Mesker Mekuria, '11
Founder & Chief Executive, Tekur Anbesa Trading, PLC
"By arriving a few days before or staying a few days after a global residency, I was able to leverage travel for the program to help my businesses by establishing new contacts and exploring opportunities in different countries."
I was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and lived there with my family until the age of 11. At the time, the country was embroiled in a decades-long civil war, and the slowly collapsing military government was actively recruiting boys as young as 12 to serve. As a result of the country's continuing instability and my parents wish for us to grow up in a better environment, my two siblings and I were sent to a boarding school in California. Although I thought this would be a temporary arrangement, California continued to be my home until my mid-20s, however I maintained strong family and cultural ties to Ethiopia.
While in the Global Executive MBA program, I met several inspiring business leaders such as Tom Albanese, CEO of Rio Tinto, and Patricia Vasquez, GM and VP of Procter & Gamble in Russia. Patricia spoke about how P&G built their brand and sourced their products internationally. In Russia, they are now one of the top three brands in certain product lines, but to achieve that market share, P&G had to overcome similar challenges to what we have in Africa. In both Russia and Africa, we have price sensitive consumers and need to produce cheaper products while navigating challenges with brand infringement and little legal enforcement. After hearing her speak, I realized I could incorporate some of P&G's marketing strategies into my own businesses to grow market share.
By arriving a few days before or staying a few days after a global residency, I was able to leverage traveling for the program into helping my businesses by establishing new contacts and exploring opportunities in different countries. For example, I arrived before our Dubai residency to develop new shipping partners and to source new suppliers. Similarly, before our China residency, I went to Schenzen and Guangzhou to meet with my current contacts and gain new ones in the imaging consumables manufacturing sector. I also used the trip to study and seek out new opportunities in manufacturing and affordable housing development in collaboration with established Chinese players.
First, the largest impact of my MBA is on my various startups and my future business enterprises. Midway through my studies, I knew I had to transform my company, a process that continues to this day. I continue to reorganize my businesses as well as enter into other promising sectors in local and international markets.
Secondly, I want to play a more active part in Africa's small but growing private sector by taking on a leadership role in the chamber of commerce and other leading business think tanks. With Africa's "developmental state" model, governments are seeking heavy public involvement in crafting their economies. I see myself working closely with local governments to create win-win partnerships. As I continue my travels, I would like to become an unofficial ambassador for African business.
Thirdly, I will continue to double my energy on societal matters. In contrast to the past, I want to focus on developing my own foundation to tackle issues that are in line with my interests. For example, instead of focusing on just fund raising, I want to get directly involved in making sure projects are developed that benefit our communities. So, right now, I am working on building public libraries in schools in rural communities throughout the African continent.