understand what I’m talking about because maybe they saw something happening in those years in certain industries and they didn’t understand exactly what happened and we are able to have those conversations.”
On the future of Africa
The African consumer is very young, and is growing.
“The future lies in Africa doing more business with itself. Look, Africa has the youngest population in the world. More than half of the population in Africa are young, below the age of 30. That depends from country to country, but the message is the same: that the African consumer is very young, and is growing. So everyone is going to come to Africa to want to sell us something. So if we can start selling to each other, we will benefit. So that alone tells you that this is the place to be.”
Advice for rising leaders entering the “C-suite”
You are good enough.
“All the experiences that they’ve ever had. However small, in however small operations or small countries. These experiences do count. And when you put them together, they become very powerful. Another thing is to make sure that you have a mentor or a coach because everybody needs help. When you go into new experiences like that, you need to be chatting with people who have been there before. (…) So be open to learning and you’ll just be fine. But do not be afraid. We have waited this long for you to reach where you are going to reach and you are good enough. So just believe in yourself.”
Steve Okeyo’s full video interview below:
MBA student Mutsa Kajese 20′ believes that leadership is a lifestyle that is continuously practised and improved. He is the founder of Ubuntu Lab, a personal growth hub and the author of “30 days of Transformation: A Guide to your Authentic Self”.
We’ve summarised some highlights from Mutsa’s interview below. Scroll down to view his full video interview.
What does leadership mean to you?
…we certainly need more leadership on the continent.
“Leadership is not something that you can learn, per se. It is more than that. It is living to the very core of your being, understanding that it’s not about you. You notice that one core component of leadership is that you always have to serve the other; and empathy is also a very big component of that as well. That is what I think leadership is and we certainly need more of it on the continent”.
On striving for work-life balance.
I have to allow things to flow into each other, as opposed to being very strict.
“I believe in work-life integration…I make sure I have dedicated time. I am a father, I am a husband as well, so I have to allow things to flow into each other, as opposed to being very strict and saying okay, at this time I need to do this, and I need to play with my daughter for thirty minutes and if I go thirty-one minutes, it’s over. Life doesn’t happen like that”.
On 30 Days of Transformation: A guide to your authentic self:
It is a tool kit for you to elevate yourself; to level up so you can start contributing to a better world.
“It’s just a guideline, not necessarily set in stone, but a guideline for you to elevate yourself to the next level of your life. It doesn’t matter whether you are the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, whether you are a student, whether you are an undergrad or post-grad, parent, recently married or going through anything – or not going through anything. It is a tool kit for you to elevate yourself; to level up so you can start contributing to a better world”.
Watch Mutsa’s full interview below: