Entrepreneurship and Innovation at ALUSB, with Chidi Afulezi

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.


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