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The journey to the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB) and through the rest of Africa

'An Incurable African Optimist’

By Dr Isa Omagu, MDevF alumnus

The journey to the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB) and through the rest of Africa from the sundry perspectives of about 45 original classmates on the MPhil in Development Finance (MDevF) programme from 16 African countries, USA and Japan began with a business networking at the Nigeria-South Africa Chamber of Commerce (N-SACC) breakfast meeting early 2007 where USB representatives led by Professor Eltie Links made a presentation about the business school.

It was a meeting that was ultimately beneficial for both personal and professional development given the exposure to the profound curriculum of the development finance programme and the top-notch faculty and the quality of classmates that I was fortunate to be matched with. The major motivation for the programme was the need to understand concepts of development and hopefully obtain empirical evidence and theoretical framework that can be used to address the myriad of development issues facing Africa, with emphasis on Nigeria and the financing of infrastructural gaps, a major driver of development.

The learning outcomes from exposures to the development finance curriculum are still properly situated in my mind and would be deployed in an executive capacity at sub-national and national levels in due season. Africa is still rising and a competent, knowledgeable and committed set of Africans are required urgently to birth the rise in the shortest possible time. Alumni of the business school, especially the development finance programme are wired to play an active role in the rising Africa narrative.

2024 vision

In 2014 I saw myself being very involved in teaching and consulting by 2024 as well as in policymaking and implementation at national and global levels. This is panning out gradually to the glory of God with the recent award to me of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Entrepreneurship by Babcock University (BU) after about four years and nine months of combining a very hectic work schedule and thought PhD programme culminating in a successful thesis’ defence on May 26, 2021.

Before the start of the PhD programme and through most of it, I was the chairperson of the USB Alumni Exco, chairperson of the USB Alumni Association for West Africa and a member of USB Advisory Board until I voluntarily relinquished the roles in February 2019 to focus on a new career opportunity as Chief Operating Officer of Glo Mobile Ghana after over two decades in banking with the last banking role being as General Manager of Guaranty Trust Bank, Nigeria and Non-Executive Director of Guaranty Trust Bank, Sierra Leone.

During my tenure as chairperson of USB Alumni Exco, the Alumni Association played a very strong role in the reaccreditation exercises that entrenched the University of Stellenbosch Business School as a top-rated business school with the prestigious triple-crown accreditations, affirming it as a truly world-class business school in Africa that we are very proud of.

PhD and bank innovation

My PhD in Entrepreneurship thesis was titled, Bank Innovation Capability and Performance of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in Nigeria with the main objective being the evaluation of the effect of bank innovation capability dimensions (product, process, open, marketing and organisational innovations) on the performance of SMEs in Nigeria, including the investigation of the effect of government policy on the relationship between bank innovation capability and SMEs’ performance.

The study concluded that bank innovation capability affects the performance of SMEs in Nigeria. The study recommended that deposit money banks in Nigeria should increase their innovation capability towards SMEs and engage them to adopt the resulting innovative output while governments at all levels should create the enabling environment and strategically implement bank-SMEs’ related policies to enhance the overall performance of SMEs in Nigeria. This study can be further extended to the rest of Africa and to include longitudinal survey research design to capture the dynamics of bank innovation practices and overall SMEs performance measures such as competitive advantage, market share, profitability, firm growth and sales volume.

Overall, the journey so far has been very exciting with the business school and lately, BU, being key enablers in the projection of my personae for the next phase of my life’s journey as a major participant in ensuing Africa still rising narrative. I am and will be, because the University of Stellenbosch Business School and other great and proudly African institutions are, truly!


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