The class of 2020 ‘Umoja’ is graduating in less than a month! Besides their academic experience and their interactions with other students, there is another player in the ALUSB community that we want to highlight: the ALUSB staff who worked closely with the students throughout their MBA journey. We had the opportunity to have a conversation with ALUSB MBA Programme Director, Christian Muhawenimana. Christian shared his thoughts on the ALUSB MBA and his experiences with the graduating class!
In his day-to-day as the Programme Director, Christian is in charge of managing the students’ experience. He does this by providing continuous support and creating a safe space for them to be open about any challenges they may face. Because of this, Christian is known as the ‘go-to’ person for the ALUSB MBA students! “I think of myself as an academic adviser.”
On his time with ALUSB
“At ALUSB, we treat education as a service.”
Christian is excited when thinking about his time at ALUSB and the successes that he has been able to witness. How does Christian define success? When there’s a high number of graduating students and a low rate of students that have dropped out of the programme! Christian lists the ALUSB team as a key player in achieving this. “The priority of every staff member at ALUSB is to find the best ways to support students during their MBA journey. The school content makes up 60% of the learning experience, the rest comes from their interactions with the ALUSB community.” Therefore, it is essential to deliver high-quality service through support and a world-class pool of faculty. “At ALUSB, we treat education as a service.”
“Because the programme is founded on group learning, students benefit from a collective learning experience.” This type of education means that keeping students engaged in the programme is crucial. He emphasises that during an MBA journey, the students need people that can give practical support to help them balance their many responsibilities. Christian’s job? To be that person for the ALUSB MBA students!
On his experience with the graduating class of 2020 ‘Umoja’
Christian joined the ALUSB team at the same time as the class of 2020 ‘Umoja’, and this created a special connection between him and the class. “They call me Mr. forty-one because they feel very connected to me; it’s like I’m part of their cohort.” And after getting to know the cohort better, he is still mesmerised by the students’ ability to bond very quickly at the beginning of their MBA journey. “In addition to forming tight in-class connections, the students were able to support each other beyond the classroom!”
“…It’s like I’m part of their cohort.”
Thinking about the Umoja class graduating excites Christian as he sees the prospect of more than 36 new companies coming from the student within the next decade. This prediction is based on interactions he has had with students that envision themselves starting their own enterprises that will make a difference on the continent. “The class understands where we are heading as a continent, and I can’t be happier for them,” says Christian. Additionally, ten years from now, Christian hopes that ALUSB alumni will be at a place where they can create, innovate and meet Africa’s needs in an actionable way.
“Be humble, remain humble, be useful and always look for ways to grow your team.”
As they move towards graduation and the rest of their professional careers, Christian emphasises humility as a virtue that will aid the graduates in their professional lives. “While they have some information on all business aspects; they do not have all the information on those different aspects. This is why I urge them to have a growth mindset. Be humble, remain humble, be useful and always look for ways to grow your team.”
CATHERINE CHUMO ’20 IS AN INFORMATION OFFICER AT Africa Network for Animal Welfare (ANAW) in Kenya and is currently enrolled in the MBA for Conservation Leaders! We had the privilege to chat with her about her experience and work in the conservation field.
Catherine’s interest in nature and animals started at a young age. After visiting the Nairobi National Park as a child with her family, she knew she wanted to work in a space that would ensure the safety of wild animals. Today, Catherine is an Information Officer in the Communications Department of an international conservation organisation.
At ANAW, Catherine gets to experience the best of both worlds as she works both in the field and in the office!
While in the office, her responsibilities mainly revolve around planning and information management. As an Information Officer, she is tasked with ensuring that information and communication channels run smoothly and efficiently.
Similarly, her role in the field revolves around organising conservation initiatives in different parts of Kenya. This requires input from different members that make up the community, volunteers, government, partners, conservation stakeholders, donors, graduate students, and schools.
Catherine’s weekly schedule…
A typical weekday starts as early as 4 AM for Catherine. She starts her day off with a work out session after which she gets ready for work.
Her first task in the office, after a cup of coffee, is reviewing MBA work. This is to make sure she is set for the week and is up to date with assignment deadlines.
At around 8:30 AM Catherine has a team check-in where they lay out the agenda for the upcoming week. A huge bulk of the rest of the day is meeting with stakeholders and partners to work on different projects and collaboration opportunities. She often closes off her day by sending out communications and responding to emails. Her evenings are reserved for school work.
