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.”
Intensives are periodic week-long sessions where ALUSB MBA students meet in Kigali to learn directly from seasoned guest faculty. They also take the time to reconnect in person with their classmates. Here are some highlights of the recently-concluded October 2018 MBA intensive.
SUNDAY, 28 OCTOBER
Kicking off with a schedule overview and course introductions, our MBA students geared up for the week ahead. The Class of 2019 engaged in Frontiers – a field adventure at the heart of the Leadership Lab course – which stretched their courage, grit, and resilience. Walking on high ropes and jumping off an adventure tower, they took practical leadership to the field.
MONDAY, 29 OCTOBER
The Class of 2019 had an engaging session in Communicating for Impact, a Mckinsey Management Programme facilitated by Alim Ladha, founder of Instill Education. The Class of 2020 had an immersive Corporate Finance class session taught by Gonzalo Chavez, Professor of Finance at Hult International Business School.
“There is no right or wrong answer, the wealth of experience is in this room, it’s not in my head” – Alim Ladha
To wrap up the day, both classes unplugged at a combined Open Mic Event with the African Leadership University (ALU), Rwanda. Connecting with their ALU undergraduate family over dance, music, poetry, and comedy, students unwound ahead of the intensive week.
TUESDAY, 30 OCTOBER
The third day of Intensive was very stimulating, alluding to a rich, signature ALUSB case study entitled “World Duty-Free Company Limited Versus The Republic of Kenya”, taught by Francis Daniels, Director of Africa Opportunity Partners and Professor Catherine Duggan, Vice Dean of ALUSB. The day ended with an interesting panel discussion on “China in Africa: A Benevolent Force or an Ulterior Motive”, organised by ALUSB in collaboration with Kigali Shapers, an arm of the Global Shapers Community.
WEDNESDAY, 31 OCTOBER
The atmosphere was tense in the morning ahead of the Class of 2020’s Corporate Finance examination. By the afternoon, it was filled with energy and excitement prior to the Amazing Race, a component of the Leadership Lab course, which took the Class of 2020 to the streets of Kigali. In teams, they completed challenges on their journey to the final destination. Upon completion of the amazing race, students reflected on the subtle traits of leadership that were brought to light through the experience.
THURSDAY, 1 NOVEMBER
The day started with the Business of Conservation Conference, hosted by the ALU School of Wildlife Conservation, graced by President Paul Kagame, and attended by over 300 global delegates. ALUSB Conservation Leader Scholars were keynote presenters, sharing their conservation stories and inspiring a call to action for wildlife conservation on the African continent. It was a remarkable event which spurred commitment by various stakeholders to solve Africa’s conservation challenges.
FRIDAY, 2 NOVEMBER
With less than 111 days to graduation, the Class of 2019 were preoccupied with their Capstone Project sessions. These sessions comprised feedback rounds with supervisors, meetings with senior advisors and personal/group reflections. They also had Capstone Simulation sessions where they simulated real businesses with products, making decisions in different areas of the business and observing the effects of their decisions on the company. In teams, their companies competed for market share and revenue.
SATURDAY, 2 NOVEMBER
The last day of the intensive started with classroom sessions in Leadership Lab and Operations Management by the Class of 2020. The Class of 2019 continued their Capstone advisor insights/ peer coaching sessions. The day ended with a send-off presentation by David Wafula ’18, an alumnus from the MBA Class of 2018. David motivated the students to approach the new academic term with diligence and the pursuit of excellence. To the Class of 2020, he said, “you can’t be doing normal things and expecting extraordinary results.”
“Failure is a self-fulfilling prophecy. When you’re in it, you never stop”- David Wafula ’18
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.
Hector Chilimani is a Business Operations Project Specialist at One Acre Fund, Malawi. His passion lies in serving his community by equipping and empowering people with the tools they need to solve their problems. Through his leadership style of imparting ownership, Hector is, in his own right, building leaders and problem-solvers for the African century.
