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.
Amine Alaoui Soulimani is a Mechanical Engineer from Morocco. He is the service manager of ThyssenKrupp, a German multinational, in Rabat, Morocco. Amine belongs to the founding class of the ALUSB MBA programme.
“Every company that is expanding in Africa or willing to expand, really requires a great pan-African network of individuals adept at navigating the continent’s challenges. Rising leaders, working professionals and transnational organisations can benefit from this network and from people who have this kind of network.”
Returning to Morocco after his undergraduate studies in Finland, Amine was driven by his passion to contribute to the optimisation of the immense potential in Morocco and Africa at large. Very inspiring (from the video below) are the preambles – “Africa is rising” and “Morocco is expanding” – to his perspectives on his country and continent. His outlook is made evident in the budding diversification of Moroccan companies across Africa, as well as the overall promising trends in Africa’s business, technological and educational climate.
Having graduated from ALUSB this past July, Amine has grown markedly in his understanding of virtuous leadership and his cognisance of the technicalities of doing business in Africa. Amine states that the opportunity for personal career advancement and corporate expansion for Moroccans aligns with the specifications of the ALUSB MBA programme to holistically equip students with V^3 (Value, Virtue, and Vision) leadership skills and sound knowledge of Africa’s present and prospective business landscape.
“This MBA will allow you to know where and how to do business in Africa, things to avoid, how to face challenges and most importantly, who steers and mans the development of various sectors and industries across the continent,” says Amine.
Watch the video below to learn more about ALUSB’s pan-African MBA programme through the eyes of Amine Alaoui Soulimani, Class of 2018.
Bame Moremong ’19 is the Executive Director of Brand Botswana, at Botswana Investment and Trade Centre and a current ALUSB MBA student. She manages marketing teams and mothers two daughters while studying her MBA. Her depiction of this week is as true to life as an executive’s existential template. She is customising this template for the strongest suit by embracing the supportive ALU network of like professionals.
Returning from a three-weeks away from the office on official business, Bame settled into her typical work week with a ‘catch-up’ to-do list slated to reconcile her old and new projects. Her Monday morning started with her “me” time at 5:30 a.m. As a habit, she devotes thirty minutes to spiritual connection before the day comes alive in her household. Then, she gets her daughters ready for school before heading to the office. In the office, Bame tries to fit her MBA coursework into the normal workday by looking at Leadership Lab (LL) during her lunch hour. She also endeavours to end her days with at least an hour of coursework after family time with her daughters.
Bame’s priority for this week is a two circle Venn diagram bearing report writing from her last trade mission to Beijing in August, and event planning for the Global Expo Botswana to be held in October. Outside these circles, she approves projects for her team members to proceed with their initiatives and responsibilities, and holds meetings with the rest of the executive for work updates, strategy and review.
[On Roadblocks], Bame shares her scare in Term 3, where she struggled with her coursework. Now, she thrives on the consciousness that there’s a whole group of about sixty people who are all rooting for her success, ever willing to encourage and remind her of her whys. She says, “one of my Pan-African Group (PAG) members became my self-designated accountability partner. It is so inspiring to have such access to the most supportive people when the going gets tough.”
[On motivation], Bame affirms that her first home-learning teammates at ALUSB have become her sisters even though they are technically no longer team members: “I run to them when I have issues, when I need encouragement and motivation.” She adds that making it through peculiar hitches from her last term taught her to reach out and utilise the support within her ALUSB community.
“[A perfect week] is one the stars align and I am able to submit my ALUSB coursework on time, spend time with my daughters and stay on top of my deliverables at the office. I’m all about simplicity, finding peace and staying on track.”
Concluding with her deepest sense of connection to the ALUSB mission, she says, “I always get a sense of the whys at the intensives and that’s why I look forward to every single intensive. It motivates me for the coming term. During the term, reaching out to faculty has assisted sometimes. Also, my kids just won’t let me fail, they always remind me that I got deadlines because they are so looking forward to graduation next year.”
Bame anticipates two main takeaways by the end of her ALUSB journey: self-awareness and personal growth. She is confident that by the time she graduates, she would have had twenty months of introspection and applied emotional intelligence, a life-long access to a great pan-African network, as well as an undaunted assurance of her ability to create an impactful, difference-making enterprise on the African continent.”
“I’ve been so hard on myself this entire journey but through the process, I have become fully alive to my zeal to make a difference in the lives of people. At ALUSB, I have been given the tools to bring these things to life, and I have the biggest network of people supporting me along the way.”
Raoul Ndayambaje ‘20 welcomed us to experience his life as the Head of Transaction Services Group (TSG) at Ecobank, Rwanda and ALUSB MBA student. Raoul’s burgeoning career in banking is both inspiring and fascinating as he grew from an early leadership role of data analyst team lead to a transactional products and services expert within seven years.
This week – 2018’s thirty-eighth, September’s third, and MBA Class of 2020’s tenth – is one of the typical non-travel weeks for Raoul. His Monday started as early as 5 a.m, an early bird habit he has cultivated to enable him to catch up on his coursework before heading out to the office at 8 a.m. His office is a shared executive office space on the second floor of the high-rise, primely located Ecobank headquarters in Kigali’s Central Business District.
