Alum of the Month - October 2016

Mark Doumba

Few activities are as gratifying as converting an idea into a business. Mark Doumba

  • Programme studied: Executive Global Master's in Management
  • Year of Graduation: 2014
  • Twitter profile

What's your current job? 

I’m a co-founder of CLIKAFRIK Group – an investment holding and advisory company that deploys capital towards new business models in e-commerce, mobile payments, logistics and telecom services across Africa and the Middle East. I also advise the Sovereign Fund of Gabon on the design and launch of a venture capital fund.

Where have you worked previously?

I previously worked in Dubai as Director of Business Development for the Private Office of Mohamed Alabbar. Under his guidance, I was responsible for developing a private investment company called Africa Middle East Resources and for coordinating various investment activities in real estate, agriculture and financial services across Africa, the Middle East and Asia. During that tenure, I also served as advisor on the Transitional Committee of the UN-backed Green Climate Fund. I have been a member of the Global Agenda Council at the World Economic Forum since 2014. I started my career in 2008 working in investment banking as a financial analyst.

How has the programme you studied helped your career since you graduated?

The programme I studied has brought a certain level of structure to the way I analyse, process and deliver information. It also helps me put a lot of knowledge that I am acquiring into contextual frameworks that link back to theories, works and trends that we’ve studied and analysed at length in the classroom. I believe the programme has raised my standards as a professional which has in turn helped me become more relevant, insightful and impactful in the work that I have undertaken with my employers, employees, partners and investors since graduation.

What would you say to someone who is thinking of studying at the Department of Management?

The Department of Management has developed an elevated approach to teaching relevant theoretical frameworks that are drawn from various fields of social sciences with tangible applications to business cases. I believe that any aspiring and ambitious student looking to gain a better understanding of the world – by studying the roots of management, its evolution and its current and future practices - would benefit from applying to the Department. I have personally raised my level of understanding of management theory because of the way the department leverages LSE’s excellence in the fields of social sciences with a particular emphasis on economics, sociology and leadership.

The choice of course material, the quality of the faculty and the classroom diversity all partake in producing a high-level learning journey. In fact, I want to specifically thank two professors, who still provide me with continuous support to this day.

What's the greatest challenge you've had to overcome in your career?

Moving to Gabon, in Central Africa, has been the greatest challenge I have been faced with in my career so far. In spite of my African origins, the role I undertook working with Gabonese public and private sector parties has been challenge, particularly from a cultural perspective. I was aware of the pre-eminence of culture in the way business and government work is conducted, but I had underestimated the extent to which informal institutions (culture and values) really govern formal institutions (laws and regulations). I had to learn to navigate the local context and to find new ways of managing relationships and people. The process of understanding how to get things done “from within” was rather new and challenging.

However it was also enriching in helping me better understand the status quo in certain developing markets and in better identifying the gap between market problems and solutions. 

What advice would you give to some who's thinking of becoming an entrepreneur?

I would stress the importance of creating value, understanding to whom that value is most valuable and finding the best way to deliver it to them. Too many entrepreneurs make assumptions about these points and fail to address them properly.

Secondly, I would stress that entrepreneurship is more of a lifestyle choice and state of mind than it is an activity. It requires making certain sacrifices with no guarantee to reap any rewards in the medium to long run other than learning. Nonetheless, few activities are as gratifying as converting an idea into a business and growing it enough that it creates employment and value to consumers, partners and investors. If you’re looking for creative autonomy, sky-high personal growth and a certain degree of freedom, then you should strongly consider entrepreneurship as a lifestyle decision regardless of the scale of your venture.