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How a Ghana-born banker became an an award-winning social entrepreneur

MBA student
Asamoah also runs “AlegbraInTheCity” a platform offering math tuition to students and parents from low-income families. Source: Alberta Asafo Asamoah

There’s a popular African proverb Imperial College London MBA student Alberta Asafo Asamoah likes to quote, “If you educate a man, you educate an individual but if you educate a woman, you educate a nation.” The former banker is doing exactly that as the vice president of ImprerialMBAWomen, a student-led network of women, designed to integrate women across Imperial’s MBA programmes (Full-Time MBA, Global Online MBA, Weekend MBA, and Executive MBA) and help them grow beyond professional settings.

For this, she was declared joint winner of a prestigious annual award by the Forté Foundation, the first to receive this award outside of North America. That’s not all that’s keeping this afrobeats lover busy. Asamoah also runs “AlegbraInTheCity” a platform offering math tuition to students and parents from low-income families.

MBA student

Despite moving to the UK when she was nine, she still has very strong ties to Ghana. Source: Alberta Asafo Asamoah

In a previous life, Asamoah used to be a corporate banker. Today, the MBA student is aiming for something bigger: supporting fledgeling SMEs across Africa.

We caught up with Asamoah to learn more about her background, her MBA and how she plans to make a social impact through business: 

Tell us more about your background and home country.

I’m a citizen of both Ghana and the UK. While I was born in Ghana and spent my formative years in Accra, I moved to London with my family when I was 9. Despite moving, I still have very strong ties to Ghana as I have family and friends there whom I visit annually. 

In the back of my mind, I knew I would either work on a role related to Africa or spend my latter years living on the continent so my new-found interest in social impact investment in the emerging markets is not surprising. After living and being educated in London, I chose to complete my undergraduate degree in the US and then returned back to the UK.

What made you pursue a degree at Syracuse University in the US? Walk us through what’s behind your interest in economics and political science.

I’ve always enjoyed the creative arts and traditional academic subjects. So, I studied drama and government politics for my A Levels. Initially, I planned to pursue a career in the entertainment industry, specifically in acting, so I thought there would be more opportunities in the US. 

However, I quickly realised that performing arts was a temporary hobby as opposed to a long-term career goal. I became more interested in government and the role of policymakers in representing their local constituencies. I interned with my member of parliament at 18. 

This led to me pursuing a double major in economics and political science. Additionally, I felt that the two disciples were interconnected. It would also give me a good understanding of how economics and politics affects the business world and the public sector.

MBA student

“Imperial College Business School has a great academic reputation. So, as an aspiring impact investor, I knew the institution would bridge any knowledge gaps I had because the programme heavily promotes experiential learning,” she says. Source: Alberta Asafo Asamoah

I then chose Syracuse University due to recommendations from an advisor and also the location. I wanted to remain on the East Coast due to the ease of travelling to Lonodn and Ghana in comparison to other states.

What made you become an MBA student at Imperial College Business School?

Imperial College Business School has a great academic reputation. So, as an aspiring impact investor, I knew the institution would bridge any knowledge gaps I had because the programme heavily promotes experiential learning. 

This uni is also known for its strong entrepreneurial initiatives like the Imperial Innovation Challenge, the Enterprise Lab and the newly built White City campus which brings academics and entrepreneurs together. Therefore, my intention was to use such resources and build a network with like-minded individuals. 

To add to that, I also felt very attached to the school because of the personalised admissions process.  

Tell us more about your career trajectory thus far.

I began my career in operations in banking as a trade reporting analyst due to a money and banking elective at Syracuse University. This delved into the financial crisis and the impact of monetary policy along with regulatory agencies. 

After 18 months into this role, I recognised that I preferred financial analysis and I became more interested in how businesses run and adapt to change micro and macroeconomics environments. 

Thus, I secured a position in the corporate banking division at Royal Bank of Scotland as an assistant director providing debt finance and working capital facilities to businesses in the portfolio with a turnover of 50 million pounds. As I became more experienced, I decided to leave banking to transition into social impact investing. 

Combining the technical skills gained from banking with my passion for social development, I secured a short-term role with Transformational Business Network before my MBA student experience. Here, I was involved in sourcing investments for SMEs in Kenya and Uganda.

At the same time, I founded AlgebraInTheCity, a tuition and educational consultancy, as part of my initiative to close the educational attainment gap because I was exposed to students. I saw that there were gaps with private and public school students in the application of academic material. Through this consultancy, I’ve been working with a local tuition centre and charity called Fantastic Learning in North London.

MBA student

“Being an MBA student is great as it instills leadership skills and business acumen in women which will further enable them to represent in traditionally male-dominated areas,” says Asamoah. Source: Alberta Asafo Asamoah

As an MBA student, what do you use from your programme in your role now?

My next role will focus on helping social enterprises achieve scale. So, this will involve understanding the viability of their business model and their intended market. The Global Experience Week module at Imperial College Business School has enabled me to acquire these skills. 

I’ve had the opportunity to do business and market analyses for Salvation Army’s social enterprise “Others” and provide recommendations on their strategy. As part of the Entrepreneurial Journey module, I’ve been able to complete my market research and build a prototype for a new business venture post-MBA.

Through group work, I’ve been able to enhance my communication skills and how to work effectively in a team. I have also been able to enhance my soft skills through my leadership positions on campus which will be important for building relationships in the venture capital space. 

What was winning the Edie Hunt Inspiration Award like? Is it important to bridge the gender gap within educational sectors like the MBA programmes?

I think education is a powerful tool that enables women to add value to society. Also, research shows that women play a greater economic role in their families and tend to reinvest a significant amount of earning. 

Being an MBA student is great as it instills leadership skills and business acumen in women which will further enable them to represent in traditionally male-dominated areas. This will pave the way for a new generation of women.

Receiving the Edie Hunt Inspiration Award alongside Aoife Considine has been an honour because it was based on growing the ImperialMBAWomen network. My achievements would not have been possible were it not for the support and recognition of the cohort of women. 

I also recognise that the award comes with the responsibility to promote gender equality and to represent women. So, I’m ready to take on the challenge.

Is there anything you missed from home whilst away on your studies and how did you substitute it?

When I was living in different continents, I missed my family and friends. Although I enjoyed meeting people from diverse backgrounds, it also meant constantly adapting to new environments and challenges while maintaining strong communication with friends in other parts of the world. So, I often join regional clubs and societies so that I can feel a sense of community.