Mutsa Kajese is the founder of UbuntuLab, an organisation that focuses on the holistic development of emerging market leaders. This week in his life is an epitome of work-life integration.
Mutsa’s first book “30 days of Transformation: A guide to your authentic self” is coming soon. It is the perfect compendium of nuggets on personal development, told from a real and unfiltered perspective. It will quench the thirst bound to arise from reading this blog post and wanting more!
Monday, 3rd December 2018 heralded the final week of “LevelUp”, a six-week development programme run by Ubuntu Lab. As their fourth cohort of budding entrepreneurs prepared for their Final Pitch Day on Wednesday, and Closing Ceremony on Saturday, Mutsa stayed on top of the overall management and review of the week’s line-up.
“This week is all about assessing where we are and how far we have come. I’m reviewing the the growth this cohort has gone through since the start of the programme, and in this space, reflecting on the transformations that have come with LevelUp,” says Mutsa.
Indirectly paying homage to contemporary culture, Mutsa spent Tuesday, 4th December as an ideal – although mildly arguable – #TravelTuesday. He primarily prepared for a trip to Dar-Es-Salaam, Tanzania, next week, in relation to his role as a mentor for Seedstars Initiative. In addition, he caught up with some work at his office, as well as his MBA work. Specifically, his evening comprised a two-hour long meeting with his Home Learning Teammates, prime peer-collaborators in his ALUSB MBA journey.
Settling into the mid-week, Mutsa embodied more aspects of his life as an entrepreneur, founder, and creative director. Beside supervising the LevelUp pitch session and checking in with the LevelUp Programme Director, Thabani Mlilo on Wednesday, 5th December, Mutsa devoted Thursday, 6th December to his directorial responsibility at IbuHub, a pan-African incubation hub based in Zimbabwe. He had a client meeting geared towards setting up businesses for the year ahead.
Having highlighted Mutsa’s weekday rhythm in a symbolically singular list-view mode, the more consistent grid-view looks more like a 4:35 a.m regular waking time, followed by an hour of administrative work, typically consisting of email checks and calendar updates. Thereafter, Mutsa meditates for about 20 minutes and proceeds to exercise, comprising either of martial arts, a gym workout or swimming, depending on the day of the week.
Mutsa’s mornings also involve ensuring that his kids are ready for school – and taking them there. His official work time begins after his 8 yr old, 6 yr old and 1-and-a-half year old are at school. Typically, this time is devoted to managerial and directorial responsibilities at UbuntuLab and IbuHub, including the maintenance of both organizations’ strategic partnerships to drive innovation and problem-solving with Green Building Design Group and African Leadership Academy respectively. Also, his MBA coursework stays constant in his weekly priorities.
[On Roadblocks], Mutsa says, “I move towards them. I believe obstacles are a signal for growth.” As an entrepreneur, Mutsa is inclined towards problem solving, hence he looks forward to challenges. At the same time, he recognises that he is human, hence when his emotions dwindle, he allows himself to feel it, but endeavours to move on if the feelings are not beneficial to his personal well being.
[On motivation], Mutsa believes it is always about remembering the bigger picture – having a big why. In response to his immediate whys – why he is doing the work he does, and why he is pursuing this MBA – he attests that whilst there are personal desires to learn something new and gain more qualifications, those are not enough to keep him up at night when he really doesn’t want to.
On that note, Mutsa’s bigger picture is that there’s a continent which needs everybody to be at their double best and that includes himself. He says, “We all have our part to play, I am equipping myself so I can play my role. I am doing this not just for myself or my family but for a generation that needs me at my best.” This selflessness and sense of purpose alludes to the nucleus of “Ubuntu” that Mutsa holds as a core belief.
[On work-life balance] Mutsa posits that there’s no such thing as work-life balance, rather there is work-life integration. According to him, “Balance implies that something else is imbalanced, and it doesn’t work.” What works for Mutsa is the alignment and integration of all aspects of his life into one life, not separating his work, family or spirituality (exercise and meditation) because each of them defines him.
[On team work at ALUSB], Mutsa says, “The network is the strongest component of the ALUSB MBA programme, and it is also a big motivator to keep going because the understanding that one’s not alone on the journey is very strengthening.” He adds, “We call each other a tribe. This is what a tribe looks like – it’s not speaking the same language, talking the same or looking the same. My tribe is my brother from South Africa, my sister from Tanzania. What brings us together is the common cause and understanding that we have a bigger purpose for doing this MBA.”
