Nonny Ugboma, enthusiastic about future opportunities, charting her path to actualization

Huh? Leaving your job and going away for a year?” I asked her over breakfast
as she dropped the ‘bomb’ on me. I have known her for some years and if there is one
thing I know, it is that she is intentional about her every move.

This move just came as a shock but hearing from her recently, after reaching out to her to find out how she is faring and she said “Kemi, school is great and tough at the same time. It is interesting going back to school 25 years after my last Masters”, I could tell she had quickly adjusted. Nonny Ugboma is gracing the cover of Women’s Hub for this week and is also our Leading Lady for the week. She is the Executive Secretary, MTN Foundation.

MTN Foundation was incorporated in 2004 to drive MTN Nigeria’s (MTNN) various CSR initiatives commissioned in May 2005. It is funded by up to 1% Profit After Tax from MTNN for projects, over N21bn has been committed to MTNF projects to date, over 550 MTNF project sites in 36 States including the FCT, key focal areas developed in response to wide stakeholder engagement, and they are in partnership with Government/multilateral agencies.

When Nonny joined MTN Nigeria in April 2003 as Business Planner and Financial Analyst in the Business Intelligence unit of the Marketing division, before moving to the Foundation as a pioneer staff responsible for the Education and Health portfolio (a portfolio manager in 2004/2005), she certainly knew she was destined for great things and was clear about her desired trajectory.

By 2009, she became the Executive Secretary of the MTNF Foundation. “MTN is an amazing company that truly cares about the various communities where it does business because every country where MTN operates has a Foundation. We started off focusing on three main portfolios including: education, health and economic empowerment in response to wide stakeholder engagement and recently the focus areas have morphed into causes: Youth Empowerment, Arts & Culture, and Child Health and National Priorities initiatives.” She said.

On finding fulfilment with her job, Nonny said “The most fulfilling part of the job is seeing the spread of activities and the number of people the Foundation was able to affect. One of the key success factors of the Foundation is the public private partnership model used in implementing over 800 initiatives across the country.” Interestingly, working with different stakeholders across the country and listening to different views on possible ways to address different societal issues got Nonny thinking about going back to school to review and reassess the concept of public value especially in the developing world context. “

I started on this ‘rethinking development’ path back in 2015 when MTN Foundation celebrated its 10-year anniversary. I decided that I had to remove myself from my familiar territory and routine to be in a study environment in order to learn new things and uncover new insights about old things.” She told me. No n n y l a t e r s h a r e d h e r thoughts with her mentors “Two very inspiring human beings” she calls them, who over the years have encouraged and helped her put her plans in motion, which she timed to align with those of her sons, and voila, exactly 25 years after she completed her first Master’s programme from King’s College, London, she began another Masters programme at a rival school, University College London, where she is now studying Master of Public Administration in Innovation, Public Policy and Public Value.

“MTN, as a company that supports personal development, graciously approved my one-year study leave/sabbatical to build myself. Truly amazing, wouldn’t you agree?” she asked me and continued “This one-year leave of absence from work is essentially to renew my knowledge base and prepare me for the future ahead. I have always been an advocate for self-development and improvement. I moved from finance and numbers into the corporate social investment space by self-development and by curiously learning from experts in the field.” Ugboma said.

I asked her what keeps her going daily and her response was truly motivating. “One of the things that keeps me going every day is my resolve to always look out for solutions to socio-economic challenges, so everything I am learning involves me deep diving into
historical analysis of problems because context matters especially when it comes to development. Interestingly, I am part of the first cohort of the course at the Institute
of Innovation and Public Purpose and the Director of the course is renowned Economist, Dr. Mariana Mazzucato.”

Ugboma calls Mariana a rockstar “Mariana is a rock star. She is also an author of two amazing books, which I strongly recommend called ‘The Entrepreneurial State’ and ‘The Value of Everything’. The course has an innovative curriculum that fundamentally challenges the dominant free market economics thinking, which predominantly focuses on cost in assessing the activities of the public sector and it presents a case for using value instead. In other words, it assesses contribution of the public sector from a public value perspective and not from cost incurred point of view.” she revealed.

For Nonny, “The bottom line is that the state is responsible for the development of advanced economies so for me, I am interested in learning how this can be translated into the developing world context. If the advanced countries implemented certain policies to insulate their economies at critical times of their development, so what do we need to do to leapfrog or catch up? How do we organize our public sector to attract the best brains and avoid brain drain into the private sector as well as avoid brain drain into other advanced countries? So many questions and lots of possible answers.”


Nonny Ugboma

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