Most students pursue the Global Executive MBA for the opportunity to travel the world and grow their international network, but Tapfuma Musewe (GEMBA ’20) enrolled in the Rotman program with an additional purpose: to teach the world about his home continent, Africa.
Tapfuma Musewe (GEMBA ’20)
Having lived and studied abroad, Musewe had seen firsthand how African cultures, businesses and opportunities were poorly understood outside the continent. When he started working in market intelligence, advising multinational clients on promising investment opportunities and how to break into new markets, he saw so many African-based business opportunities go unrealized.
“There was a surprising lack of knowledge or understanding of Africa’s thriving agricultural and tech sectors,” he explains. “I wanted to put Africa and its opportunities into context.”
Today, armed with experience as well as the contacts and skills he recently acquired from his Rotman program, he’s introducing the world to the Africa he knows.
Through Eschaton Solutions, a company he founded in 2017, he’s helping clients access trade and investment opportunities in the region. And he recently started a new project, Afrifursa, where he organizes roundtable discussions on Africa’s growing agricultural sector and fast urbanization, and where he shines a light on the experiences of ‘diasporans’ — individuals who live abroad but have deep ties to the continent and who have found ways to contribute to Africa’s economic growth.
“This is really about getting a conversation going and showing the world the nuanced dimensions of Africa that are neglected when we treat it as a monolith.”
Why business school made sense
At first, Musewe hadn’t considered pursuing an MBA — he initially had his eye on graduate programs specializing in international relations or economic development. But he soon realized that to connect with corporate leaders and investors, he needed to speak their language and understand the business landscape they were embedded in.
The Global Executive MBA at Rotman, and its focus on emerging markets and business fundamentals, was a natural fit.
“Business school gave me the tools — the frameworks, decision-making processes, the design-centered thinking — that business leaders refer to,” explains Musewe, who enrolled at Rotman in September 2018. “The Global Executive MBA helped me present Africa in terms that corporate stakeholders could appreciate.”
The program, which partnered with the SDA Bocconi School of Management in Milan, Italy in 2019, takes students to global hubs for commerce and innovation to see the business concepts they are studying in real life.
With each residential module, Musewe acquired a stronger understanding of key concepts and issues, which enabled him to be more strategic in his work. When he and his classmates headed to Brazil, he witnessed the region’s rapid economic development with his own eyes. In China, he gained a stronger handle on international business and corporate finance. He took detailed notes on innovation and entrepreneurship while in the San Francisco Bay Area.
“The Global Executive MBA helped me present Africa in terms that corporate stakeholders could appreciate.”
—Tapfuma Musewe, Global Executive MBA ’20
Starting a conversation
Grasping the key business concepts and fundamentals was crucial, but the opportunity to put ideas into action was what really motivated Musewe.
Outside the MBA, he began expanding his consulting business and building a case for why business leaders needed to pay closer attention to African markets. By collecting data and interviewing leaders in trade and global affairs, and business leaders in the public and private sectors, he presented a picture of what productive Can-African partnerships in agriculture, technology, mining and other sectors could look like. He also began collaborating with stakeholders like Global Affairs Canada.
In the spring of 2020, as the global pandemic persisted and anti-Black racism movements sprung up across the globe, Musewe knew he needed to expand the conversation around Africa beyond a focus on business opportunities.
As mentioned, last summer, he launched the appropriately-named Afrifursa (‘fursa’ means ‘opportunities’ in Swahili and Arabic), where he organizes public discussions that aim to shift the narrative and broaden the public’s perceptions of Africa.
He hasn’t shied away from tough topics. In the wake of Black Lives Matter protests, he reached out to artists and historians on the importance of reclaiming and celebrating the African ancestry that many Black communities descended from. He’s spoken to everyone from foodies to academics about why various African cuisines have not been embraced in the global mainstream in the same way as Chinese, Italian, Indian and other international cuisines have, and why the continent is so often associated with famine, despite supplying so much of the world’s food.
While it’s still only a few months old, Afrifursa has found an audience. With each roundtable, dozens of attendees are signing on, and many are asking questions about Africa and African identities. To Musewe, it’s a sign of progress.
“People don’t engage with what they don’t understand,” he explains. “My hope is that the more we talk about and focus on Africa’s contributions and potential, the continent can be represented accurately, and we’ll eliminate some of the barriers to engaging in productive partnerships.”
Written by Rebecca Cheung | More Student Stories »