“With a little seed of imagination you can grow a field full of hope”
– African Proverb
Just like my many African friends in the program we moved to the U.S. in the pursuit of our dreams. Despite all forms of challenges, we persevere to achieve our dreams.
Over a decade and a half ago my dream was to be able to work and contribute in a big corporation around the world and I started working towards it, building skills and seeking opportunities. Fortunately, the opportunity came through, and I have worked and helped find solutions to some of the problems facing corporations I have worked with in the U.S.
After a few years, I thought of learning more, improving myself, and adding new skills. I thought an MBA would be great. I applied to Fuqua and another business school on the East Coast. Both offered me admission with the other school offering me a partial scholarship on top. Fuqua has an excellent culture of inclusion—this was the testimony of friends and colleagues who had gone there. On the other hand, I had a partial scholarship offer. I was confused. At the end of the day, I chose Duke, as I thought the culture of inclusion was more important than the money.
Right from the start of the program, I have experienced the Team Fuqua culture. I was so impressed with the high decency quotient, or “DQ,” amongst the cohort members. I was happy to see fellow classmates who were born in Africa in the program and was very excited to meet Anthony Appea, Audry Luwungu, Cipry Osa Obono, Mina Louka, and David Koffa. Overall, I was teamed up with amazing classmates from diverse backgrounds and it was great getting to know everyone’s story.
I eventually realized that my classmates wanted to know more about me, my country Nigeria, and the continent of Africa as a whole. I realized it’s the same situation for my other African friends in the cohort. Anthony once told me, “Whenever I sat down, at the lunch table with classmates, many had questions about the African continents and the culture, doing businesses and the lifestyle of the people. As Someone who grew up in Ghana, I never missed the opportunity to share insights during case studies discussion. However, I felt that was not enough and that interest from my cohorts to learn about the continent was a good opportunity for Africans to tell the African story.”
So he connected with me and some of our classmates who are from the continent as well as those who have lived or worked on the continent before or those who just wanted to support our effort. We brainstormed ideas on how we could have an event to tell the African story and what it takes to do business on the continent. Audry, Cipry, and I thought it was a great idea. We thought in addition to talking about business in Africa it’s an opportunity to dispel some of the misconceptions and myths about the continent.
We met with Julie Craig from the program support team for some advice and coordination. She was fantastic in helping us with the logistics, and we set the date for the event “Business in Africa: Through the lens of Fuqua’s Executive MBAs” on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. About 100 people (including those on campus and virtual) showed up for the event.
Julie opened the event with an introduction of the panelists and also with some interesting trivia.
Anthony Appea talked about Ghana. The wonderful 32 million people from 100-plus ethnic groups who are highly religious. He described, for example, if you ask someone “how are you doing today” the person will say “by the grace of God I’m doing fine.” The economic sector is dominated by cocoa, mining, manufacturing, and the service sector and the technology sector has attracted a lot of foreign investment.
Audry Luwungu spoke about the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Kinshasa is the world’s second-largest French-speaking city after Paris with 10 million people. DRC’s untapped mineral resources are valued at $24 trillion and Audry highlighted other numerous market opportunities and the fact that DRC has one of the greatest exports of music production in the continent.
Cipry Obono talked about Equatorial Guinea. He described the business opportunities from the financial sector to agriculture to the shipping industry and tourism.
I spoke about Nigeria. I talked about her having the largest population and the biggest economy in Africa and spoke about the fintech landscape and how more than $1 billion has flowed in from investors around the world into the fintech and technology industry.
The feedback from attendees was great! I realized the event was impactful. Many didn’t know there was a Spanish-speaking country in Africa. Someone told me he didn’t know the technology industry has attracted so much investment. Others got to know about the culture. And overall, many got to know us the panelists and some of the inherent challenges and opportunities in parts of the continent. I hope this can be a yearly event in the Executive MBA program.
To those who are considering starting the MBA journey at Fuqua, my advice is to make sure you contribute not just to your team tasks, but also to the cohort as a whole. Keep it in the back of your mind that they will remember you for how you impacted their business school journey, so take advantage of and create your own opportunities to do so.