Author: Olin Africa Business Club


About Olin Africa Business Club

Olin Africa Business Club serves to increase the awareness of business opportunities, culture, politics, and economic potential of Africa at Olin & WashU community.

Sharon Mazimba, MBA ’19, wrote this on behalf of the Olin Africa Business Club.

Olin Business School this spring is launching its first ever Africa-focused course, “Africa Business Landscapes.” The idea for the course emerged when members of the newly formed Olin Africa Business Club—and, more specifically, OABC President Ony Mgbeahurike—noticed something missing from the curriculum: Africa.

Ony Mgbeahurike

Ony Mgbeahurike

The continent has seen major demographic changes, including a rising working age population, which continue to underlie mega-trends on the continent, availing African countries the opportunity to convert these changes into substantial demographic dividends and future economic growth.

Given the sheer population potential of more than 1 billion people aged 16-49 growing at 2.5 percent annually, and the rising African middle class, the continent is positioned to be a significant business destination from consumer, commercial, and labor perspectives.

Mgbeahurike felt future Olin students and potential global business leaders should be aware of and learn how to leverage such opportunities in their workplaces and their future business endeavors. Therefore, he enlisted the support of faculty, administration, and OABC board members toward introducing an Africa business course.

“The vision for this course started during the inception of the Olin Africa Business Club in fall 2017,” Mgbeahurike said. “Among our club objectives is to infuse Africa’s business literature into Olin’s curriculum, educating future leaders from WashU on the dynamic economies within Africa.”

The course dovetails nicely with Olin’s strategic plan, which includes a call to expand the global focus of students as they prepare for their careers.

Building support from faculty

Mgbeahurike further enlisted the support of David Meyer, senior lecturer in management, whose interests and research in international business and emerging markets made him a clear choice to teach the course.

David Meyer

David Meyer

“Approaching Dr. Meyer on designing and teaching this course wasn’t a hard sell,” Mgbeahurike said. “Dr. Meyer already teaches other courses on emerging markets, including Asian business networks, thus, I felt he’d be the best fit.”

He said the pair worked on the Africa Business Landscape course by reviewing Africa’s vibrant business sectors and gathering feedback from graduate students about what their business interests in Africa would be. The result was a 1.5 credit elective that will be offered in spring 2019.

“This course will join a select few business schools in the United States to offer such a learning opportunity,” Meyer said. “This positions Olin Business School as a contributor to this emerging opportunity for business in Africa.”

Interactive approach

The course will be intensively interactive, focusing on conceptual frameworks across business sectors such as finance, manufacturing, technology, agriculture, natural resources, retail, and tourism.

“These business opportunities will be framed in the context of political change, the legacy of colonialism, urbanization, and trends in transportation and communication infrastructure development,” Meyer said.

Daniel Elfenbein, a member of the academic committee that approved the course, agreed, noting that the time is right to develop a deeper understanding of the historical factors that shaped the business climate in Africa.

“Ony and Professor Meyer brought the committee a great proposal,” said Elfenbein, associate professor of strategy. “Although the continent is comprised of more than 50 countries, Africa can as a whole can be understood as a key emerging market with a population on the order of India or China.”

The OABC was formed early fall 2017 and consists of current second-year MBA students: Ony Mgbeahurike (President), Matilda Thomas (VP Alumni Relations), Sharon Mazimba (VP Events), Chioma Ukeje (VP Finance), and Eric Onteri (VP Communications). The club seeks to promote Africa among all aspects of the business school through events, career opportunities for African students, growing African student enrollment, and hosting an African business forum — the first of which took place in March 2018.

Club President Ony Mgbeahurike, MBA ’19, wrote this post on behalf of the Olin Africa Business Club.

Ony presenting on Africa business insights.

Ony presenting on Africa business insights.

The future of the world resides on the ability of African nations to realize their potential in global trade and economy. This was further analyzed and discussed during the inaugural Olin Africa Business Forum on March 30, 2018.

Olin Dean Mark Taylor kicked off the event by remarking, “not only is it right to embrace developing countries, it’s absolutely necessary.” Dean Taylor’s remarks underscored the importance of enterprises focusing on Africa as the last frontier for global development. Olin Business School has various activities in Africa under the International Impact Initiative, which includes ongoing projects in Africa (Uganda, Nigeria, and Madagascar).

An Olin 1988 alum, Walé F. Adeosun of Kuramo Capital, shed more light on his work in Africa through his private equity firm, a $300 million multi-asset management firm. Walé detailed his experience at Olin and left the attendees with the three P’s—passion, preparation, and perseverance—as tools to succeed in their careers and Africa.

Agro-tech panel moderated by Sharon Mazimba, MBA '19.

Agro-tech panel moderated by Sharon Mazimba, MBA ’19.

Olin Africa Business Club President Ony Mgbeahurike, MBA ’19, introduced the club’s co-founders, mission, and a brief analysis of the African market. Ony made the case for an African market with a growing population of youth, urbanization, and sharp overall population increase.

He highlighted the opportunities the continent presents to corporations seeking growth and above average investment returns. These are especially ripe in agriculture/processing, manufacturing, and infrastructure.

Other segments of the event focused on leadership and the agricultural technology space in Africa. Specifically, the leadership qualities needed to capture Africa’s potential and how technology and agriculture will play a crucial role in attracting foreign investments in Africa. These segments were moderated by Olin first-year MBAs Matilda Thomas and Sharon Mazimba.

Audience during panel discussions.

Audience during panel discussions.

These segments featured distinguished entrepreneurs, professionals and Olin Professor Stuart Bunderson, co-director of the Bauer Leadership Center, along with Walé Adeosun, Rob Dunlop (Monsanto), Ade Osibamiro (Mastercard), Anne Toba (Ripples Foundation USA), and Toyin Umesiri (Nazaru).

The forum closed with keynote speaker Toyin Umesiri—CEO of Nazaru and founder of the Trade with Africa Business Summit. Her talk focused on how African leaders should place paramount importance on “squeezing the best value from African resources.” Toyin asked the attendees to repeat a saying: “Africa is not poor.” It’s a quote she hopes will reshape the thinking and mindset of event attendees on the economic values Africa brings to the world.

Event attendees enjoyed breakfast, an African lunch and cocktail reception at event close. Event sponsors included Dean Mark Taylor, Monsanto, Olin Graduate Student Business Association, and the Weston Career Center.

Photos courtesy of Brand of St Louis. Pictured at top: Group pictures with event speakers and panelists.

Toyin Umesiri

Chioma Ukeje and Sharon Mazimba, MBA 2019, contributed this post on behalf of the Olin Africa Business Club.

Where can existing business leaders and Olin business students find a market of 1.1 billion people? Or a market that demands innovation in sustainable and affordable agriculture, support for a burgeoning middle class, and action to build new supply chains?

The Olin Africa Business Club will explore answers to these questions and more in its first ever Olin African Business Forum, scheduled for March 30. The morning and early afternoon event includes speakers such as Toyin Umesiri, CEO of Nazaru; Mark Taylor, dean of Olin Business School; Rob Dunlop, regional business director for Monsanto; Anne Toba, CEO and founder of Ripples Foundation; and Ade Osibamiro, Project Manager and consultant for Mastercard.

“Olin Africa Business Club is positioned to elevate and expose Africa’s potential to current and future business leaders,” said OABC President Ony Mgbeahurike, MBA 2019. “This event is a key step in that direction.”

Toyin Umesiri, our keynote speaker for the event, has previously worked in various leadership positions at Walmart is passionate about bridging the gap between companies here and businesses in Africa. She will center her talk around opportunities and the potential the continent has to play a major role in the business world.

We asked Toyin some of her thoughts on key questions relevant to the forum.

What do American leaders need to know about Africa that they do not know?

Africa is a continent whose history is rooted in commerce and not different from other parts of the world like India, Latin America and China. Africa has 1.1 billion people, a quarter of the number of countries in the world, and is home to some of the fastest growing economies.

By 2050, the population of Africa is projected to double and become one of the world’s largest youth workforces. There is a functioning and business side to Africa with a growing middle class on the rise to claim global significance in years to come.

To support this, there are a growing number of leaders working to develop sustainable and affordable food solutions, inclusive health, create new supply chains and build the infrastructure to support seamless movement of goods and services across the continent. With manufacturing steadily shifting from China to Africa, business leaders can no longer ignore Africa.

America leaders will need to develop an effective strategy towards Africa if they want to engage in the market positioned for rapid economic growth in the future.

What do students need to know about Africa and the opportunities there?

We have all read the stories and seen the images depicting Africa has a region of war, famine and diseases. What is missing from the narrative on Africa are the stories that capture the aspirations of Africans: Their triumphs and quest to build successful businesses with global relevance.

The future of Africa is being created by innovators, change agents, entrepreneurs, and global business leaders working hard every day to build solutions that will power Africa’s growing economy.

Technology advancement on the continent of Africa is driving the creation of disruptive solutions and we must develop future leaders who would see and understand where the “world” is going and not only where it has been so that they can help create the future.

What opportunities exist for business leaders in Africa?

Africa offers new markets for US-made products. Similarly, the United States serves as an untapped market for authentic African products—raw and manufactured. For leaders interested in export and import, sustainable agriculture, supply chain, and logistics, they need to start thinking about expanding into Africa.

