Lebanese-Nigeria Initiatives and the imperative of MBA degree to national development

Economic growth requires professionals, business specialists, entrepreneurs and managers. Research findings provide evidence that MBA programme graduates do make a significant contribution towards improving themselves and organisations that do employ them. These profitable organisations in turn ply back their profits in the community they operate in and help to improve the overall socio-economic fabric of the local economy. MBA graduates are perceived to have good work ethic, sound management and leadership skills as well as critical thinking and analytical abilities. Indeed, MBA graduates are expected to be more experienced and relevant to impact the organisations compared to fresh graduates, as they acquire and develop a variety of competencies critical for employability through their educational stages and are more likely to be hired.

In her study of Management’s Perception of MBA Graduates in Malaysia, Angeline Tay (2001), notes that “rapid economic growth, global competition, downsizing, privatization, corporate mergers and liberalization of global education have caused a surge in demand for MBA degrees in Malaysia, it has become the most prestigious managerial qualification for current and potential managers as it prepares them to take on new challenges and multiple management tasks.”

In Nigeria which is the largest economy in Africa, developing innovative human resources with effective leadership skills are critical for Nigerian businesses to remain competitive and sustainable in the global economy. Hence there has been an increased appetite among employers of labour to hire people with global MBA from top-rate business schools.

As the Lebanese–Nigeria Initiatives endowment of a $1.5 million MBA scholarship scheme at the American University of Beirut (AUB), Lebanon takes its full course, great opportunities beckon for young and aspiringNigeriansfor training in analytical and strategic thinking, leadership skills, quantitative skills and communication skills. The duo of Ajibola Olubanjo and Johnson Nwazuruahu are presently living a fulfilled life after their dreams came through with an MBA scholarship at the American AUB. Both are the first set of scholarship beneficiaries that returned to Nigeria from the two years full MBA scholarship programme sponsored by the Lebanese-Nigeria Initiative (LNI).

LNI is a social impact group established by some Lebanese business leaders in Nigeria. A few years ago, it endowed $1.5 million at the American University of Beirut to award a full MBA scholarship every year to a young deserving Nigerian resident in the country, as part of building skilful human capital for the Nigerian economy.

The first beneficiary of this laudable initiative for the 2019/2020 edition was Ajibola Olubanjo, a Petroleum and Gas Engineering graduate of the University of Lagos. Olubanjo said he heard about the LNI MBA scholarship scheme at AUB from a friend and decided to apply as he has been surfing the internet looking for such opportunities.

Read also: Why UK Scholarships to Nigerians is rising

While sharing his experience on the run-up to winning the scholarship, Olubanjo said he was pleasantly surprised to receive a call from someone in LNI informing him of winning the scholarship. “I started processing the information I heard. I knew I did my best during the application process and so were other candidates. But God said it was my time.

Telecommunications Engineer and IT expert, Johnson Nwazuruahu won the 2020/2021 edition of the prestigious scholarship sponsored by LNI. In his own case, he had already applied to AUB for an MBA programme and was in search of full or partial sponsorship as the cost of the programme was beyond him. It was at that point that he was informed by an AUB staff of the existing scholarship opportunity sponsored by LNI in the school. Nwazuruahu processed the application and after a series of competitive interviews, he won the LNI MBA scholarship to AUB, one of the topmost universities in the world.

He said he was elated when the news of his scholarship was broken to him noting that AUB has been his dream MBA School having produced many global leaders, presidents and top people in business.

Sharing his experience while at the AUB, Nwazuruahu said the AUB is a very great school with multinational students and a staff population. “The faculty is world-class with very experienced professors similar to what you find in other great universities like Oxford, Cambridge, MIT, Harvard, among others,” he said, adding, “with MBA from AUB, I now have advanced expertise in finance, financial matters, IT, management and even operations. The total experience for me is great” he enthused. Nwazuruahu wants young Nigerians to take advantage of LNI scholarship scheme for global leadership training and career growth.

The need for human capital development for a country such as Nigeria cannot be overemphasized with the abundant human and natural resources waiting to be harnessed to make Nigeria one of the leading economies in the world.

Faysal El Khalil, chairman of the Lebanese-Nigeria Initiatives, said LNI was established by business leaders of the Lebanese community in Nigeria to strengthen the good relationship between Nigerians and Lebanese living and working in Nigeria. Mr El Khalil said the MBA scholarship at AUB is one of several socio-economic projects by the Lebanese community in Nigeria aimed at giving back to the Nigerian society that has provided the enabling environment for Lebanese to live, work and thrive since the 18th century when the first Lebanese settlers came to Nigeria.

He said that the endowment of US $1.5m with the American University of Beirut will ensure that the MBA scholarship for one young Nigerian every year is in perpetuity. “As far as AUB continues to exist, the opportunity for LNI to send one young Nigerian annually for the MBA programme on full scholarship will continue”, said Mr El Khalil. The scholarship will add to the pool of highly skilled and knowledgeable Nigerians who are willing and able to come back to the country and contribute to building a more prosperous and egalitarian society.

Ali Safieddine, vice-chairman Lebanese-Nigerian Initiatives said Nigeria has become a home to second and third-generation Lebanese, who have socially and culturally integrated into the fabric of the Nigerian society. He charged the LNI MBA AUB scholars to be good ambassadors of their school, Lebanon and Nigeria having experienced the people and culture of Lebanon during their stay.

Explaining the criteria for the selection of the LNI MBA scholarship winners at AUB, Mr Safieddine said the candidates are chosen out of numerous applicants who must satisfy the stringent admission requirements of AUB and also be ready and willing to return to Nigeria to use their education to impact the society.

There is no doubt that the scholarship scheme is already yielding results as the first batch of beneficiaries are already putting structures in place to impact society with the knowledge and leadership skills they acquired at AUB. “I am looking forward to setting up a small scholarship scheme for indigent students in my local community in Lagos first and then gradually expanding to the rest of the country. I also want to mentor fresh graduates on a career path to success, especially during the NYSC year which from experience is usually very challenging to most graduates fresh from the universities in terms of self-discovery”, said Olubanjo.

For Nwazuruahu, “one of the things I intend doing (and which in fact I am already doing) is involved in activities that have a direct impact on the community. We have already set up an agricultural firm which is working to inculcate technology in the whole agriculture value chain, to see how technology can advance production, productivity and entrepreneurship.” Nwazuruahu further said: ”Of course, being a vital part of the LNI family, I am looking forward to a time when I will be able to do what LNI did for me in someone else’s life- funding the studies of young bright Nigerians that may miss the opportunity of higher education because of lack of a sponsor. So basically, no matter what I do, I am involved in the community and that is very paramount to me now.”

The search for the next set of awardees will continue this year. Prospective applicants who must be Nigerians and residents in the country are enjoined to visit the Lebanese-Nigeria Initiatives website for details on how to apply.

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