Ndidi Okonkwo Nwuneli is a social entrepreneur, author, and speaker. She is the co-founder of Sahel Consulting, a private equity, and investment advisory firm. She has effected changes and shaped agriculture policies and strategies in West Africa through Sahel. Ndidi Nwuneli and her husband, Mezuo Nwuneli founded AACE Foods, an agro-processing company that gets produce from smallholder farmers and processes them for the local market.
A Woman with vision
Her vision is to contribute to the transformation of Africa which led her to create LEAP; Leadership, Effectiveness, Accountability and Professionalism. LEAP creates a new generation of responsible, dynamic and visionary leaders who will transform Africa.
According to her profile on the Harvard Business School African American Alumni Association, she believe that it is no longer sufficient to leave a trail and hope that others will follow. In her words, “We must actively pull others along by making time to mentor, coach, partner and support causes which allow us to express our passions and more importantly change lives”.
Through LEAP, she has been invited to speak at the United Nation’s Commission for Social Development, the World Economic Forum, and the Clinton Global Initiative
Ndidi Nwuneli Biography
Ndidi Nwuneli was born on the 22nd of March, 1975 at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Enugu. Her father Paul Obuekwe Okonkwo is a professor of Pharmacology and her mother, Rina Okonkwo an American Professor of History.
Ndidi attended University Primary School, Enugu and Federal Government College, Enugu. She completed a bridging program which combined her final year in high school with freshmen year of college at Clarkson School in Potsdam, New York.
She has a Bachelor’s degree in Multinational and Strategic Management from the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania and MBA from Harvard Business School.
Ndidi Nwuneli is married to Mezuo Nwuneli, co-founder of Sahel Capital and AACE Foods. They are blessed with a boy and a girl.
Early Career of Ndidi Nwuneli
In her junior year at University of Pennsylvania, Ndidi Nwuneli worked as a summer Business Analyst at McKinsey & Company, New York. After graduation, she returned to McKinsey & Company as a Business Analyst working out of Chicago, Illinois and also Johannesburg, South Africa.
In 1998, she accepted the position of Lead Consultant with The Center for Middle East Competitive Strategy, a non-profit organisation founded by Professor Michael Porter. In the role, she was responsible for consulting for Palestinian and Israeli businesses, making recommendations for decreasing transaction cost and increasing trade for the companies across the region.
In 1999, Ndidi Nwuneli served as the Lead Consultant for The Ford Foundation on a project focusing on Nigeria’s largest microcredit institutions, COWAN and FADU. The same year, she rejoined McKinsey and served on the client service teams where she consulted for consumer goods companies and large American retailers.
Back to Nigeria
In 2000, she resigned from McKinsey & Company and returned to Nigeria. In Nigeria, Ndidi Nwuneli became the pioneer Executive Director of FATE Foundation, a non-profit organisation created to promote wealth creation and encourage entrepreneurship in Nigeria.
Entrepreneurial journey of Ndidi Nwuneli
Ndidi Nwuneli is very passionate about unlocking the west African potential in agriculture and this is the reason behind her co-founding AACE Food with her husband. AACE Foods is an indigenous Nigerian company established in November 2009. The company processes, packages and distributes nutritious and tasty food made from the best of West Africa’s fruits, herbs, vegetables and cereals. Product line of AACE Food include spices, spreads, sauces and complementary food that excite and satisfy institutional, commercial and retail customers.
Motivation for starting ACCE
Three things drove Ndidi to start AACE Foods. First is a 2008 report that shows that 41% of children under the age of 5 are stunted, 14% are wasted while 23% are underweight. The second reason is the estimates from researchers at the University of Agriculture Abeokuta. They estimated that 40-60% of the fruits and vegetables grown and harvested across the country are wasted because of lack of infrastructure to bring the produce to market. Finally and sadly, 90% of processed food consumed in Nigeria are imported because of safety issues.
ACCE Food have grown so much that they have moved to their own factory which has helped them scale up operations and sales. They have also expanded partnerships with smallholder farmers across Nigeria and is adding to their product line by including complimentary food products.