The Olin Africa Business forum is scheduled for March 30, 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., at Emerson Auditorium. In addition to Toyin’s talk, two panels are scheduled—one on agriculture technology and a second on leadership—featuring industry experts from companies such as Monsanto and Mastercard.

This forum promises to be exciting, informative, and will highlight the wealth of opportunities on the continent. Click here to get your tickets here now.

Olin Africa Business Club (OABC) was the brainchild of Ony Mgbeahurike. As a first-year MBA student, Ony saw there were few students at Olin from the African continent, and there was a dearth of information on Africa and the rich opportunities it has to offer. Africa had been buried in the conversation, an afterthought–and he wanted to change that.

He wanted Africa to become the narrative; to be part of the conversation.

“While applying to Olin, I realized there were many student clubs, but none related to business in Africa,” Mgbeahurike recalls. “I realized there was an opportunity to create an organization that could promote Africa and be a partner in achieving Olin’s mission and vision as a truly global school.”

Mgbeahurike recruited fellow students from Africa to conceptualize and launch OABC. Matilda Thomas, Sharon Mazimba, Chioma Ukeje, Eric Ontieri and Ubaka Ogbunude, are all founding members and officers of the club.

Among OABC’s ambitious goals is the mission to increase awareness of business opportunities, culture, politics, and the economic potential of Africa. Here a just a few facts that may surprise non-Africans:

  • Africa’s consumer spending to be $2.3T by 2025 (McKinsey report)
  • The United Nations predicts that one-fifth of the world’s population will be living in Africa by 2050, with over 40% being youth.
  • Uber, McKinsey, GE, P&G, Nestle, Danone, Unilever are among many companies currently investing in Africa.

While the overall theme is to raise awareness on campus, we believe that OABC can add value to the rich tapestry that is Washington University in St. Louis. We aim to help with recruiting by supporting the admissions office and serving as a resource to prospective students from Africa. We want to infuse Africa into the curriculum, encouraging professors to include the economics and business landscape into the classroom conversation.

We plan to encourage graduates to explore career opportunities in Africa. Collaborating with and leveraging the WCC platform and alumni network, we plan to extend the employment network for Olin graduates outside the territorial United States. Also, we are positioning to be a resource to Olin’s experiential learning opportunities on the African continent (e.g. CEL Practicum in Madagascar and Global Management Studies).

To learn more about OABC, please visit our CampusGroups page or visit our room at the One World Event on November 3, 2017 in Simon Hall, 6:30 p.m.




OABC Officers

Ony Mgbeahurike, President
Ony was born and raised in Owerri, Nigeria. He moved to the U.S at age 12 where he completed his undergraduate degree in Manufacturing Operations at University of Minnesota Twin Cities. Having worked at General Mills for over 3 years in various roles, Ony’s passion and ambition is to increase global food supply, especially in Africa. He plans to use his MBA as a springboard to realize his ambition.

Chioma Ukeje, VP Finance
Chioma was born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria where she completed her undergraduate degree in Accounting with Honors from Covenant University, Ota. She has worked in various functions since then, her last stint being in Guaranty Trust Bank, PLC Nigeria. Chioma is passionate about finance and strategy, especially in the technology space, and is using her MBA as a platform to realize this career path; she is also passionate about youth development in Nigeria.

Matilda Thomas (VP Programs)
Matilda is an architectural designer with experience working in both the United States and Nigeria. Originally from Nigeria, she earned her BA degree with honors in architecture from Baylor University in Texas in 2014. Matilda is a career switcher interested in working in strategy and consulting. She takes special interest in issues affecting the developing world, especially Africa, and hopes that through a career in consulting, she would be equipped to tackle some of the most pressing issues affecting the continent.

Sharon Mazimba (VP Programs)
Sharon is a first-year MBA hailing from Lusaka, Zambia. She has traveled and lived in various places, which has exposed her to the different views and perceptions people have about the continent. She is therefore extremely excited to be part of a club that is bringing Africa and all the amazing opportunities the continent has to offer to the Olin and broader WashU community.

Ubaka Ogbunude (VP Social)
Ubaka was raised in Eastern Nigeria in a middle-class family. He has a bachelor’s degree from University of Calabar and Post Graduate Diploma from National Open University of Nigeria. Ubaka has about 9 years of career experience from Zenith Bank Plc- a leading retail bank in Sub Saharan Africa. Ubaka’s interest rests on emerging and developing financial markets.

Eric Ontieri (VP Communications)
Born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya, Eric pursued a BSc. in Actuarial Science at St. John’s University before doing a stint on Wall Street. He then moved to Kenya to start an ISP targeting the lower half of the pyramid. He came to realize he was insufficiently skilled to scale the business and enrolled at Olin. He has an interest in technology, finance, and social entrepreneurship.