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Cass alumna launches asset management firm in Africa

MBA inspires Andia Chakava to found firm offering investment opportunities in Africa

Andia Chakava, 36, was the youngest managing director of a non-family owned business in Kenya. But in 2010, she gave up her career at Old Mutual Investment Group to pursue a full-time MBA at Cass.

Two years after graduating, Andia has just co-launched an asset management firm focused on investments in Africa. Alpha Africa Asset Managers, based in Nairobi where she grew up, offers a multi-asset class of investment opportunities.

The company's first offering is a private equity fund focused on East Africa, which it plans to follow up with a listed product for pan-Africa. "Africa is primed for long term economic growth and African frontier markets are a tangible opportunity for yield," says Andia.

"Our investment strategy is driven by our promise to investors - in African frontier markets, attractive, risk-adjusted returns are closely aligned with investments with positive social and economic outcomes."

Below, Andia explains how her MBA and experience at Cass helped her to co-found Alpha Africa Asset Managers.

What motivated you to study for an MBA?

I love learning and new challenges and it was something I always wanted to do. It was as if I was missing something. I was also intrigued by the case study approach Cass uses for discussing business issues. I think you can learn a lot from sharing experiences and problem solving among peers.

Why did you choose Cass?

Cass is renowned for its emphasis, excellence and track record in finance. I wanted to be among the best. I was also excited at being in London and developing new global networks in finance. I wanted to make sure I learned from the institutions that were most affected by the global financial crisis, as well as those that came through relatively unscathed. In my MBA year (2010-2011) lots of good analysis regarding this was being produced.

What influence did your experience at Cass have on your decision to set up Alpha Africa?

The Cass experience bolstered my confidence. It was amazing to make new friends, learn new approaches and gain exposure to groundbreaking research. The strong emphasis on careers and planning also helped me. But one of the biggest influences was the number of investment forums that Cass held where speakers consistently referred to Africa as the most promising investment frontier. This inspired me to found a firm that would focus on raising the profile of Sub-Saharan Africa as an investment destination, as well as facilitate foreign investor interest in Sub-Saharan Africa. There is something powerful about Africans driving Africa.

How has the Cass MBA helped you at Alpha Africa?

An MBA helped me to appreciate the importance of private equity as an asset class and I am applying this knowledge in my career now. I also gained a valuable understanding of corporate governance. Corporate governance is an area we constantly evaluate as it can affect the quality of decision-making and our investment returns, which ultimately determine our success.

Studying for an MBA has made me more well-rounded. It has also opened my eyes to what I don't know. I have therefore surrounded myself with a team of experts to help me in areas where I feel I need further support. So the MBA made me even more intellectually curious and more open to obtaining a variety of perspectives before making a decision.

Find out more about Alpha Africa Asset Managers:

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