[A perfect week] to Mutsa is multi-faceted, emblematic of the diversity in his roles and identity. In one vein, Mutsa’s perfect week is one that has an element of transformation in the lives of people. It is a week where he has a day or two of spending quality time with his family – cooking and playing with his kids and spending alone time with his wife. The perfect week is also one where he checks off all the things in his to-do list.
“I am very happy and satisfied when I see people having a turn in their life, when they understand their purpose….when that light bulb turns on.”
As we approach the final deadline for ALUSB MBA applications, Mutsa has a message to current applicants as well as aspirants. He says, “Go for it. If you can identify an area which you are not happy with, either in your home country or the continent, keep that in mind as you head towards the ALUSB MBA, because with the networks and quality of coursework at ALUSB, that problem is on the right path to getting solved.”
To recently admitted students from the first round of the MBA applications, Mutsa has a word of advice. He says, “The sooner you get to know your classmates, the better, so break the barriers sooner rather than later. Moreso, don’t be afraid to be vulnerable.”
Likeleli recently re-launched Inspire Innovation in her home-country, Lesotho. In the past month, she has been working on getting the business off the ground. This week in her life is a reflection of the grit and spirit of a startup founder, mother, mentee, teammate, and ALUSB student.
“My reason for doing an MBA was to come out of it with a business. With the support of my Capstone advisor, coach, classmates and my ALU network in general, my Capstone project is coming to life as a business consultancy firm, “Inspire Innovation”.”
The novelty of Monday 19 November at Inspire Innovation was amped up with a new, permanent addition to the existing team of four interns who are collectively students/ alumni of the African Leadership Group (ALG). Thus, Inspire Innovation is a symbol of the powerful, pan-African network that is being built across the African Leadership Group.
Heeding a familiar Monday Meeting canon, Likeleli met with a branding expert to align on branding strategies for her company. She also conducted a Vision Connect session with her team, to retell the story of Inspire Innovation and refresh their awareness of the company’s mission and goals. In this light, she applied her learnings from ALUSB’s Leadership Lab as well as McKinsey Academy’s Communicating for Impact and Team Management courses. After the session with her team, Likeleli proceeded with what captures her typical weekday – meeting with potential clients to pitch her company.
This week has been particularly engaging for Likeleli because of her participation in the Entrepreneurship Expo and Business Summit, Maseru, organized by The Entrepreneurs Network which her husband is a part of. She is moderating a panel discussion on “Education and Entrepreneurship” and running an entrepreneurship workshop for some of the businesses that are exhibiting at the Expo.
Inspire Innovation had some milestones this week, including printing official T-shirts to boost their brand visibility and leveraging the Expo to conduct a business survey of client needs and problems. This is in line with their mission to make support services available to SMEs in Southern Africa.
“I always come home at 5:00 p.m to attend to my son, Tsepang. I focus on my family for the evening, go to sleep and wake up between 2:00 a.m and 5:00 am to do admin work – responding to emails, reviewing my team’s work and gearing up for the new day.”
According to Likeleli, Inspire Innovation has evolved so much over the course of the ALUSB MBA. In her startup journey, she has directly consolidated her MBA learnings while growing her reach through the ALUSB network. She says, “I have found myself having bolder conversations with people from whom I need help, to get things on the ground. I have gained so much confidence. I am setting up structures, and putting things in place so that by January 2019, this will be a fully fledged company. Having the support structure from my family, classmates, mentor and business partner has made the journey very exciting.”
Likeleli’s entrepreneurial path has also sparked a personal transition in her approach to innovation. Her knowledge of piloting from the Entrepreneurship and Innovation course has replaced her natural inclination to overthink, deliberate and contemplate, with the drive to “do it, at a very small scale, learn very quickly from it and try something else or change the approach.”
[On roadblocks] Likeleli has gained awareness of the trust limitations that come with being young and running a startup. She deals with it by communicating with her business partner, Makuena Kolobe, a development consultant; her mentor, Duduzile Seamatha, Director at Sheeran and Associates; and also through surrounding herself with other business personnel who inspire her to see the silver lining of her roadblocks.
[On motivation] Likeleli keeps lists to help her see things in perspective. She has also learnt to constantly tap into her support system. Regarding her schoolwork, she speaks highly of her Home Learning Team at ALUSB for encouraging her throughout her MBA journey. In her words, “we prioritize communicating on time, planning ahead of time and being realistic about setting expectations of others.”
