One of the great benefits of the MBA and, according to the QS TopMBA.com Applicant Survey of thousands of MBA candidates, a key reason for doing an MBA, is international flexibility. Not all MBAs want to head straight for Wall Street or the city, and many strongly desire to work in community projects and NGOs in developing nations. Ross Geraghty talks to one such inspirational MBAs, at work in Angola.
Anneliese Mueller, CAE - Apoio Empresarial (Angola)
I am currently working as a business advisor for a business development project in Angola, implemented by CDC Development Solutions out of Washington, DC. The project, named CAE - Apoio Empresarial (CAE), leverages its relationship with the multi-billion dollar oil industry to support the development of over 1,000 small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs). In so doing, CAE plays a significant part in building up local Angolan content by providing a link to commercial opportunities from the oil companies to SMEs and by supporting local businesses' growth and development through business and management training and technical assistance. The end result is growth and increased competition among Angolan SMEs, which leads to greater job creation and sophistication of the economy.
My interest lies in the intersection of finance and development. Prior to business school, I spent close to eight years working for a major investment bank and brokerage firm, most recently helping the firm assess strategic M&A opportunities to fill its own product/market gaps both domestically and abroad. During my own personal travels through the developing world, I began to form a deep interest around the role that business plays in developing the economy of a nation. It was this deep interest that would serve as the basis for pursuing an MBA from Thunderbird School of Global Management and later, accepting a job that would give me first-hand experience working with small businesses in Africa.
At CAE, one of my big projects is to address SMEs' great need for financing and create a program that would facilitate the information and knowledge flow between local banks and the SMEs. There are many bankable SMEs in Angola that with the right amount of financing could catapult to the next level. CAE already provides support with creating business plans and providing mentoring during the loan application process. However, resource restraints mean it can only do this on a one-off basis and its reach to clients is limited. A comprehensive access to financing program includes everything from hosting networking and training events with both banks and SMEs present to creating a step-by-step guide to help clients navigate the financing mystery to increasing CAE's capacity to strengthen its impact to SMEs. In conjunction with CDC Development Solutions, the relationships and partnerships I am helping to form with banks will also lay the groundwork to bringing in alternative methods of financing.
My international focused coursework at Thunderbird gave me a solid foundation when dealing with cross-cultural communications and the political and socioeconomic issues that are an ever-present challenge in Angola. I am gaining amazing, first-hand experience by understanding and trying to mitigate the obstacles of access to finance in the developing world. After my time at CAE, I plan to pursue opportunities of investing in high-growth businesses in developing and emerging economies. I firmly believe in the power that business has in building and growing economies and I am grateful for the opportunity to put my business and finance skills to such a noble cause.