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Building Young and Socially Conscious Business Leaders in Africa

(Featuring Lagos Business School Sustainability Centre)

My foray into the development space was rather serendipitous, after years of working as a Segment Manager focused on the youth demography in two of the leading financial institutions in Nigeria. Serendipitous, because I transitioned into a Programmes Manager role in a not-for-profit that was equally youth focused, but that was the main similarity between my previous profit focused work experience and my new “doing good and making a difference focused” experience. I was like fish out of water as it was entirely new territory for me. While the experience paved a purpose driven and self-fulfilling career path for me , the transition itself was not a walk in the park. In a quest to find my footing, I made several consultations to build relevant knowledge and skills in my newly found industry, and interestingly, the Sustainability Centre at Lagos Business School came highly recommended by many. Suffice to say, the courses I undertook at the Centre – Sustainability for NGOs and Social Impact Assessment, offered by a rich blend of facilitators with extensive field experience, gave me the foundational leverage to forge a meaningful and impactful career in the development space.

For better context, the Lagos Business School (LBS) is the graduate business school of Pan-Atlantic University, owned by the Pan-Atlantic University Foundation (PAUF), a non-profit organisation registered in Nigeria. LBS is accredited globally and ranked among the best in Africa, as it strives to improve the practice of management on the continent.

Part of the LBS mission is to provide high potential professionals with general management education. In light of this commitment, the school has been a signatory to the UN Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME) since 2011. According to Professor Enase Okonedo, Lagos Business School’s Dean from 2009 to 2020 – “Our mission at Lagos Business School to build responsible managers and business leaders.”

The LBS Sustainability Centre (LBSSC) is equally an expression of this commitment. It is a first of its kind Centre, designed to refocus the relationship between business and its stakeholders through the development of responsible business leaders. These business leaders are enabled through capacity building programmes, knowledge sharing forums and industry research studies by the Centre to be change agents. The LBSSC was established in 2010 and overarchingly helps leaders effectively foster sustainable development and the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through their businesses, NGOs and public service. The Centre also has a unique youth focus which is not unfounded, given the teeming youth population in Africa with Nigeria bearing a significant proportion. This article aims to highlight how the LBSSC is building young African leaders with a sustainable mindset and spirit of service to the community.

The African Union’s (AU) African Youth Charter heralds that the growing youth population in Africa is the continent’s biggest resource and it offers enormous potential if harnessed properly. Development in Health and Education on the continent puts the African youth in a more advantageous position in comparison to generations before. This is equally corroborated by the African Institute for Development Policy, whereby spending on health and education – coupled with an environment that facilitates jobs and investment have been identified as enablers for fulfilling the dividends from the huge youth population.

One of the core pillars of the LBS learning experience is the emphasis on business ethics and responsible leadership, and in the LBS Sustainability Centre’s approach to developing sustainability-minded youth business leaders, it has embedded within the LBS MBA programme, Sustainability Modules and Courses, which should foster a development and sustainability mindset amongst the students as they pursue a mainstream business programme. These include a mandatory Sustainability and Personal Social Responsibility (PSR) course where full time MBA students deliver a social impact project working in partnership with local NGOs. The school also collaborates with other institutions like the Yale University School of Management in its offering of the Global Online MBA Course ‘Business as a Force for Good: Sustainability and Sustainable Development in Africa’. The elective course delivered under LBS engagements with the Global Network for Advanced Management (GNAM), is open to all LBS full-time and executive MBA students and also international students from schools within the GNAM membership network.

More targeted is the Centre’s ‘Building Youth Leadership Capacity in Nonprofit Management’ project, delivered in partnership with the Ford Foundation since 2017. The Project developed two certificate programmes for youths in the sector – Nonprofit Leadership and Management Programme (NPLM) and the Nonprofit Management Programme for Senior Executives (NPMfEx), the Centre’s intentional effort to develop socially minded young leaders on the continent. One of the key value propositions of the programme is the connection of youth to experienced mentors who are senior fellows, social innovators and development sector experts that come as facilitators on the programmes.

The nonprofit leadership and management programmes has reached over 350 youth across the country, working on issues including youth and women empowerment, education, health, environment, governance, technology and more. The Project has also created social, economic and environmental value through the MBA student-led community service, known as ‘Personal Social Responsibility (PSR)’ projects. This again helps in achieving the objective of building young leaders that have a sustainable development mindset as they drive their business ventures or build a career in the private sector.

To spotlight the effectiveness of the Centre’s programmatic interventions, below are testimonials from participants in different programme cohorts:

‘Since returning, the effect of NPLM has been massive on our organisation, especially as it has helped us to focus on solidifying our structure and creating more standard organisational processes and documentation, all of which are requirements for rapid sustainable growth.’ – Participant, NPLM CLASS 2018

‘The NPMfEx is a life-transforming programme. There was so much I actually didn’t know prior to the programme, for example, I learnt about ways you can put proper structures in place in your non-profit organisation. We were taught about practical ways you could raise funds for your NGO, and not necessarily waiting forever for donor funding. Collaboration was one vital key and lesson I also took away from the programme. It’s no use working in silos when you can form synergies with other experts for a greater good. I am thankful to the entire Lagos Business School Management and staff, for giving me this very unique opportunity.’ – Participant, NPMfEx 2020 Class

‘I have gathered a lot than I thought I knew on sustainable waste management. I’ve learnt that it’s not just about having an idea but transforming it into something beneficial to myself, my environment and my society. That paradigm shift is necessary.’ – Participant, Leadership Programme for Sustainable Waste Management

‘Before the programme, I thought it was not going to be different from others I have attended but I was wrong. It was mind-blowing, I don’t know exactly why but I felt yes, this is what I have been waiting for.’ – Participant, Advancing Nutrition Health and Wellness through the Media

The COVID-19 Pandemic has stirred a consciousness amongst business leaders toward a more intentional inclination to impact society positively, as they conduct their business activities. With a significant proportion of the youth on the continent going the entrepreneurship route, having little to no idea on how to go about creating or running business enterprises that are socially conscious, the LBS Sustainability Centre is the perfect institution to develop this capacity.

In a nutshell, the LBS and her Sustainability Centre, continue to exemplify institutional commitment to the sustainable development of our society. The school’s approach is unique and a good path for providing support to youth on the continent; to develop their capacity as socially responsible leaders using dynamic programmatic interventions and engagements.

Yours conscientiously,

‘Nasa

About Author:

Chinasa Ken-Ugwuh (‘Nasa) is a beneficiary of Sustainability and Not-for-Profit programmes at the LBS Sustainability Centre. Passionate about social justice for women, youth and the marginalised generally, she lends her voice to social development issues on the continent through her podcast series, Social Conscience with ‘Nasa (SCwN) – a social development advocacy programme that airs online at Africa Business Radio (ABR) and converges into Op-Eds in print and digital newspaper with BusinessDay. She works full time as a Social Development consultant with a global professional services firm. To read more of her articles and listen to some of the insightful conversations from the SCwN podcast series, visit www.socialconscience.africa.

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