Akua Nyame-Mensah ’19 has worked in e-commerce for the past four years. She was the Managing Director at Jumia Classifieds, Nigeria and Ghana. For the past few months, she served as the leader at a design and build company. She currently aspires to take an entrepreneurial route starting with career advisory services.
Wake up. Stretch. Start off with a to-do list: Akua has built an early morning habit that is allusive of her fitness enthusiasm and her orderliness. This week in Akua’s life has had a smooth live-work-study rhythm owing to its commencement with a public holiday in Nigeria where Akua resides. Coincidentally, Nigeria’s Independence Day celebration on Monday, 1st October, heralded Akua’s transitional journey to becoming a self-employed coach and consultant.
Monday was more than a public holiday to Akua, it was also her boyfriend’s birthday hence the celebratory mode was very much activated. She picked up a cake for him, and they hung out together. She also watched TV shows and movies, as deserving of an extended weekend.
Akua’s Tuesday was for finalising, consolidating and planning. Her last day at her former job was on Friday, the 28th of September, hence she set Tuesday aside for communication with partners and clients to inform them of her transition and to direct them to the appropriate succeeding personnel. She also officially commenced her design thinking cycle for her MBA Capstone project idea which doubles as her next career path.
Akua is driven to provide support to youth who need career guidance before and after they get formally employed. She has personally experienced the tenacity of the job market and the fast-pace of the corporate world, hence her passion to assist others to navigate the professional world/ life-phase. Armed with guidance from her Capstone supervisor and feedback from the accessible target audience, Akua is resolved to translate her Capstone project into a fully-fledged profitable advisory firm after graduation.
“I want to develop products and services based on what people around me are interested in. A lot of people tell me that I need to have my niche, but to me, that is synonymous with imposing my products or services on people. I feel like there’s no need to impose a solution even though such niche markets tend to provide more security.”
On Wednesday, Akua took significant-steps ahead in ideation and project design despite the threat of a cold. She obtained guidance from her Capstone supervisor for defining her target market. Later in the day, she had enlightening conversations with two ladies, one of whom was a fitting representation of her target audience and the other, an experienced coach who has had an inspiring career trajectory from coaching to facilitation and customer engagement. Before the day ended, Akua ensured to engage with some of her Leadership Lab readings.
On Thursday, Akua cross-examined the type of brand she hopes to build with her advisory firm. She reflected on her values and considered how to translate them into the services she aspires to provide. She also did some business development based on the networks she built from her time at Jumia. Furthermore, she conducted research on legal considerations for registering her business in Nigeria and the United States. Today being #TGIF, Akua is super excited as she plans to attend a Major Lazer Concert happening in Hard Rock Beach, Lagos, Nigeria from 7 p.m.
[On roadblocks], Akua is very persistent and adherent to communication and follow-ups when other people are involved. She says, “I’m not afraid to be persistent but I will wait.” When solely responsible, she leverages people around her who help her stay on track.
[Motivation] to Akua stems from the fact that when she makes an investment into something, it’s essential to get something out of it. She expresses her curious nature and its correlation to her interest and engagement with her MBA coursework. In her words, “I’m constantly trying to be innovative, constantly trying to be creative, and finding new ways to be more organised, better, faster, quicker. My self-motivation partially stems from my desire to be comfortable and secure enough to take chances and challenge myself to be better.”
[Work-life balance] to Akua is about prioritising and not compromising habits such as stretching, running and sports. She believes her initial work opportunities helped set up her to be flexible and pursue her interests.
“[A perfect week] is one where I wake up every single morning, write in my gratitude journal, stretch and do some exercises. Getting these two things done sets me up for a really good day. Also, getting through as many of my to-dos as possible and sleeping well and early makes my week perfect.”