While in the field, Catherine starts her day with one of her favorite things; work out sessions in the wild. The team then has breakfast at 8 AM. After a briefing, the team heads out to different sites where they start working on different tasks such as de-snaring, animal rescues, human-animal coexistence activities, companion animal vaccination campaigns, and working with wildlife guardians for patrols.
ANAW team members, including Helen Jerotich, Eunice Robai, and Kate Chumo, rangers and Soysambu Conservancy staff during a full day of snare-removal at the Soysambu Conservancy northwest of Nairobi. Kenya, 2016.
ANAW projects include community mobilization that is focused on women within different communities that they operate in. These initiatives are designed to inform women of the dangers of poaching and to provide them with alternative sources of income such as basketry. The organization also works with young men to turn lethal snare traps into snare art.
Pursuing an ALUSB MBA
Although her work in the conservation field was fulfilling, Catherine was looking for a bigger platform that would allow her to work with others and take up the pressing issues in wildlife conservation. This led her to the MBA for Conservation Leaders! Besides these professional needs, Catherine was intrigued by the vision, innovation, and network that ALUSB offers and this made her decision to join the School of Business a no-brainer.
On handling roadblocks: Through Leadership Lab and other courses in the MBA programme, Catherine has learned to handle roadblocks with a healthy dose of emotional intelligence and calmness. “Leadership Lab really comes in handy when handling roadblocks especially those that require conflict resolution.”
Advice on working with different communities: While working with different communities, Catherine notes the importance of recognising and acknowledging the different dynamics within a community. She puts emphasis on the need to understand the community’s needs and priorities in order to move forward. She states that this is crucial especially in dealing with human-wildlife conflict, “You have to be a people person when working with a community,” she says.
The experience as a woman in a male-dominated field
Catherine acknowledges that working in a male-dominated field comes with some challenges in the field and in the boardroom. How does she deal with these challenges? A positive mindset and an assertive attitude! She also chats with some of her classmates, especially the women, as a way to keep her motivated and inspired. Catherine emphasizes that while being a woman at work comes with its challenges, being the only female student in the conservation MBA programme has been a great experience for her because of the support she has received from fellow classmates!
Her highlight at ALUSB
“My growth as a conservation leader has been heavily influenced by my classmates’ support and inspiration.” She also points out that the intensive held in Mauritius was a significant moment in her journey as a conservation leader. She was able to learn more about structural challenges experienced in conserving marine species. She gained tools from the marine conservation toolkit which she seeks to incorporate in her work.
“My growth as a conservation leader has been heavily influenced by my classmates’ support and inspiration.”
Advice to women seeking careers in environmental conservation
“Volunteer and take part in conservation programmes while in school. This will allow you to learn and give you skills which can give you a head start in your career. At the same time, connect with other women in the field as this will become a strong support system to help you get through challenges specific to women. Finally, always remember that everyone has so much to bring into the world of conservation therefore, you should be assertive and trust your instincts.”
OLATUNDE IMMANUEL ’20 IS A REGIONAL SALES DIRECTOR FOR WEST AFRICA AT IDEMIA, AN AUGMENTED IDENTITY COMPANY SPECIALIZING IN SECURITY AND IDENTITY SOLUTIONS.
We had a chance to have a chat with Olatunde and discuss how he combines his different roles: father, regional sales director, and ALUSB MBA student.
Being the Regional Sales Director for West Africa, a lot of Olatunde’s week is spent traveling between his most established markets: Nigeria and Ghana. “Usually, I’m traveling every two weeks. When traveling, I usually leave Lagos on Wednesday morning and try to be back on Saturday morning. Last week, I was in Accra, where we have a lot of customers in the telecommunications industry like Vodafone, MTN, Airtel and Tigo. I meet with them and try to understand what their needs and strategies are in terms of what volume of sim cards they want quarterly and what other technology solutions they are planning to deploy.”
His schedule is very flexible, even when he’s working from home. But there is one thing that remains a constant: school runs. “We have two boys and a girl and when I’m not traveling, I always pick up the kids from school. When we get home, I sit with them and make sure they do their assignments while I do my office work.”
