An ALB Thought Leadership Series

In Africa, only 3 out of every 1 million people pursue an MBA. Globally, that number is more than 40 for every 1 million.*

Consider the above statistic, and combine it with research done by BusinessWeek showing that within 10 years of graduation, nearly 1,500 MBA graduates had collectively created almost 100,000 jobs.

Armed with that information, my MBA classmates and I started the Foundation for African Leadership in Business (ALB) three years ago with one intention: to create jobs in Africa by empowering Africa’s next generation of business leaders.

Andrew Tarazid Tarawali the MBA Applicant

Funmilayo Odushola, one of ALB’s first scholarship recipients.

I’m pleased to say that ALB has awarded two full MBA scholarships to the International MBA program at IE Business School in Madrid, and we’re about to announce several more scholarships to leading MBA programs around the world. By creating scholarship opportunities for African professionals with a social conscience, we hope to achieve the following:

  1. bring the African perspective into the classrooms of MBA programs,
  2. change the way that the world’s future business leaders see Africa, and
  3. empower a new generation of African leaders who, while building their careers post-MBA in Africa, are also contributing to job creation and having amazing impact in their home communities.
Along the way, I’ve had the opportunity to meet with B-school insiders and have learned a lot about how MBA candidates can improve their chances of getting in, and getting scholarships. Below are a few key learnings that I have gleaned. I hope this will get you thinking differently as you begin preparing your MBA application.

Common Pitfalls Made By African MBA applicants

Working with Deans, admissions officers and financial aid professionals, all from the world’s top-ranked MBA programs, we’ve learned that most applications coming from Africa are weak.  And the data backs it up.  On average, Africans prepare less for the GMAT, have lower average performance and, according to admissions professionals, submit less than polished essays.  The sad truth is that most African MBA applicants aren’t playing an A-game when it comes to applying to B-School.

Successful Steps Taken By African MBA applicants

A photoshoot of Funmilayo Odushola MBA applicant

Funmilayo Odushola, one of ALB’s first scholarship recipients.

Through African Leadership in Business’ (ALB) research with African students and graduates from top-ranked MBA programs, (many of whom have received scholarships), we’ve learned that successful African MBA applicants approach the process very differently.  They’ve figured out that they are not competing for spots with other African candidates.  They know that if they want to be a world class leader, they need to compete globally.  So they stop paying attention to how their peers are preparing in Africa. They register early for the GMAT exam, they study, they seek advice from people who have gone to the top schools, and they highlight their uniqueness in their applications.  They get strong recommendations from people who know their long-term goals, and they have clear long-term goals.

Many successful African MBA applicants hire consultants to help them, but you don’t have to.

ALB’s Guide for African MBA Applicants

This is the first of ALB’s Guide for Potential African MBA Applicants. To make sure that we give you the tools to create the best MBA application possible, I’ve asked insiders to write for this series. Over the coming weeks, you’ll hear from:

  • MBA Deans, about why they want more Africans in their classrooms, and what they are doing to make it a reality
  • Representatives of GMAC (the company that writes the GMAT), on the secret to raising your score and resources for your success
  • Admissions representatives, on how you can create a world class application
  • Financial aid representatives, on scholarships, and what really matters

I’m excited to bring you the insider’s perspective, but more than that, I’m looking forward to seeing what you do with it.  It is my dream that nine months from now, ALB will be flooded with quality scholarship applications demonstrating the truly extraordinary potential of Africa’s future leaders. I know it’s there, and I hope you will join me in showing the world that African professionals know better than anyone how to play the A-game.

 *Based on statistics from the Graduate Management Admissions Council and estimates from the United Nations Population Division

a Photo shoot of Suzanne O'Brien the CEO of African Leadership in Business

Suzanne O’Brien of African Leadership in Business. Photo credit:

Suzanne O’Brien, Founder and Executive Director, The Foundation for African Leadership in Business (ALB)

Suzanne founded and currently serves as Executive Director of the Foundation for African Leadership in Business (ALB)  Her understanding of higher education, social media marketing, and business development have led the organization to partner with top-tier business schools and leading multi-national corporations, to create talent acquisition, retention and development programs for universities and corporations around the globe.

She is also on the board of MBA Women International and is a Founding Member of The HUB, a social impact accelerator in Los Angeles. She has served on the Graduate Management African Pipeline Advisory Group, along with representatives from top business schools.

Suzanne holds an MBA from IE Business School’s International MBA Program, and a Bachelor’s degree from Iowa State University.