‘The move back to Africa is definitely worth it’
Funlola Abe left Nigeria in 2002, right after secondary school and was there for 11 years before moving to the United States for 2 years.
I started my career at Morgan Stanley in London, in the Commodities division. I worked with Morgan Stanley for 5 years; with 2 years spent as a Commodities Analyst and 3 years as an Oil Trader. I enjoyed my job but always wondered if it was the best use of my skills and talents. So in 2013, I decided to head back to business school for a Master’s Degree, as I had only obtained a BSc (from Imperial College) before that. I obtained an MBA at Harvard Business School over the next two years.
Harvard Business School was definitely a life-changing experience; but also very hard to quantify. More than just the education (which I really enjoyed and was hands down, first-class), I benefitted greatly from the opportunity to spend two years on personal growth and development. Many of the classes challenged and humbled me, and even unearthed many of my unknown weaknesses and strengths. Of course, an MBA is a huge investment of time and finances but I would certainly do it all over again.
Halfway through my MBA, I was certain I wanted a job that would be of huge value to society, on the African continent and one that would develop me as a manager. And that’s how I ended up in Ghana. Currently, I am based in Accra, working for Africa Internet Group (AIG), and managing three companies; Jumia, Kaymu and AIG Express Ghana.
E-Commerce is certainly the future of retail in Africa and this role positions me well to be part of its growth story. Africa is just getting started and our ability to leapfrog the decades the Western countries have spent building up this ecosystem is admirable.
Today, most Africans have both a full-time job and a ”side gig”. In the hustle, bustle and craziness of an African day, there’s hardly time to go shopping. Also, not everyone has the opportunity to travel abroad to purchase that pair of shoes or that emergency LBD. Our aim for Jumia & Kaymu is to build a company that customer’s trust. One great transaction means a repeat customer. Africa is a master at leapfrogging – we have already hit milestones in E-Commerce in the last 3 years that it took the US decades to attain.
A benefit of living in Ghana is that it’s a 40-minute flight to Nigeria so I’m close to home. It’s a lovely place to live – my job is very busy so it’s nice to be able to relax in the evenings and enjoy the peace and quiet of Accra. Lagos is nowhere as peaceful!
It’s also not as expensive as Nigeria. It has great restaurants, the food is great and with a much smaller population, most places are less crowded. The best part about living in Accra is the tourist attractions. There are amazing beaches, you can visit the Cape Coast, the Volta Region, go kayaking, mountaineering, even surfing. It’s a much higher standard of living than Lagos and much safer.
Ghanaians are hardworking, but move at a slower pace than I am used to in Nigeria. Having said that, AIG consistently hires dynamic people with an entrepreneurial flair and a strong work ethic. We hire strong teams with a passion for internet-based businesses and the future of the internet in Africa. Our teams are keen on making a difference and produce incredible ideas daily. I have the best employees and I’m proud of them everyday.
My advice for Africans considering returning home is – be honest with yourself. Don’t make the move for someone else, do it for yourself and do it for the right reason. Do it because you are coming back to do what you want to do. You may not have it all figured out but don’t be afraid to give it a try.
Try to have a back-up plan, because it might not work out in the industry that you think it will. The move back to Africa is definitely worth it as there is so much to be done. The opportunities are amazing and often, you can only see them when you are here on the ground.
Source: Move Back To Nigeria