To ALUSB aspirants, Akua says, “leadership is really what you make of it. It depends on the resources you want to pull, and how you execute it.” Having previously obtained a Masters in City Planning from the University of Pennsylvania, Akua’s road to ALU was paved by the desire to partake in building a great institution. She attests that so far, she has obtained real value and built genuine relationships through the ALUSB MBA programme. In her words, “I have learnt a lot about myself and I have been able to apply a lot of what I learned into my daily work.”
Conclusively, Akua advises people to keep in mind that “asking questions when unsure is key for balance.” She chips in the practical need to leverage technology – Google Calendars, Evernote, and possibly, an iPad for reading – to be able to succeed smoothly in a blended learning programme such as the ALUSB MBA.
Guest Faculty Willy Yav, broadcaster and pan-African entrepreneur from the DRC, joined us for an interview while on campus in Kigali this past July. Hear Willy’s advice for building pan-African ventures and his thoughts about the future of Africa. Be inspired!
Here are some highlights from Willy’s interview. Scroll down to watch his full video interview, below:
“But yes, we are advancing. We are not going back. Africa is not going backwards.”
What led you to teach at the ALU School of Business?
“ALU believes that I have some experience to share. It is very important to talk about what I know, what I believe are the problems and what I suggest could be the beginning of solutions.”
What is your advice for making an impact at a pan-African level?
“We have to learn to start small after doing proper preparation…
At Pygma, the company that I co-founded, we are borderless…we are not limited by the borders that were set in place by a few people sitting around a table, carving up the continent up like a piece of cake.
You need to build your business with the ambition to grow, to have an impact at an African level. I would say if you do something that works in Awolowo Road in Lagos, Nigeria, its going to work in Rue du Commerce in Kinshasa. Its the same people, the same problems. If we add to it the intellect…as long as you know how to interpret it and re-adapt it to our reality, and find an African solution, I guarantee we are going to be well – actually better than a lot of continents.”
What does the future of Africa look like through your eyes?
“Better than African today by far, and at one stage we are going to reach a critical mass of a lot of people thinking the way we now think, and we will have a continent that will be amazing.
People think that working success is in two or three weeks. No, its not true. Even considering the whole situation in the DRC, because I live there but partially, I can see where we have improved. We have actually improved a lot on certain aspects. Then, I can be there and say this is not fast enough for us to catch up, we should do it better.
But yes, we are advancing. We are not going back. Africa is not going backwards.”
Watch Willy’s full video interview here:
Lillian Madeje ‘18 describes herself as a passionate changemaker from Tanzania. In this video interview, Lilian talks about her personal leadership journey since joining the ALUSB programme, the importance of empowering her team, and her thoughts about what lays ahead after graduation, this July.
Here are some highlights from Lilian’s interview:
How have you grown and developed as a leader since you joined the ALUSB MBA?
“Joining the class, I was actually looking for the technical capabilities of the programme. I had just started my company in 2014, and 2016 was when we were starting to grow…I needed the hardware to make sure that I would function well.
I can attest to the fact that over the past 16-17 months I have been able to grow as a leader…the concept of a leader who is seen…I am really keen on grooming the team that I’m working with, on getting them to see the vision that we have for the company.
What’s more important to me is the growth within the team and the feeling that the team has. This is displayed by people going the extra mile while delivering on a project. I can actually leave for a week without stressing because I know that the team is on point.
What got us to that point is not because Lilian said so, but it’s because of a team effort. I have been able to trust my team, to delegate and to see opportunities that can empower my team to do better.
It’s all about learning.”
What does the future look like as an ALUSB MBA Graduate?
“It’s a bittersweet feeling. July is coming…and we are excited because it means we have gone through the boot camp and we’re coming out the other side.
…I know we’ll be meeting. Now have a reason to visit different cities in Africa and have meetups. Other than that, I know for a fact that given the work I do, if I need someone in a certain country, all I have to do is pick up the phone and call, and I know that I will have support”.