And after the family has gone to bed and it’s quiet, it’s time for Olatunde to do some ALUSB MBA work. His decision to pursue an MBA was mostly career driven. “I wanted to move up in my career and I thought having an MBA programme would provide me with the right tools to realize this.” And Olatunde was right. When he started his MBA journey at ALUSB, he got promoted from Regional Sales Manager to Senior Director. His new goal? Vice President for the whole of Africa. “For me to be able to reach that goal, it’s important for me to understand the African market. I thought an MBA program would allow me to build contacts across the entire continent, not just in West Africa. That is one of the main reasons that I chose the ALU School of Business, because of its pan-African uniqueness. We have good business schools here in Nigeria but they are kind of localized. And I didn’t want to do an MBA in Europe, for example, because the core of my job is in Africa, so I wanted an MBA that I could utilize in the future as I develop myself further on the continent.”
“It’s easier to go on a journey with a group of people than to work alone.”
When asked about the highlight of his ALUSB MBA journey so far, Olatunde is quick to bring up his classmates. “ I have phenomenal classmates. It’s easier to go on a journey with a group of people than to work alone. My job requires a lot of traveling so having awesome classmates that check up on me and let me know when an assignment is due is very nice. We understand one another and encourage each other. That’s the way we roll!” Even though Olatunde receives a lot of motivation from his classmates, he’s mostly self-motivated.
On doing business in Africa: I have traveled across Africa and I have noticed a few things. One of the things that I think is an issue on the African continent is knowledge of the market sector. I work in the telecommunications and banking sectors, that’s why I wake up to read the news first thing in the morning. I understand my sector and government policies surrounding it, do research and subscribe to journals that I read daily. It would save your life!
Secondly, I think that the networks are also key. The deals I have been able to achieve, are a result of knowing people. Our customers need to know that you’re valuable enough for them to be able to trust you.
Thirdly, when you do business in Africa; give your word, own the promise, deliver and overdeliver.”
ALU School of Business (ALUSB) is delighted to introduce our newest MBA cohort! The first of our Classes of 2021 (named Ubuntu) launched 27 October 2019 in Kigali, Rwanda.
There are many wonderful statistics about this class, of which the ALUSB Admissions team is incredibly proud. But one statistic stands out in particular: 57% of the students in this class are women. In the words of ALUSB Vice Dean, Catherine Duggan, upon welcoming the class, “Many of the women in this room are the only women on their boards or leadership teams. Now you’re 57%”.
“Many of the women in this room are the only women on their boards or leadership teams. Now you’re 57%.”
Other statistics to note: 18 African countries of residence and 15 African primary nationalities are present in the class, with Namibia and Burkina Faso represented for the first time. The class has an average age of 36 years, with on average 11 years of post-graduate professional experience. As Ubuntu student Armand-Didier Konan ‘21 reflected, “Diversity is the most important thing that we have here and it brings a special flavour to this MBA programme.”
After an electrifying first intensive programme starting Leadership Lab, Doing Business in Africa and Financial Accounting courses, as well as some strong community building, our newest leaders for the African Century have returned home to their families and organisations, to prepare for ALUSB MBA Term 1.
“Diversity is the most important thing that we have here and it brings a special flavour to this MBA programme.”
We can’t wait to watch you learn, build and grow, team Ubuntu! I am because we are!
Joachim Nzuzi ’20 is from the DRC, operates as the CEO at Africa Rising Consulting in Johannesburg and is the Chief Operating Officer at Realbanc Limited in Lagos. It doesn’t get more pan-African than that! With this much experience on the continent, Joachim is the ideal person to talk to about doing business in Africa.
People often say; you don’t choose your career, your career chooses you. And Joachim agrees. “I started looking after peoples assets in South-Africa, I was advising them about investment opportunities and such. And my current business partner, who would often travel to South-Africa, would come and ask me for advice about which area would be best to invest in; in terms of properties. So one thing led to another and then he asked me to come to Nigeria to help him restructure his company. I always had a passion for real-estate. And that’s really how I got into it. So, it’s not as if I chose it, it kind of like chose me more than anything.”
Realising he was growing in his career, Joachim decided that an MBA would be the perfect tool to help him take on these new responsibilities. “I started to identify some gaps and I felt that an MBA was going to give me a better perspective on how to make good managerial decisions.”
About 16 months in his MBA at ALU School of Business, Joachim has no regrets, only lessons. Here are a couple of things that he learned from his vast experience and knowledge of doing business on the continent and his time at ALUSB.