Attending the regular Monday-morning executive committee meeting sets the tone for Raoul’s week. This week, his priorities include ensuring the bank’s corporate and commercial clients tax compliance for the month of September, preparing a Product Policy for collateralized facilities, managing clients’ business requests and reviewing Point Of Sale and E-commerce products performance. All of these responsibilities are interspersed with a healthy dose of meetings.
Raoul strives to be home by 7 p.m daily in order to face his studies, thus balancing up his early morning/ late night time allocations to school work. The requisite multinational and often cross-continental team engagement for his coursework tends to seep into some of his office hours. He highlights this diffusion of work and study as one of the compromises one has to make for effective team collaboration.
“I need to make sure that when my classmates are available, I sacrifice a bit of my time. A blended learning programme like ours demands setting-up a system of engagement. Down the line, we will have more fixed time slots and at that point, discipline becomes extremely paramount.”
[On roadblocks] Raoul mentions that working in a customer facing industry such as banking comes with the loss of full sovereignty over one’s calendar. He mentions that before his ALUSB MBA programme, he used to be a “one-stop lead,” however with the weight of school responsibilities, he has learnt to instill in his colleagues, the spirit of taking initiative over ongoing aspects of their departmental role.
“[Motivation] is in check as long as I keep remembering my whys,” says Raoul. Two months into the MBA programme, Raoul acknowledges that he is still in transition and adjusting his personal and professional times for his MBA programme. According to him, “the ride has not been easy but it has been smooth.”
[Work-life balance] is anything but a pendulum scale to Raoul. His work and life are embedded such that work is at the core of his life. In his words, “I can’t feel my life balanced if I am not delivering.” In light of this, Raoul doesn’t grapple with the culture of calculated time allotment towards personal and professional interests. What’s important to him is always finding the time to exercise and have a bit of spiritual meditation.
“[A perfect week] is one where I meet my weekly budget, submit my assignments on time and spend at least two hour-long sessions at the gym.”
To conclude, Raoul heartily chips in his appreciation of the humour-coated team encouragement and upliftment in his ALUSB MBA programme. Therefore, he says to ALUSB aspirants weighing the ramifications of the blended learning programme, “when your team mates from South Africa, Nigeria or Kenya crack a joke, you get to hear different types of jokes that will definitely make your life easier.”
Yvonne Gyefour (MBA ’20) is a Customer Marketing Manager at Unilever, Ghana, specialising in the personal care division. She describes her road to ALU, her key learnings so far and her advice to ALUSB aspirants. Get to know and be inspired by Yvonne’s career, her ALU and her legacy!
Yvonne’s arrival in Kigali for course orientation coincided with ALU’s first-ever graduation ceremony. From the snippet of the ceremony she was able to witness, she was highly motivated and reassured of her decision to study at ALU School of Business (ALUSB). Two months down the line, she speaks highly of her experience in ALUSB, tracing her superlative emotions from the all-absorbing intensives in Kigali to the enriching online interactions with her classmates at present. She describes her classmates as awesome – mid-career professionals from various countries with diverse experiences, and similar aspirations.
Weighing in retrospect, her attraction to ALU, Yvonne says, “two main things attracted me to ALU School of Business. One: The networking. Two: The Pan Africanism. Being well established in Ghana was not enough. I have a huge pan-African interest, and like Kwame Nkrumah said, we need unity to make an impact on the continent.”
Considerably, Yvonne’s road to ALU was paved by her desire for a transition from a national to a pan-African outlook/ impact. This transition is already happening on the fast wheels of the ALUSB Leadership Lab and the Doing Business in Africa course.
On Leadership Lab, Yvonne has the most fulfilled words. The programme has given her the opportunity to step back in introspection and be deliberate about the things that she does as a leader. She expresses her love and new-found devotion to ALUSB’s V^3 leadership paradigm, which is hinged at the intersection of virtue, value, and vision for true African leadership.
Yvonne’s goal for social impact in Africa primarily targets women and youth. She aims to help women get access to funding and training so they can expand their businesses, afford education for their children and live better lives. She strongly believes in the creativity and industriousness of Africans. She asks the average African youth, “what if you can do this if given adequate support, such that eventually, you are able to employ other people?”
In light of these, her key learning outcome from the Doing Business in Africa course has been a cognition of structured approaches to women and youth empowerment. Realising that she’s not the only one committed to these parallel causes, and having brainstorming conversations with like-minded classmates, she is certain of gaining more clarity down the line in addressing the inadequate conditions of women and youth in Africa.
“If you are at that point in your life where you feel like there is more you can do; and if you ever stop to think that there is a reason why you are African, then ALU puts things in perspective for you.” —Yvonne Gyefour, MBA ’20
Yvonne’s moonshot journey at ALUSB might still be at the translunar injection stage, but her realisations so far are quite reminiscent of the actual moon landing and lunar orbit. Her deep learning insights in combination with her inspiring personal drive speak of hope for the African continent. The culmination of her description of the past two months in ALUSB can be found in her choice of the qualifier “greatness” to summarise her journey so far.
She admits that it is ok to have fears and concerns about the travels or the money when considering ALUSB, but advises aspirants to sit back and reflect on their dreams for the African continent. If you want to apply, Yvonne gallantly says, “Just do it. You’re going to get a lot of help along the way, starting from the application phase.”
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: