Acha Leke, Partner - Mckinsey & Co

ccupation: Business consultant.
Age: 36

Acha Leke is a fine example of the new generation of African leaders that inspired The Banker to produce this article.
Originally from Cameroon, Mr Leke’s career has been punctuated by a series of high achievements. He joined McKinsey, one of the world’s most prestigious management consultancies, in 1998 at the age of 26 and has worked for the firm both in the US and South Africa. He is now a partner.

Mr Leke completed his higher education at Stanford University in the US, where he gained a PhD in electrical engineering. He also attended the Georgia Institute of Technology, where he graduated as the first black Valedictorian in the school’s history.

Mr Leke says that succeeding in Africa is no different to succeeding in any other environment. For him it is about hard work, some luck and good fun. There are, however, unique challenges. “As age matters a lot in Africa, being taken seriously as a young African can be a big challenge,” he says. “An important lesson I have learnt is to work to build credibility quickly, and be respectful yet objective. It is important to be humble and to know when – and how – to dissent.”

Looking ahead, Mr Leke is optimistic about how perceptions of Africa abroad are evolving.
“Africa’s image has been improving over the past decade and in particular over the past five years. There have been a number of positive factors behind this [such as] economic reforms, better governance, rising commodity prices and foreign investment – including the involvement of China,” he says. Mr Leke adds, however, that much more needs to be done in the arenas of governance and conflict resolution.

Acha Leke’s African hero: Those who make a difference.

“I see many heroes, from struggling small farmers with little but a smile, through to the new breed of business and political leaders who are trying to strengthen Africa’s economy. I see artists, teachers and medical professionals who are making a difference to people’s lives across the continent. Every single one of these people is a hero of mine.”