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Enase Okonedo believes she has one of the most difficult deans’ jobs in the world. As boss of Lagos Business School in Nigeria it is not difficult to envisage some of the issues she might face – terrorist threats, corruption, political instability.
But the quietly spoken and thoughtful Prof Okonedo has more pressing issues. “The most difficult thing is to ensure the quality of the services,” she explains. To compete with business schools in Europe or the US, Lagos has to generate its own electricity to ensure continuity of supply. And the water for the school comes from a borehole on campus and is purified on site.
“A lot of the things that other schools take as given are not a given for us,” she says. And when all that is done, she says, “I have to think about the programmes”.
A specialist in executive education, Lagos runs both the only full-time MBA in Nigeria and an executive MBA – an MBA for working managers. Indeed Prof Okonedo was herself an EMBA student at the school. “I was in the first EMBA cohort and I never left!”
In joining the school as a research associate she left behind her eight years in the banking industry in Nigeria, but with few regrets. “I was bored,” she says. “Different challenges come at different times – and this is the most challenging yet.”
As well as the problems of quality infrastructure, there are issues in attracting the quality students she would like for the MBA degrees. Many qualified candidates prefer to apply to business school in the US or Europe, she says, and those that stay in Africa often prefer to head to South Africa or to the east coast. There are also relatively few qualified prospective MBAs in the country because although Nigeria’s population is approaching 200m, only a small fraction of those go on to higher education.
Because university education is virtually free in Nigeria, many of those that do consider the school balk at the cost of a Lagos MBA – $23,000 for the full-time programme. “I tell them that we price for value,” says the dean.
On top of all that Prof Okonedo also has to fight the international perception of Nigeria as a dangerous and hostile country when she tries to attract both students and professors. “I really do need to attract professors from the rest of the world, with a global perspective.”
With multinationals in Africa looking to operate across the continent, a pan-African approach to management teaching is something Prof Okonedo is very keen to implement. “Over the past five years I have aspired to prepare managers for Africa, not just for Nigeria. The model we have is to attract managers from across Africa to Lagos.”
It is clearly a strategy that is close to her heart. “The more we can address issues of the continent, the more we can change society.”
Out of hours:
Enase Okonedo, dean of Lagos Business School in Nigeria, lists some of her favourite places, things and activities.
1. Animal: Lion
2. City: Barcelona
3. Holiday destination: The Gambia
4. Sport: None! I watch everything and play none!
5. Artist: Gerald Chukwuma, a Nigeria artist who creates artworks using usually disposed of such as cans, plastic and bottlecaps
6. Song: The Gambler, Kenny Rogers
7. Novel: Tuesdays with Morrie, Mitch Albom