by Machela Sathekga, MBA 2019, Gallifrey Scholar, Co-Chair Africa Business Summit
When I agreed to co-chair London Business School’s 2019 Africa Business Summit, little did I know I was undertaking a journey that would change me profoundly. I thought I would learn, grow and connect with many amazing people at LBS, but I did not appreciate the significant impact on my leadership development or the impact our team would have in the LBS community and beyond.
The journey of planning the Africa Business Summit has seen me learn about taking on a unique role of being a conference co-chair. Yes, co-chair, as in the co-CEO role that is often advised against. As LBS Professor Lynda Gratton teaches, being able to work and lead collaboratively is a key skill for the future and one that I did not fully appreciate I would (sometimes painfully) cultivate as I took this role up with my good friend, Sara Thomas. As a South African actuary and Polish engineer leading a team 30 talented individuals from 16 different countries; we were so different but had a shared passion for Africa and impact. After trying new things and making countless mistakes, we played to our complementary strengths and made it work. Finding my own unique and authentic leadership style has been a key insight and highlight for me.
One of the best things about being at LBS is the flexibility of the programme and the countless opportunities to explore and make the MBA your own. Taking advantage of this, I went on an international exchange to the University of Chicago Booth to spend a term in North America learning from the perspectives and experiences of my professors and classmates there, connecting with new people and living in another new city. Then, while my co-chair Sara went off to Singapore for her exchange, I spent a term in South Africa focused on development finance and impact investing. This allowed me to explore another passion, potential career path and make crucial connections for the future.
All the while we continued to co-lead and be involved in bi-weekly team meetings, sponsorship calls and content creation. This was only possible because of the incredible Africa Business Summit team that was ably led on-the-ground by our phenomenal Chief of Staff, Molly Horn – she literally is every woman! Managing and leading global remote teams in different time zones is another key skill I did not expect to pick up. I can only think what my mother in rural Limpopo would be thinking about our team meeting last week that had everyone in different parts of the world including: United States, Brazil, Slovakia, Nigeria, France, South Africa, Canada, Kenya, China, Portugal, Myanmar – oh, and lonely old me in London. The level of commitment shown by each individual over the last seven months is exceeded only by their passion for Africa. I have been astounded by what this group of people, who have become so special to me, have been able to achieve – and we cannot wait to share it!
The final countdown has begun and we’re so excited to welcome over 400 delegates with an interest in Africa on 27 April 2019. We have an impressive line-up of distinguished business leaders, innovators, policy makers and entrepreneurs all coming to the Landmark Hotel to share their insight and experiences of winning on the growth continent. This includes Rwanda’s Minister of Trade and Industry, Soraya Hakuziyaremye; thought leaders such as McKinsey’s Acha Leke and IFC’s Mary Porter-Peschka; multinational corporation chief executives Peter Moyo of Old Mutual and Micahella Rugwizangoga of Volkswagen and the continent’s major investors and players: OCP, IFC and CDC to name a few.
For me, Africa Business Summit has been more than the highlight event on the London Business School calendar. It’s been an integral part of my journey at LBS. It’s been a place where people realise that Africa is accessible, especially by connecting with her passionate people. A place where people find opportunities to collaborate and impact positively on the continent. And on 27 April, it will be the place for people creating a winning future of the growth continent to connect and be inspired. Join us.