Here's How My Alternative MBA Is Helping Me Drive Sustainable Development In Africa
Sarah Adomakoh always had a passion for international development. With the help of a master’s program, she has expanded her work to Africa, helping to promote lasting growth
For Sarah Adomakoh, international development was always the goal.
At eight years old, she joined her father on a trip to his native Africa, and was taken aback by the widespread poverty she saw.
“My Dad was very socially minded,” she explains, “he and my mother gave me a mindset to understand what need is, and pay attention to other people’s needs.”
The experience stayed with Sarah, and went on to shape her career as an adult.
In the first decade of her working life, Sarah was involved with a number of public health projects in the Caribbean and Latin America.
One particularly rewarding project was co-founding a branch of Dance4Life in Barbados, she says.
The organization empowers young people through sex and relationships education, helping them make healthy, informed choices, and form lasting relationships.
After a number of years tackling health and social issues across the globe, Sarah embarked on the Executive Global Master’s in Management (EGMiM) program at LSE.
Since graduating in 2018, she has used her newfound insights to expand her work to Africa, acting as an independent consultant.
Here, she helps SMEs to connect with partners in the private sector and government, to achieve sustainable long-term growth.
A global career
Sarah began her career at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, as a research consultant.
Less than two years earlier, she remembers standing outside the school, saying “I want to work here, and I want to change the world.”
Over the years, Sarah has worked with a number of development initiatives across the Carribean and Latin America, co-founding a consulting company in 2004.
The consultancy's main goal was to involve the private sector in local development, balancing revenue with social impact. During one project, Sarah and her team were able to help a medium-sized business expand their reach into five countries in five years, creating dozens of new jobs.
“I wanted to influence businesses, to make sure they can profit with purpose,” she says.
“My focus has been on maximising the ability of small and medium firms to improve their impact through innovative partnerships.”
A turning point
Despite the positive impact that Sarah was making, she wanted to take her work to Africa, and ensure her projects had a long-lasting impact.
“I implemented programs, but after the implementation phase, outcomes quickly started to die off,” she explains, “there was no real sustainability.”
Hoping to better understand the socio-economic factors that influenced these outcomes, Sarah discovered the EGMiM program at LSE.
“LSE was a turning point for me,” she says. “It provided me with the space and opportunity to refocus my career, while raising three boys.”
With its comprehensive curriculum, Sarah found that the program suited her learning style perfectly.
“The program takes you deeper than a traditional MBA," she explains.
"In addition to looking at the theoretical side of the business world, it takes one further into exploring how theories play out in the real world."
Studying topics like strategic decision making, management, organizational behavior, and innovation channels, Sarah felt her experience was a well-rounded one.
The program’s focus on emerging economies, including trips to China and India, also made it an ideal fit for Sarah’s career.
During the class trip to Beijing, Sarah visited BMW and Boeing, to learn how multinationals are successfully integrating themselves into the Chinese economy.
“It was a complete eye opener for me,” she recalls. “It really shows you what emerging markets are doing, and what’s possible.”
The program also helped Sarah to improve her confidence, resulting in a strengthened network.
“At LSE, I went from never networking to thoroughly enjoying it,” she says. “The way LSE arrange networking events is all about bringing like-minded people together.”
As her capstone project at LSE, Sarah founded Market Works Global, an organization dedicated to helping community-based startups grow and be impactful—sustainably.
“Development agencies don’t want to keep giving handouts,” she emphasises, “there needs to be an element of sustainability.”
With this project, Sarah hopes to forge lasting, mutually beneficial relationships between startups and larger organizations.
When she graduated from LSE in 2018, Sarah set out as an independent development consultant, and was finally able to switch her focus to Africa.
“I’m also on the board of an Africa-focused company, Invest In Africa,” she adds.
Since its launch in 2012, Invest In Africa has created 32,000 local jobs in the continent, and added $116 million to local economies.
The organization provides local businesses with investment and training, working largely in Kenya and Ghana.
“Africa is one of the world’s fastest growing emerging market regions,” Sarah notes. “With Brexit and the US-China trade war, there’s a lot of interest in the UK developing trade with Africa.
“It’s a great opportunity to influence actual development outcomes on the continent.”