It’s certainly been the case for Zimbabwe-born Alforde Charumbira. He was inspired to pursue a purposeful career that could positively impact disadvantaged communities. To do so, he left his role as a chief financial officer and embarked on an entrepreneurial journey—and has not looked back since.
“I really wanted to focus on finding solutions to the problems that afflicted some of the communities I could relate to, having grown up in them,” says Alforde.
To achieve this goal, he founded Utando Social Impact Solutions with his former MBA classmate, and now wife. Their mission is to promote responsible capitalism. Utando works with companies—in both South Africa and the US—on finding solutions to urgent problems such as climate change and carbon emissions, and ensuring that positively impacting communities is a fundamental starting point for businesses.
However, it wasn’t a straight road for Alforde to get his business to where it is now. It took dedication to growing his skill set and learning about the complexities of doing business in South Africa and emerging markets.
Growing a business alongside studying an MBA degree
As an entrepreneur, taking time away from your business to study full-time isn’t an option. Yet, if you want to stay ahead of the competition and develop your skills as a leader, business school can give you an advantage.
That’s why Alforde embarked on the Modular MBA at the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business (UCT GSB). When enrolling on the MBA, Alforde was leading his first venture and learning about what it takes to become a successful entrepreneur.
The GSB Modular MBA is a two-year, part-time program. The program has a flexible hybrid format whereby students attend classes in Cape Town twice per year but can otherwise choose to study online.
Alforde was attracted to the UCT GSB Modular MBA due to its focus on innovation and entrepreneurship. The program offers business leaders a unique yet globally relevant perspective of doing business in African, emerging, and developing markets.
“I saw the program as a good bridge between Africa and the world, which appealed to me as an entrepreneur. I also saw an opportunity to meet like-minded business people and entrepreneurs, and learn from them too,” says Alforde.
Alforde connected with other entrepreneurs via the UCT GSB Solution Space—an incubator for early-stage startups across South Africa.
“Studying the MBA as an entrepreneur meant I could immediately apply the learnings from the MBA in my business by testing new ideas and understanding what works and doesn’t. I could speak to peers and faculty about problems I was facing and how best to tackle them,” he says.
Alforde is using his learnings to ensure Utando Social Impact Solutions and its clients are responsive to the distinct challenges of different global markets. In one project, Utando engaged with communities in Guatemala, South America. It worked with the government and a pharmaceutical group to build a stronger health infrastructure.
“Seeing the impact this project has had within the community, especially for women who had never had access to maternal and reproductive care, definitely left a lasting impression on me,” says Alforde.
Developing entrepreneurial leadership skills
In today’s business world, entrepreneurs need to constantly adapt and upskill to keep up with new trends and global challenges.
Entrepreneurs on the UCT GSB Modular MBA can choose specializations such as Innovation and Entrepreneurship or Leadership and Change, in order to upskill in the key areas they need to advance to ensure business growth.
“As an entrepreneur, you’re faced with complex problems every day and there is no defined solution to these problems. So the MBA for me was about developing the critical thinking and problem-solving skills to confidently approach these challenges,” says Alforde.
However, becoming a strong leader is about far more than the skills you gain. The UCT GSB Modular MBA also focuses on personal development by familiarizing students with leadership theory and encouraging them to reflect on the type of leader they want to be.
“The leadership course was one of my biggest takeaways from the MBA. It provoked us to ask questions about our own leadership style and how our experiences influence how we show up as a leader,” says Alforde.
Coming from a corporate career background, studying an MBA in South Africa helped Alforde to learn how to adapt his leadership style to a career in social impact. Now, he works closely with global companies to lead them towards tackling some of the world’s most urgent crises and transforming communities.
“The MBA has enabled me to lead in a way that I did not know before,” he says.
Making an impact as an entrepreneur via an MBA in South Africa
Driven by his own experiences and upbringing, Alforde’s entrepreneurial journey has always had a clear mission of social impact—both for the planet and for people.
“Business does not exist without community, which is why entrepreneurs need to focus on creating social impact,” he believes.
Studying the MBA at UCT GSB meant Alforde could gain an understanding of more complex markets in a business context and transform his ambition into a business model that could make real change.
