Here at ALU School of Business, we believe that entrepreneurial ventures play a vital role in Africa’s development. We actively encourage ALUSB students to explore entrepreneurship through courses like E&I, the Lion’s Den event and even through the V^3 Leadership Model, which has entrepreneurial elements at its core!
Demilade Oluwasina ‘20 is someone that needed no introduction to the entrepreneurial spirit. Demie, as he’s more commonly referred to, is currently an ALU Rwanda Faculty member for Entrepreneurial Leadership and acts as the support for the design and delivery of other programmes including the Global Challenges Degree. His role at ALU is a testament to his passion for entrepreneurship and education. He is also a believer of lifelong learning – hence his decision to embark on an MBA journey with ALU School of Business.
He pursued this MBA with the hopes of achieving 3 things: new skills, great relationships and a broader perspective for impact. “I wanted to gain new skills through going through content, reflecting on that content and incorporating it in my daily work life and other projects. Secondly, I wanted to build great and lasting relationships that enable me to tap into even more resources with the diversity of colleagues, partners, and others in the ecosystem. And lastly, a broader perspective through conversations with the people and the different issues we discuss in class. These 3 things, I believe, will empower me to be a better leader and a change-maker with greater impact.”
At ALU Rwanda, he is known for being an enthusiastic faculty member who has played a huge role in mentoring students with different enterprises within the ALU space as well as supporting Global Challenges students in formulating value-oriented missions. But Demie often goes beyond his job description and his workspace to deliver social impact.
One example of this is his project with the EDD, a Rwandan organization that works to rehabilitate and empower street children. “I got involved with them through some of my colleagues at ALUSB During BUILD Lab.” The ALUSB MBA BUILD Lab is a 24-hour design challenge where students are paired with local partners in order to contribute to the optimization of their businesses while also learning important leadership, innovation, and teamwork skills. Through this process, ALUSB MBA students are able to identify some key problems and solutions to address them.
“One of the biggest issues that EDD had, was the struggle to articulate a strong brand and marketing strategy in order to keep attracting the right kinds of shareholders, support and more to be sustainable. I have years of experience in design, branding, advertising and publishing. My friends asked if I was willing to help with the project and I decided to take it on.
“I saw that EDD’s work was needed and was indeed transformative and I wanted to be part of helping them reach their goals, succeed and be sustainable as an organization.”
Demie is currently working on a strategy that will attract support and the right stakeholders to make the EDD a sustainable organization. At the same, he gets to be part of a programme that is empowering young children in Rwanda by providing them with a community that is supportive and concerned about their welfare.
We were graced with the opportunity to chat with Mutwakil Abdul Mageid 20’ to learn more about the outstanding work that he and his colleagues are involved in with Sudan Bukra- an innovative solution to freedom of speech in Sudan.
Sudan has been through some major political changes in the past months. A fight for democracy, a change in leadership, a massacre of over 120 lives, and a nationwide Internet shutdown, which silenced protesters and left millions of Sudanese people without access to information, e-commerce and the ability to communicate with the rest of the world. It was at this point that a group of Sudanese professionals, including Mutwakil Abdul Mageid ‘20, decided to take action and start Sudan Bukra, a free-to-air, crowd-sourced and crowd-funded broadcasting channel that provides civic education to the Sudanese community.
Mutwakil Abdul Mageid is a key account manager for Ericsson, currently managing MTN accounts in Sudan, South Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, Zambia, and Eswatini. He is also a Class of 2020 ALUSB MBA student.
In describing what led him to ALU School of Business (ALUSB), Mutwakil says,
“I was in pursuit of an MBA that is relevant to my inspiration as well as my big-picture plans – an MBA that is relevant to Africa. I did not know this existed until I came across the ALUSB MBA programme, which focuses on doing business in Africa and on leadership – the two main things that I was looking for!”
Could you share with us some context on the events that took place leading up to the internet shutdown?
“On 19 December 2018, the people of Sudan started a movement of ‘Freedom, Peace, and Justice’, seeking political change from a thirty-year regime of dictatorship. After months of protests and demonstrations, Sudan was able to remove Omar Bashir from power, along with his regime, but only for the minister of defence to take over.
This resulted in the people of Sudan returning to the streets. On 6 April 2019, they rallied in front of the military headquarters and vowed not to move until the execution of the declaration of freedom. A declaration was signed by all parties and civil societies asking for a democratic transformation. Two months later, the military took over power and suddenly there was a massacre at the sit-in area in Khartoum, resulting in the loss of over 120 lives, which was quickly followed by a total internet shutdown the following day. The main purpose of the shutdown was to cover up on-going violence and silence protestors. There was also a blackout, aimed at dispersing the protestors from the sit-in area.”
Protestors using their mobile phone lights at the sit-in area, Khartoum
What is the story behind the Sudan Bukra?
“Sudan Bukra means Sudan Tomorrow. Based on a contextual meaning of the Arabic word “Bukra”, it alludes to hope and optimism.