Watch Lillian’s full video interview here:
We had the privilege of gleaning some wisdom from guest faculty Gbenga Oyebode, lawyer and chairman of Aluko and Oyebode, one of Nigeria’s top commercial law firms.
In this interview Gbenga shares his tips for doing business in Africa, his reasons for teaching at ALU School of Business, as well as his thoughts about what kind of leadership is needed to advance Africa and help bring about the African Century.
“Our ability to manage our people better, to mentor our people and show true leadership around the problems that bedevil our continent…that’s going to be the difference between the past and the future.”
Here are some highlights from Gbenga’s interview:
What is key to doing business in Africa that most people overlook?
“The 50+ countries on the African continent are not all the same….I think the real key is knowledge of the local market. Try to understand the market you go to, try to behave like the locals, to to understand what they want, their aspirations…pay special attention to the likes and dislikes of the local communities”.
What led you to teach at the ALU School of business?
“I have always felt that the gap on the continent is around education and leadership. I think that if we are going to achieve our objectives, and if in 20 years we look back and we ask, ‘What have we done?’ , it would be that we have educated our people better and at all levels, but that that education also includes significant investment around leadership”.
What kind of leadership is needed to drive Africa forward in the next 10-15 years?
“Our students must focus on leadership as a core skill, in addition to all the other specialist skills that they have acquired along the way…that’s going to be the real difference. Our ability to manage our people better, to mentor our people and show true leadership around the problems that bedevil our continent…that’s going to be the difference between the past and the future”.
Watch Gbenga’s full video interview here:
Oluwatoyin “Toyin” Arowolo ‘18, a wife, a mother of two, and a Nigerian entrepreneur, with plans to expand beyond Nigeria. As Toyin enters the home stretch of the ALUSB MBA, she shares a message for women considering this programme, and talks about the moral responsibility that lays ahead now for the founding class of 2018, as they prepare to graduate.
“The core of this programme has been leadership, but it’s also been ethical leadership – and more than anything, that’s what Africa needs.”
Here are some highlights from Toyin’s Interview:
On striving for work-life balance during the programme:
“I look back and wonder where I had the time to do this. I have two girls, I.am a wife, I work a nine-five job which is more like an eight to eight. I am active in church, started a business midway through business school.
What advice would you have for people considering this programme?
“In the midst of all this, I am happy to say that I have kept up with school work, it hasn’t been easy….it’s been a beautiful experience…in two years as pre-ALUSB and post ALUSB – there’s definitely been a change.”
On what lies ahead beyond graduation:
“As founders, we have an even bigger responsibility to go out, do good and be the kind of leaders people look up to. One of the things that leadership does is inspire us and as the first class, the founders class, I think that we have the moral responsibility (to do so), which is even greater.”
“I think that all eyes are on us, and me as an individual as a member of the class….the sky’s the limit of all of us and we have so much work to do”.
Watch Toyin’s full video interview here:
Words cannot express how proud I am of you, that you have made it successfully to the end of this grueling program of business leadership transformation and earned the right to be called the FOUNDING GRADUATES of ALUSB. You caught the vision, married it with your passion, you were selected among thousands, you have persevered, you have grown as leaders, you are equipped, and you shall continue to soar. Every one of you has been transformed from the competent managers that you were two years ago into competent Pan-African business leaders. I am honored to have played a part in your future success, of which I am confident.
To those whom much is given, much is expected. The journey that you started with ALUSB is not coming to an end; it is changing in its nature. You are now no longer students who are being transformed by our program; you are now graduates whose accomplishments and leadership will shape the brand and design of the program. Most importantly, your leadership will shape Africa. As you celebrate this milestone, I urge you to remember why you chose this program, and why this program chose you. We chose each other because we are passionate about changing Africa. Africa needs you desperately to make Africa great. Make Africa great by creating thousands of new jobs. Make Africa great by inspiring others to become better leaders. Make Africa great by consistently demonstrating V3 leadership.
I am so proud of you.
Make me prouder.