Social Impact: This Lancaster MBA Is Boosting Agribusiness In Sudan

Husameldin Elnasri was the Lancaster MBA's first ever Sudanese student. Now, he's using his MBA to drive social impact back home

Husameldin Elnasri was Lancaster University Management School’s first ever Sudanese MBA student when he joined the program in 2011.

After 60 years of civil war in Sudan, Husameldin was determined to use the skills and experience he’d gain during the Lancaster MBA to drive social impact back home. That same year however, Sudan split and returned to war.

Still, Husameldin managed to succeed in the face of adversity and completed his studies—he was named The Independent’s UK MBA student of the year.

After graduation, he returned to Sudan and joined the DAL Group—Sudan’s largest conglomerate—working to improve and expand agriculture across the country. In only two years, he helped skyrocket revenues from $1.3 million to $33.3 million, and improved working conditions for over 3,000 smallholder farmers.

BusinessBecause last spoke to Husameldin in 2013. Since then, he’s been working with local NGOs, mentoring aspiring business school students, and he’s even co-founded his own startup incubator in the Sudanese capital Khartoum.

Husameldin thinks business will play a key role in establishing and sustaining peace in Sudan— he’s seen militiamen and rebels leave their factions to join oil, mining and agricultural companies. Now, his aim is to develop agribusiness across Africa.

How has your work with the DAL Group helped drive change in Sudan?

When I joined, the company was primarily targeting the large scale commercial farmers in Sudan under the assumption that small scale farming is not as lucrative market. Small scale farmers were characterized by having poor access to technology, finance, information and markets.

Together with my team however, we built and implemented a bottom of the pyramid strategy to address the Sudanese small scale farming sector. We designed customized technical solutions with products from India, Turkey and Brazil and made these accessible to the farmers by partnering with retail finance partners.

These customized solutions not only pumped up our annual revenue, but also enabled more than 3,000 farmers to own, and benefit from, improved agricultural mechanization packages.

How else are you MBA experience to benefit your community?

I like volunteering for good causes. Since I came back to Sudan after my MBA, I have been applying my MBA skills in my spare time to do pro bono strategy consulting for struggling local NGOs and youth initiatives.

I spend time coaching and mentoring Sudanese graduates on getting scholarships to study abroad and gaining access to the same great experience I had at Lancaster. I also serve on the board of the Nidaa Organization, which is a rural development local NGO that is active in conflict affected states.

Finally, I co-founded Impact Hub Khartoum, which is an innovation lab, a business incubator and a social enterprise community centre. It offers a unique ecosystem of resources, inspiration, and collaboration opportunities to grow the positive impact SME and social enterprises can have.

How important has your Lancaster MBA been on this journey?

I come from a veterinary medicine science background and have made a career shift to agribusiness strategy. The Lancaster MBA helped me to achieve that in so many ways. Indeed the strategy, marketing, finance models and techniques I learned at Lancaster were put into action, but I must also add that the human and soft skills I learned during the mindful manager modules were very also crucial to give the push I needed to be where I am.

That great module trained us extensively on emotional intelligence, navigating organizational politics, understanding one’s skills, and motives and made us aware of the different trade-offs of leadership. In a nutshell, my Lancaster MBA gave me the optimum tool kit I needed to refocus my career. 

What are your goals for the future?

I aspire to build and lead a series public private partnerships for the development of agribusiness in Africa starting from Sudan. The Government in Sudan, as in many African countries, have limited capacity and expertise to reach the markets in a sustainable way. A partnership with the private sector will give better chances for modernizing the traditional inefficient agricultural sector and to better connect it to local markets.

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