We named this project Sudan Bukra to communicate a message of hope for the future of Sudan.”
Mutwakil continues, “Based on how dictatorship works, my colleagues and I knew that the people in power would try to cut off social media since it’s something that they can’t control. We wanted to find a means by which the people of Sudan could still reach out to each other using a combination of traditional media (Television) and content from social media. We came up with the Sudan Burka TV channel as a solution for the freedom of speech. We receive information from the ground, transform it into content for TV and broadcast it. At the same time, we use it as a means to communicate the progress of negotiations, as well as details about the demonstration schedules as organised by the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA)”.
Given the risks that you face, what drives you to continue your work with Sudan Burka?
“The main thing that keeps us going is the hope that we have for Sudan. We want the best for the people of Sudan and we believe that having access to information is a way to build our country”, explains Mutwakil.
Sudan Bukra has already reached millions of people, a fact that was confirmed when over 4 million people attended a demonstration organised by the SPA and broadcasted through their platform. It is a pillar of hope and a testament to the resilience of the Sudanese people.
Mutwakil states that he and his colleagues hope that Sudan Bukra will continue to be a platform of civic education for the people of Sudan beyond the current political climate. He envisions a Sudan where the people are informed about democracy and good leadership, leading to the overall transformation of Sudan.
“Do not focus on who will solve the problem, but focus on how the problem will be solved,” Mutwakil Abdul Mageid ‘20.
A true leader for the African Century, we are proud to have Mutwakil as part of our student body and are eager to see the transformation that he and his colleagues will help bring about through Sudan Bukra. Through Mutwakil, we are reminded that leadership is not a position we occupy, but an attitude and a lifestyle of service, vision, and purpose.
Diana Kizza ’20 describes herself as an economic catalyst with a passion for healthcare. She is currently a Senior Programme Manager at the Clinton Health Access, where she is managing a programme on Sustainable Health Financing. Watch the video interview below to learn more about Diana’s decision to pursue an MBA at ALUSB and how her journey has been so far.
“…we need to remember and learn or relearn to dream big for Africa. We owe it to our continent to dream big despite the challenges that we’ve seen, despite the pain and the tears. There’s no better time than now.”
What led you to ALU School Of Business?
“I didn’t want to go back abroad because everything that I learnt abroad was only applicable abroad and not really in Africa. It hit all the right buttons. So you meet all the right people; people who work in Africa and are excited and passionate about changing Africa. You meet people who have the skills and the networks to help you link to who you need to go to, to get answers and help and support. And for me, those are two really big things. And third; the leadership component. Because I believed that there was something in me. I needed to find a way to get it out, but I couldn’t find where to get it out from. But reading the ALUSB course content and just reading through the profiles of students that have been here before, I realised this is the perfect place to gain those kinds of skills.”
How would you describe your ALUSB experience so far?
“It was very disruptive because you have this way of life. You think that you’re moving along a certain path and all of a sudden you’re hit by a bolt of lightning and you realise that you can do more, it’s you who’s limiting yourself. You see the challenges all around you and I’ve learned through this programme that those challenges are opportunities that you need to recognise. We hear about Mo Ibrahim, we see Kagame at the first graduation ceremony of ALUSB. I think what that brought for us is that, you know, despite our background, despite what has happened in our past, we need to remember and learn or relearn to dream big for Africa. We owe it to our continent to dream big despite the challenges that we’ve seen, despite the pain and the tears. There’s no better time than now.”
Watch Diana’s full video interview here:
We had the honour to sit down with one of the key figures behind the unique MBA collaboration between ALU School of Business and ALU School of Wildlife Conservation: Dr Francis Vorhies, Academic Director at ALU School of Wildlife Conservation, discusses the vital nexus of business and conservation – and how ALU is addressing the leadership deficit in the conservation field.
Francis Vorhies has racked up over 30 years of experience at the intersection of business, biodiversity and development. In short, he is the perfect interviewee to give us a look into the world’s first MBA programming for Conservation Leaders!
What drew you to work in conservation?
I moved to South Africa in the ’80s to work on the promotion of an equitable market economy for the post-apartheid era. During my time there, I visited a private wildlife ranch and met a couple who were saving wildlife as a small business. It wasn’t a national park, it wasn’t government-run; it was just a small company making money by saving nature. I never thought about conservation as a business opportunity before, but that was a turning point. Since then, I have been looking for ways to combine business and conservation across the African continent.
Could you tell us more about the ALU’s MBA programming for conservation leaders?
The African Leadership University in Kigali, Rwanda, has established the world’s first MBA experience for rising leaders in the conservation field. The collaboration between ALU’s School of Wildlife Conservation (SoWC) and School of Business (ALUSB) combines ALU’s rigorous, 20-month MBA degree with a specialisation in Conservation Leadership. SoWC’s specialisation includes five modules covering topics like Business & Biodiversity, Conservation Governance & Management, Conservation Markets & Finance and more, which are delivered in the classroom, via distance-learning modules and a field-based module.