Utando Social Impact Solutions has innovated a tool that allows businesses to bring together different aspects of operations, marketing, and finance to predict both the environmental and financial outcome if they do not bring Environmental, Social, and Governance considerations into their mainstream strategy.
The business has also had a profound impact on disadvantaged communities. One of the biggest and most rewarding projects Alforde has worked on with Utando involved employing people from zero-income households at entry-level positions within companies to allow them to upskill and provide for their families.
“Almost immediately we saw a difference in families and communities due to having role models. Plus, families could afford healthcare and education, so that there was a reduction in crime and so on,” says Alforde.
Already armed with passion and a vision for change, the MBA was the catalyst for Alforde to turn his entrepreneurial dreams into reality and make a lasting difference in communities around the globe.
University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business (UCT)
New experiences and new connections
The university is a vibrant environment with a blend of cultures and languages from around the world. The lecturers are world-renowned and give their all in ensuring that the lectures are understandable and engaging. I would definitely recommend a prospective student to enjoy the UCT experience
You can find people of every race and culture at UCT. This is especially beneficial for students from towns and rural areas. This diversity promotes self-development, foreign language study, courage, and a strong sense of moral principles. There is always academic support available, and students are given the assistance they need to succeed academically. Health care facilities are conveniently located on campus and are all easily accessible at UCT.
The programme covers all the principles necessary to understand in order excel in your career and workplace. As a computer science graduate, the programme has better prepared me for real life. Not only with programming skills but with an in-depth understanding of the field I am in. The campus is really beautiful, with a huge aspect of GREEN. There is literally plants everywhere which makes the place looks beautiful and shows the university cares for the environment. All the students are super nice too!
It was great fun and learning experience at the University of Cape Town. I believe it is ranked the top university of Africa because of its extra and exceptional way of learning which start from scratch.
The greatest thing about UCT is the amount of diversity - there are people from all over Africa and usually there are exchange students and just foreigners. The fact that it is also the top university in Africa is telling.
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I recently complete the UCT marketing short online course in partnership with Getsmarter. I had a fantastic experience. I would recommend this to anyone. It take Up to 3 month to complete the course. There is a variety to chose from. It is great to help you advance in your career but it will not take years to complete. Great way to equip yourself in different areas and definitely worth the money you spent. Great tutors as well
This is the best university ever. The students' wellbeing are their top priority. During the fire that occurred at the campus, resulting in facilities such as res and libraries badly burned. The university took it upon themselves to sent us to private accommodation where they paid for our stay. I will never forget that experience and will always be grateful for what UCT has done!
I started my journey at the university of Cape Town in 2019, as a foreign students I can say it was accommodating and not even a day did I feel discriminated. It has good facilities and ranked one of the best university in South Africa. The fees are expensive though especially for foreign students
Brilliant for FM career
The courses were interactive and the lecturer and support staff were supportive. There was a wealth of knowledge in the casework and the outcomes were realistic and relevant to the industry. The assessments were clear and unambiguous.
UCT is a prestigious institution known for its high academic standards, research excellence, and contributions to the global academic community. The university has a diverse and experienced faculty, many of whom are renowned experts. UCT's campus is located on the slopes of Table Mountain, offering stunning views and a picturesque environment for students to study and socialize. The school is also a hub for research and innovation. contrary to that, UCT's tuition and living costs can be a barrier for some students, and financial aid options may be limited for international students. While the campus is generally safe, certain areas around the university may have safety concerns, requiring students to be mindful of their surroundings. Some undergraduate courses at UCT may have large class sizes, which could impact individualized attention and student-faculty interaction.
My overall experience has been exceptional, One of the highlights of studying at UCT is the university's renowned academic reputation. The stimulating and challenging courses provided by passionate and knowledgeable professors have allowed me to expand my knowledge and explore various fields. UCT boasts a plethora of student clubs, societies, and sports teams that cater to diverse interests. This has enabled me to pursue my passion for music by joining the university's orchestra and collaborating with fellow musicians. The campus facilities are well-maintained and modern, offering state-of-the-art libraries, laboratories, and recreational spaces. The university's commitment to sustainable practices is also commendable, with initiatives such as recycling programs and eco-friendly buildings. In terms of support services, UCT has an extensive range of resources available to students. Finally, UCT's location in the vibrant city of Cape Town adds another dimension to the student experience.