As part of an Impact Interview series, the Wheeler Institute for Business and Development sat down with Eloho Omame to learn about what an impact-driven career means to her, her views on the role of business as a force for good, and what role the Wheeler Institute can play in experience sharing success stories for entrepreneurs in emerging economies.
Impact-driven careers should balance personal fulfilment and the ability to positively impact others
When we think about the kind of impact we can make as an individual, it is essential to think about not only what others need, but also what can be personally fulfilling for us, Omame states. She tells of her own experience working with entrepreneurs and start-ups in an ecosystem that was personally meaningful to her, and how even within this environment, it took years to recognise that it was the intersection between entrepreneurship and her identity and experiences as a woman in business where she could have the most impact. Not only does she have the experience to back this up – Omame was an Investment Banker before earning her MBA at LBS and exiting to Private Equity – but the passion too. She focusses on supporting female entrepreneurs in Africa to grow and scale their businesses, building networks and opportunities that do not come as easily for women. Omame’s work has found that the female entrepreneurial experience is incredibly different to the male experience: whether it is bias in trying to raise capital or difficulty in navigating spaces not necessarily designed to include women, she believes she can bring her experience, privilege and networks to drive meaningful change for female entrepreneurs. Omame encourages entrepreneurs in the social impact space to constantly test and push boundaries of the impact they are trying to make, to keep an openness to exploring approaches to generate impact and to always be thinking about what ultimately motivates them. She opines that it is crucial to constantly iterate on what you want to drive, what makes you happy and how you can do this to the fullest of your ability.
Creating value through business is essential for emerging markets, but we must ensure we are building conscious businesses
Omame sees business as an essential force for good, joking that she is a true capitalist at heart. She believes that the most important way to drive impact in emerging markets is by creating value through business, to encourage competition, to create jobs by scaling businesses and by making it easy to do business. The scale and potential of the private sector is massive compared to any public sector or government budgets, and we need to help economies to scale and empower people to do business for themselves. Omame states that business is perhaps one of the most important tools we have to build society on this scale – but that we must think carefully about what modern business looks like. We have seen increasing wealth inequalities exacerbated by rapid business growth in some areas of the world, and need to be conscious about driving equitable and inclusive growth in establishing and doing business today. Omame cautions that we need to think critically about how to design business practices and processes to pull in community and groups that may be unrepresented. She believes business is becoming more aware and mindful of the potential harms and inequity that can occur when unchecked, and that there are a growing number of guardrails to ensure that it grows more inclusive. It also raises a longer conversation on what role the government should play in the face of scaling businesses, and how the public sector can ensure that our economies grow more equitably. Omame also sees a wealth of potential in developing economies. Living and working in Nigeria, Omame has found that business and entrepreneurship has the ability to deliver value at scale and transform people’s lives – there is a growing energy to build business, and a young, entrepreneurial spirit – and that business is done well, to good global standards, setting the stage for sustainable wealth creation opportunity.
Entrepreneurs across emerging economies can learn valuable lessons from the success – and failure – of others
Omame believes that the Wheeler Institute can play a significant role in helping us understand the role of entrepreneurs and the mechanisms to support business growth in developing economies. Citing a Wheeler Institute report published about the scale potential of fintech in Africa as an excellent example of how to disseminate business learnings and forge connection beyond borders. We speak a lot about the potential of business and technology at scale to deliver and distribute value to parts of communities otherwise excluded, but at the same time, we need to ask how these businesses succeed. Omame opines that there is a huge amount we can learn from how other start-ups scale and grow efficiently and healthily, and this type of reporting is essential to help us understand the levers that can drive efficient transformation.
What is next for Omame? In the past 2 years, Omame has co-founded a business called FirstCheck Africa, which aims to be a female focusses founder’s fund for Africa. She believes there is a market need for businesses or individuals who can take on pre-seed risk and scale female-owned business in Africa, providing role models and future mentorship on the continent. She hopes to make a dent into the $70B funding gap that exists for female entrepreneurs in Africa.
The interview to Eloho Omame is part of a series of interviews organised by the Wheeler Institute for Business and Development in collaboration with the Recruitment & Admissions Team at London Business School, highlighting the stories of some of our distinguished Alums that pursuit careers driven by impact and purpose. To see more interviews please follow the links below:
Eloho Omame, co-founder of FirstCheck Africa and previously a Managing Director at Endeavour. Omame is a mission-oriented business leader: an entrepreneur, angel investor, ecosystem-builder and gender & inclusion advocate for entrepreneurship & technology in Africa. Prior to her pivot into entrepreneurship and investing, she used to be an investment banker and a private equity investor.
Victoria Henderson (MBA 2021) has three years’ experience in management consulting at Bain & Company, and a background in Law and Politics. She is an intern for the Wheeler Institute, contributing to the creation of content that amplifies the role of business in improving lives.