The conservation-specific modules are designed to complement ALUSB’s MBA programme and help conservation professionals to apply MBA learning specifically to their field. For example, where the main MBA programme looks at management, we will look at conservation management. When they look at strategy, we’ll look at conservation strategy and policy.
The fifth course, Conservation in Practice, is a field module where the students will spend a week out in the field looking at conservation management. The lectures, the intensives, the assignments, the readings, the videos and the group exercises will be wrapped around these five modules.
What’s the one thing that sets the this conservation-focused programme apart from others?
At the moment, it’s the only game in town. It’s the first real attempt at putting together a high-quality MBA experience that is focused on the African challenges and opportunities for the conservation sector.
It’s a unique thing that we are doing at ALU: we’re looking at conservation as a platform for economic development, for growth, and for job creation. The programme is business-focused.We’re focusing on how the conservation sector can grow, how it can deliver goods and services, and how it can create inclusive employment opportunities.
But, what makes the programme unique is not so much people like me, but the cohort of mid-career students who are coming from different countries and different organisations. Enabling them to work together and develop their business and leadership acumen in the context of conservation challenges is really something special. The most exciting thing for them is having this 20-month space to go on a learning journey and become actual leaders in the conservation sector.
Why was the programme created?
The conservation sector has a real leadership deficit. That doesn’t mean that there are bad people in the sector or that they are uneducated… But the sector is mostly dominated by people who have studied natural sciences. And that is fine, but the conservation sector, like any other sector, is about much more than science. It’s about people, it’s about managing different groups, financial flows, marketing, product lines, value chains, and so on. There’s a real need for more leadership acumen in the conservation sector and ALU’s School of Business is the only school that offers an education that meets that need.
Who is the programme for?
Firstly, the programme is ideal for people who are already active in the conservation sector; people who either work for an NGO, are in public sector conservation management, or people who work in the eco-tourism sector, for example. But the programme is also very useful for people who don’t work in the conservation sector, but in intersecting industries that could threaten or damage the natural environment. Think of industries like mining, oil and gas, infrastructure… Finally, this programme is also a good fit for people who work in conservation-dependent sectors. These are industries that are dependent on nature like fisheries, agriculture, ranching and so on.
Essentially, this programme is designed for people who are interested in the business of conservation.
Why is the intersection of business and conservation so important?
If we don’t make conservation viable as a business, it’s going to be replaced. So conservation needs business, but there is also business to be made in conservation. Yes, we need zoologists, biologists and ecologists. But we also need leaders, we need entrepreneurs, and we need managers. So that’s what we’re trying to provide through this programme.
What are the outcomes that organisations can expect?
When the students do return to their organisations after the programme, we see that they have a much better chance of connecting the dots between the different parts of the organisation. We see that these students are able to play a more strategic and productive role in their organisation, either as a manager or by starting up new businesses in the conservation sector.
What kind of impact do you expect to see through this MBA?
In Africa, the impact would be to make conservation a viable business sector on the continent so that Africa’s wildlife can proven as a positive force for economic growth, increased revenues and job creation.
We had the honour of sitting down with one of our ALUSB MBA guest faculty, Professor of Finance and Dean of Hult International Business School’s Boston’s Campus, Dr. Gonzalo Chavez.
Professor Chavez has taught finance all over the world and we were delighted to host him for his first teaching engagement in Sub Saharan Africa! In this interview, Professor Chavez talks about his experience teaching our ALUSB MBA students and he leaves us with two pieces of advice for rising African leaders.
We’ve compiled some interesting excerpts from Gonzalo’s interview, you can find the full video below:
On teaching ALUSB MBA students for the first time.
“It has been a pleasure. The group is very collaborative, very dynamic, very positive. What I’ll always remember them saying is: “Let’s do this!”. And that is the kind of attitude one needs, not only in a class environment. That is the kind of attitude one needs as the next business leaders“.
Advice for rising African leaders.
For the leaders that want to take on the challenge of realising Africa’s potential, Dr. Gonzalo Chavez has two pieces of advice:
- “Continue to challenge yourself to adapt current knowledge to the African reality. As a leader, you very frequently have to make decisions that have a financial impact, but you cannot be the expert in every single field. Force yourself to ask about the practical implications. Don’t just look at it from a metrics perspective, but ask: “what does this metric mean?” Go back and just remove yourself until you get to a point where it all makes sense.”
- The second piece of advice Dr. Chavez has for this cohort of African Leaders is to be a promoter of education.” The reason why they are leaders at this point is because they are being trained and they have the education. Their responsibility is also to make sure that that continues. Because the level of education in this continent’s population is going to be a deciding factor in what happens in the next 10 to 15 years.”
This leads us nicely to Gonzalo’s closing question:
“What are you doing to make sure there are others like you?”
Watch Dr. Chavez’s full interview below!
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.