Africa's rising stars: Acha Leke, director at McKinsey & Company

By:
Kanika Saigal
Published on:

Nationality: Cameroonian, based in Nigeria

Acha Leke, partner at management consulting firm McKinsey & Co, heads up the company’s African operations through its office in Lagos, where he has been since 2010.

Since his appointment, Leke has transformed McKinsey into the leading advisory firm in Africa. The company’s footprint has grown from just one office in South Africa to six across the region, with 300 consultants working across 30 different countries in the region.

Acha Leke 

"There isn't just one thing that I am proud of at McKinsey, but how the work of our team has helped shape the thinking towards Nigeria and Africa," says Leke. "At McKinsey,  Africa is a strategic priority of the firm, and through our work McKinsey has realized exactly how much value, opportunity and expertise Africa has to offer. Through this realization and McKinsey's presence in the continent, we can drive the economic rebirth of the continent."

Leke has dedicated his career to addressing misconceptions surrounding Africa that remain ingrained in those unfamiliar with the diversity and opportunities the continent has to offer. He co-authored the seminal work "Lions on the Move" published with McKinsey in 2010, which widely moulded and shifted opinion on Africa's investment promise, and middle-class consumption prospects.

"People still consider Africa to be war-torn, riddled with disease and completely underdeveloped, but this is just not the case," he says. "Obviously we still have our problems, but the report we published in 2010 really started to make people think otherwise."

Leke completed his undergraduate education at Georgia Institute of Technology, where he graduated as the first black valedictorian in the university's history. Leke then moved to Stanford University to complete a Master's degree in electrical engineering before pursuing a PhD in the same subject at the same university. 

"In general, education in Africa is not as good as it is elsewhere," he says. "If you had parents that could afford to send you abroad, or if you won a scholarship, you would take up the opportunity without thinking twice."

However, Leke firmly believes he and others like him that have studied and worked abroad have an obligation to return to Africa and lead the continent's sustainable, economic growth. "If there is anyone that is going to make a difference to Africa, it’s us," he says. 

Leke is co-founder of the African Leadership Network and African Leadership Academy, institutions dedicated to preparing talented young Africans to become the continent’s future leaders. 

"Africans need to tell their own stories and take control of their own fate," says Leke. "By nurturing our continent’s future leaders, we are gradually reaching this goal."