Ndidi Nwuneli also cofounded Sahel, a firm that is focused on unlocking Africa’s agriculture and nutrition potential. The company has two subsidiaries, Sahel Capital Agribusiness Managers Ltd and Sahel Consulting Agriculture and Nutrition Ltd.
Sahel Capital Agribusiness Managers Ltd
Sahel Capital is filling a vital financial gap for the small and medium-sized enterprises in the Nigerian agricultural landscape. The firm provides investment capital and unparalleled services to agribusinesses and consumer-goods companies. The Fund for Agricultural Finance in Nigeria (FAFIN) is Sahel Capital’s first private equity fund aimed to provide long term agricultural finance for SME’s in Nigeria.
Sahel Consulting Agriculture and Nutrition Ltd
Leveraging industry knowledge and a network of field consultants in local communities, Sahel consulting provides in-depth market research on key value chains. They also develop specific market entry strategies for private sector companies interested in specific value chains. Sahel consulting also provides policy recommendations to governments and international development organisations that are engaged in the agriculture and nutrition sectors. They also engage in agribusiness training and educational seminars for SMEs and entrepreneurs who are interested in investing in agriculture.
In 2002, Ndidi Nwuneli established a non-profit organisation, LEAP Africa. LEAP is an acronym for Leadership, Effectiveness, Accountability and Professionalism. The organisation focused on grooming the next generation of visionary leaders.
Since birth, LEAP has trained thousands of entrepreneurs, youths, teachers and community organisers across 26 states in Nigeria. The foundation has published 11 books on succession, ethics, governance and management.
In partnership with Aspen Institutes, Databank Foundation and Technoserve, LEAP launched Africa Leadership Institutes. Africa Leadership Institutes is an initiative to develop new generation of community-spirited leaders in Ghana and Nigeria. LEAP has trained over 50,000 Nigerians who have initiated over 100 change projects in their communities.
Ndidi Nwuneli also founded NIA; Ndu, Ike, Akunuba in 2002, aimed at empowering young women to achieve their highest potential. Ndu, Ike, and Akunuba are Igbo words that mean Life, Strength, and Wealth. Its focus is to change the mindset of women to realise that with hard work and discipline, they can achieve whatever they put their mind to. At NIA, young women have access to mentors who have achieved a good level of success. Since its inception, it has worked in over five universities in southeast Nigeria.
Ndidi Nwuneli is also an author and speaker. Based on her experience working at LEAP, AACE FOODS, and Sahel Capital, she wrote a book titled, “Social Innovation in Africa: A Practical Guide for Scaling Impact”, published by Routledge in 2016.
As a representative of LEAP, Ndidi has been invited to speak at the United Nation’s Commission for Social Development, the World Economic Forum and the Clinton Global Initiative.
Boards where Ndidi Nwuneli Serves
Ndidi serves on numerous boards including Nestle Nigeria Plc., Nigerian Breweries Plc., Globethics.net, Godrej Consumer Products Ltd. India, Fairfax Africa Canada and Royal DSM Sustainability Board, Netherlands.
She also serves on the boards of LEAP Africa, AACE Food Processing and Distribution Ltd Sahel Capital, African Philanthropy Forum. Ndidi is a member of USAID’s advisory committee on Voluntary Foreign Aid and was a committee member on the Global Agenda Council on New Models of Leadership.
Recognitions and Awards of Ndidi Nwuneli
- Global Leader of Tomorrow by World Economic Forum 2002
- Young Global Leader by World Economic Forum 2004
- Member of the Republic of Nigeria 2004
- Young Manager of the Year by ThisDay Newspaper 2005
- Excellence Award from Africa Business Club at Harvard Business School 2007
- Excellence Award from Anambra 2011
- Forbes’ 20 Youngest Powerful Women in Africa 2011
- Leading Entrepreneur Award by Harvard Business School Club, Nigeria 2013
- Change Agent of the Year at Awesome Awards 2016
- Africa Women Innovation & Entrepreneurship Forum Award 2017
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