Monday, 15 October 2018 was Mother’s Day Holiday in Malawi. In total indulgence of the atypical Monday, Hector started the day at 7 a.m, later than his 4:30 a.m weekday routine, and without the succession of his early morning jog or aerobics. He checked his emails for about 30 minutes and sent well wishes to the mother figures in his life before embracing the relaxation in the air over Malawi. Having had a hectic weekend submitting a Capstone Project deliverable, he spent the rest of the day resting and catching up with friends and family in the scenic small city of Zomba where he resides.
Hector’s Tuesday, strictly termed a “no-meeting day” was spent on executive, managerial and administrative work, as he prioritises preparing for 1-on-1 check-ins with his manager and direct reports as well as ensuring his collaborators have the necessary support to execute effectively. Consistently, his work responsibilities revolve around key client data management, as well as the implementation of acceleration projects across credit repayment, collection, client protection, and customer engagement. He is also in charge of cross-departmental coordination, with the goal of developing the capacity and effectiveness of the business operations teams.
Hector’s Wednesdays are typically consolidatory. He blends work meetings, team check-ins, and committee sessions during the day with his MBA coursework at the close of work. This Thursday, he led the One Acre Fund Malawi culture crew to the warehouse where farm input delivery was underway in anticipation of the agricultural season. The culture-themed visit, organised in the midst of a two-week project to deliver inputs to 15,000 farmers in 4 districts of Malawi, was aimed at providing support and boosting the morale of the input delivery workers.
On Fridays, Hector typically plans for the week ahead, to ensure that his team is aligned with their priorities for the coming week. His week winds up with an all-staff Town-Hall meeting which occurs in form of feedback sessions, strategic reviews, internal alignment on initiatives and stretch project conversations.
[Motivation] to Hector stems from his passion to serve others, and he does so by assisting workmates, clients, and farmers as part of his daily job. With regards to his ALUSB MBA programme, the love and support from his friends, well-wishers, classmates, and activators keep him going. He says, “there is always that one voice in the midst of all the discouragement, that tells you to keep going. That is the voice I listen to.”
[On roadblocks,] Hector sees challenges as “innovation quests” or learning opportunities, hence he approaches obstacles like topics or subject matters that warrant deep understanding and deliberate unpacking. In this light, he deep-dives into the practical details of every roadblock he faces, focusing more on “who can be of help” and less on “who triggered what.”
“I am motivated by challenges, I do not want to waste any crisis in my life.”
Hector has a powerful statement to make on what drives efficient teamwork. His work position as a business operations manager, as well as his ALUSB context as a pan-African & Home Learning group member, has incited his stance that “engagement, inclusion, and respect are key to teamwork and collaboration, as altogether, the three tenets accentuate the value in the process and result of teamwork.” He adds that “it is a leader’s responsibility to cultivate spaces that allow people to derive value from team engagement.”
Overtime, as a leader, what has been helpful is being able to listen to silent voices, and being aware of how my actions can be destructive or empowering to those I lead.
To Hector, [a perfect week] is mostly aspirational, but it pushes one to be more intentional in deciding their weekly progress. In his words, “this would be a week where I have been available to my direct reports, made room for big picture time, brought closure to a number of projects in my pipeline, caught up with my MBA coursework, and spent the weekend with friends. Preferably, it would also be a week where I hiked, supported some initiative with Fellow Lions club where I am the Projects Director, checked on my siblings and got the chance to ready myself for the coming week.”
[To ALUSB aspirants,] Hector says, “challenge yourself to think through where you are and where you want to go. If you agree that Africa’s drawbacks stem from leadership, then you need to search for places where your thinking could be reinforced or challenged. In ALUSB, you will build networks across the African continent and gain more awareness/ engagement around issues that are dear to us as Africans, with real-time opportunities to learn and apply this knowledge in your work and businesses, including your personal growth.”
Hector Chilimani ‘19 has found ALUSB to fit the description of “AfricasMBA, building leaders for the African Century.” He invites you to join this growing network of budding African leaders.
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.
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.”