Raliat Sunmonu, LGT Impact Fellow 2016
Senior Director, Africa Program Management at Accion
The LGT Impact Fellowship offers experienced business professionals the opportunity to work full-time for one year with impactful organizations and social businesses supported by LGT in Africa, Brazil, China, India, Southeast Asia or the UK.
In the LGT Impact Fellow Spotlight series, we dive into past Fellows’ experiences and learnings from the Fellowship and their career trajectories since then. In this instalment, we caught up with Raliat Sunmonu from the 2016 cohort.
Q. Can you tell me a little more about your background and what drew you to the social entrepreneurship space?
I started my career as a techie, having done both my Bachelor’s and Master’s in Computer Science in the US. After that, I worked at a couple of telecommunications companies. Since governments were liberalising the telecommunications industry, I had an opportunity to move back home to Nigeria with MTN, a major company where I worked for five years. I also had a two-year stint consulting with the World Bank for public sector organisations in Nigeria because I wanted to get more exposure to the public sector. I moved back to the private sector with IBM, helping to set up its global business services arm in Africa. During these years, I had the opportunity to work with several enterprising startups and their founders. The energy in the ecosystem was vastly different and I felt like this is what I should be doing with my life! I was drawn towards smaller, more impactful organisations, though to make the shift in a meaningful way, I felt I needed a few more tools in my arsenal. I applied to INSEAD because I heard great things about their social entrepreneurship program which I thought would equip me to make the move.
Q. How did you find out about the LGT Impact Fellowship? What were your thoughts before you applied?
I was looking to make some real changes with the next move in my career. I worked with a career coach who helped me refine what I was looking for and encouraged me to look through the landscape and get a firmer understanding of ways to get involved where I could use my experience and natural strengths.
When I stumbled upon the LGT Impact Fellowship, it wasn’t immediately a 100% fit, but what attracted me was LGT’s mission and their excellent work in Africa. I was interested in learning more about diverse sectors like healthcare, education and energy, so this seemed like a great platform to launch myself into the social impact space.
Q. Tell us more about your Fellowship. What did a day in your life look like?
M-Kopa was just the right fit for me! It was rather mature for a startup and had a great leadership team. The company was looking to expand and was thinking through its strategy for growth for the next ten years. It was a mirror image of the work I’d done in my consulting life.
For my first project, I helped bring some of M-Kopa’s customers into the formal sector by helping them build a credit history. It allowed me to understand a lot about business in a short period – I got to get my hands dirty and use all the skills, tools and knowledge from my corporate experience.
On a more personal level – my assignments kept me away from my family for long periods at a time. While that was always hard, it ended up being a great opportunity to discover the country and surrounding areas more deeply. Several people on the M-Kopa team were at different stages of their careers and brought diverse experiences to the table. This forced me to be a lot more adventurous with the things I tried.. like ziplining!
Q. After staying on at M-KOPA for six months beyond your Fellowship, you recently took on the role of Senior Director for Africa Program Management at Accion. Tell us more about life after the Fellowship and what you do in your new role?
Working with LGT and M-Kopa opened my eyes to how things worked in the social impact space. I had gained an acute sense of the challenges, risks and opportunities and was able to build a strong network. Eventually, I had to move on from M-Kopa to be closer to my family.
At Accion in Dubai, I now lead the global advisory solutions programs for Africa. I work with both, investees and non-investees to help companies who are serving the underserved to create meaningful financial products that add value in a responsible and sustainable way.
Learn more about the LGT Impact Fellowship here.