1. Be patient with the continent
Take it easy. I know people say; ‘the higher the risk, the higher the return.’ But you have to be very patient with the continent. You have to take a long-term approach when it comes to doing business in Africa. It’s not going to happen as quickly as you think, but if you stay consistent, things will turn around. There is so much great potential in Africa and I will always say to people: take your time when doing business in Africa and stick to what you know.
“You have to take a long-term approach when it comes to doing business in Africa.”
2. You have to educate yourself
“If you want to do business in Africa, there are just so many factors that you have to take into consideration. Having a local context on different fronts protects a business from risks that could result in considerable losses. I’ve invested money in the DRC and I’ve lost money. Mostly because I was not very in tune with what was going on in the country. So, if you do not know the environment, you’re going to lose money.
There are a lot of things that ALUSB has reaffirmed as far as doing business in Africa is concerned. But the one thing that I learned is to consider all factors. The old me would go into new territory without even thinking. But ALUSB has taught me the ability to look at things that other people are not looking at. My approach was very limited, but now it’s much broader.”
3. Good leadership is essential
“A lot of things have changed regarding my perception of leadership especially after learning more about the V^3 leadership model at ALUSB. So now, I think a great leader is someone who understands the needs of their people more than anything. And it’s not just about telling people what to do; it’s listening to the needs of the people and finding a way to meet that need. It’s not about you taking the people where you want to go, it’s about taking the people where they need to go. And that is the kind of leadership Africa needs right now.”
“It’s not about you taking the people where you want to go, it’s about taking the people where they need to go.”
Gloria Karambizi ’20 is s a Student Loan Manager at Kepler, a nonprofit organisation, where she assists students in getting access to loans and scholarships to pursue higher education.
We had the pleasure of sitting down with her and discovering how she balances her roles as a Manager and an MBA student while also making time for friends and family.
Gloria’s week starts with a twenty-minute drive to work at 9 a.m. She emphasises that a twenty-minute commute is a lot in a Rwandan context as there is not much traffic or the roads. Her days in the office depend on the plans of the organisation. Currently, Kepler is getting ready to enrol new students to the programme. As a result, her priority is planning in preparation for the incoming batch of new students.
Her primary focus is on creating an efficient system, given that the organisation is working on a relatively new programme. She hopes that through collaboration with different stakeholders, she can develop a replicable process within the programme that can be used in the future.
On most weekdays after work, she meets up with some of her ALUSB classmates. During those meetups, they catch up on schoolwork, keep each other accountable and act as a support system for their academics, work, and personal lives. Notably, she likes to spend Friday evenings at career events and professionals’ meetings that happen around Kigali. She considers these events a great opportunity to network and interacts with other professionals, especially those within her line of work.
“My classmates and the ALUSB community are phenomenal; I get inspired by them every day.”
Weekends are family-time for Gloria. She values spending time with her family and consequently ensures she makes time for them every week. They spend time cooking together on Saturday, go to church together on Sunday, and watch a movie afterwards.
On motivation: “I am glad that I’m doing something that is already bringing change to the continent. This motivates me to wake up because I know what I do matters and that I am helping other people.” Gloria credits her motivation to the fact that she is doing what she loves. She is driven by the desire to help people and impact peoples lives positively and works towards this every day. Gloria also genuinely likes the ALUSB MBA courses: “The Leadership Lab course has been instrumental in making leadership practical in my day-to-day activities. Through this course, I have been able to apply myself as a leader in different spaces.”
“I now see myself as a leader.”
Finding work-life balance: Gloria credits her work-ethic as the foundation of her being able to balance the different roles and responsibilities in her life. She keeps a 9 to 5 policy which gives her room to spend time with family, friends and work for school. “It’s not an easy process, but it is one that gets easier with time and patience.”
On teamwork at ALUSB: “You have to plan accordingly, and you should do this earlier on,” Gloria advises. To have efficient group work, team members must plan early on the dynamics of their team. Through early planning, Gloria has been able to work efficiently within a pan-African team.
Advice to prospective students: “Students should ensure they stay up to date with course content and assignments to avoid a build-up of workload.” She also highlights her classmates as one of the critical assets one will gain in the rigorous MBA programme. “Your classmates will be your family.” she declares.