Likeleli looks at balance over the long term. She thinks about [work-life balance] from an interesting point of view: “If I spend all this time working, schooling and generally being busy now, I can rest later.” Looking back at a time when she dedicated all her time to looking after her son, she attests that it shaped her to be less strict about gauging work-life balance and more holistic about her outlook on it.
In conclusion, Likeleli states, “If I can get everything on my list done without any interruption, getting results in all the goals I have set for the week, and still be able to read a book and go on a drive somewhere with my husband and son, then I would have had a perfect week.”
At ALUSB, we believe that entrepreneurship and innovation are critical paths to the African Century. In the words of our founder, Fred Swaniker, “the challenges that leaders face on the continent are effectively entrepreneurial challenges.”
In this interview, Chidi Afulezi, Head Faculty of the Entrepreneurship and Innovation (E & I) course at ALUSB, speaks about the impact of the course on the MBA Class of 2019 students whom he proudly refers to as “squad.”
The video below will take you on an inspiring journey through Lions Den, a signature event at the culmination of the E & I course, which brings to life the pith and core of entrepreneurship in practice.
Entrepreneurship doesn’t mean that you have to leave your job. You can be entrepreneurial inside your company; that allows you to be intrapreneurial. You could start your own company. Or you can be both – entrepreneurial and intrapreneurial.” – Chidi Afulezi
What are the key success factors of the E & I course?
It was awesome to observe the transformation of the MBA students’ mindset towards entrepreneurship. I saw an evolution from ‘i do not have any entrepreneurial ambitions honestly” to a mindset of “I actually think I could tackle this” using the frameworks and toolkits that we learned and practiced in class. Also, very importantly, there were some incredible ideas that came out of the class, for solving relevant problems.
How does Lions Den fit into the E & I course?
The Lions Den experience was designed to put the MBA students through the real-life experience of justifying their idea or concept to sceptical stakeholders such as investors or senior management. It was set-up to prepare our MBA students to succinctly and concisely make a case for their entrepreneurial ideas to stakeholders who could fund them, make their project happen, or give them their big break. They had to prove that their entrepreneurial ideas were viable and suitable for funding.
“Lions Den is critical. It is a way to keep the MBA students honest, to bring excitement as well as exposure to a real-world environment where they are put through significant back and forth with people who have no involvement or investment in their business ideas.”
What were students’ key takeaways from the signature Lions Den event?
They saw that entrepreneurship has different layers, and they got to experience the accountability layer. I could see a spark in them that showed their willingness to take on the challenge of putting their ideas through an intensive questioning process.
Your chemistry with the MBA students reflects deeply on their entrepreneurial drive. What stirs this connection you have with your students?
As faculty, you build chemistry by showing your students that you know exactly what they are going through, but you’re also not letting them off the hook of accountability. I have an MBA myself. I have worked in the corporate world. I am an entrepreneur. So, I brought all of that to my class. My ability to use a combination of humor and realism to the class gave me the credibility and authority as someone who tells it like it is.
When I became part of the ALUSB faculty, my main goal was to show that African leadership and problem-solving is just as superb, powerful and effective as any other continent’s. That is where my passion comes from, and this passion drives my chemistry with students.
How does E & I impact the large-scale vision of building leaders for the African Century?
Entrepreneurship is a feature of leadership. Innovation is a feature of leadership. By emphasizing these core tenets at ALUSB, we are enabling, inspiring and activating our talented and motivated young people to become Africa’s problem solvers. Africa is the most youthful continent. We need to be able to create jobs and build leaders to accommodate this growing demand, and E & I is so critical to this.
What has been the most fulfilling moment of your entire ALUSB faculty journey?
Being in the ALUSB environment as an entrepreneur, teacher, mentor, and motivator is very invigorating. I couldn’t see myself not working with ALUSB. Essentially, my time here has validated my belief that Africa is where the next big things are coming out of.
Where do you see ALUSB MBA students and alumni in the next five to ten years?
I see political leaders. I see multi-billion dollar business owners across Africa. I see corporate leaders. As a community, I see them getting together ten years from now, to talk about their collaborations. A number of them will build businesses together, fund each other’s businesses, and work in the corporate environment with each other, if not for each other. I see a “squad” that will be the navigational point for Africa’s burgeoning young leadership and entrepreneurship.
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: