Ndidi Okonkwo Nwuneli is a social entrepreneur, author and a speaker. She is the co-founder of Sahel Consulting, a private equity and investment advisory firm.
She has shaped agriculture policies and strategies in West Africa through Sahel. She and her husband Mezuo Nwueli founded AACE foods, an agro-processing company that gets produce from smallholder farmers and process them for local market
Ndidi Nwuneli Background
Ndidi was born on the 22nd of March, 1975 at the University of Nigeria teaching Hospital to Paul Obuekwe Okonkwo, a professor of Pharmacology and Rina Okonkwo, an American professor of History.
She spent her early life in Enugu where she attended her primary school and her college at Federal Government College, Enugu. She completed a bridging program which combined her final year in high school with freshmen year of college at Clarkson Scholl 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 is married to Mezuo Nwuneli and they are blessed with children.
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Early career of Ndidi Nwuneli
In her junior year at University of Pennsylvania, Ndidi Nwuneli worked as summer Business Analyst at McKinsey & Company, New York.
In 1998, she accepted a position of Lead consultant with The Centre for Middle East Competitive Strategy, a non- profit organisation founded by Professor Michaal Porter.
She was responsible for consulting for Palestinian and Israeli businesses and increasing trade for the companies across the region.
In 1999, she served as the Lead Consultant for The Ford Foundation on a project focusing on Nigeria’s largest microcredit institutions, COWAN and FADU. Also same year, she joined McKinsey and served on the client service team.
In 2000, she returned to Nigeria. Ndidi became the pioneer Executive Director of FATE Foundation, a non-profit organisation whose aim is to promote wealth creation and encourage entrepreneurship in Nigeria.
The entrepreneurial journey
Ndidi Nwuneli is passionate about agriculture especially making known the potential which is the reason behind her co-founding AACE Food. AACE Food is an indigenous Nigerian company established in November 2009.
The product line of AACE Food includes spices, spreads, sauces and complementary food that satisfies customers. AACE Food have grown so much that they moved to their factory which has helped them scale up operations and sales.
Her motivation for AACE Food
First, the 2008 report that shows that 41% of children under the age of 5 were stunted, 14% are wasted, 23% are underweight.
Second, the estimates from researcher at Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta which estimated that 40-60% of the fruits and vegetables grown and harvested across the country are wasted because of lack of infrastructure.
Third, 90% of processed food consumed in Nigeria are imported were the motivation for AACE Food.
She is also the co-founder of Sahel firm, 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.
Ndidi established LEAP Africa, a non-profit organisation in 2002. LEAP is an acronym for Leadership, Effectiveness, Accountability and Professionalism. The organisation focuses on grooming the next generation of visionary leaders.
LEAP has trained thousands of entrepreneurs, youths, teachers and community organiser across 26 states in Nigeria. Also, LEAP has published 11 books on succession, ethics, governance and management.
She also founded NIA; Ndu, Ike, Akunuba in 2002. It is aimed at empowering young women to achieve their highest potential. Ndu, Ike and Akunuba are Igbo words which meaning Life, Strength and Wealth respectively.
Therefore, the organisation focuses on changing the mind-set of women to realise that with hard work and discipline, they can achieve whatever they put in their mind.
She wrote a book titled, “Social Innovation in Africa: A practical Guide for Scaling Impact”, published by Routledge in 2016.
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 Clun 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