HBSAN Life Im­pact Se­ries with Fola Laoye, Di­rec­tor Health Mar­kets Africa

HBSAN Life Im­pact Se­ries is an ini­tia­tive of Har­vard Busi­ness School As­so­ci­a­tion of Nige­ria (HBSAN), and is a se­ries of interview ses­sions with prom­i­nent alumni of the pres­ti­gious Har­vard Busi­ness School (HBS) who have had a ma­jor part of their ca­reer or

Business Day (Nigeria) - - INTERVIEW -

This edi­tion of the HBSAN Life Im­pact Se­ries fea­tures an in­sight­ful interview ses­sion with Fola Laoye, Di­rec­tor, Health Mar­kets Africa, Trustee Board Mem­ber and for­mer Pres­i­dent of HBSAN, who earned her MBA at Har­vard Busi­ness School (HBS) in 1999. The ses­sion which held in her of­fice at Health Mar­kets Africa in Ikoyi, La­gos, was con­ducted by Collins Onuegbu, HBSAN Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Sec­re­tary/ex­ec­u­tive Vice Chair­man, Sig­nal Al­liance, Chika Nnadozie, HBSAN Pro­gram Man­ager, and a me­dia team from Businessday led by Uzo Akumah.

Fola Laoye is the im­me­di­ate past Chair­man of Hygeia Nige­ria Lim­ited. She has been in­stru­men­tal in chart­ing the growth strat­egy of Hygeia for sev­eral years. She is cur­rently the Di­rec­tor of the West Africa In­vest­ments at the In­vest­ment Fund for Health in Africa (IFHA). Fola has 25 years of lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional busi­ness ex­pe­ri­ence, hav­ing trained with Ernst & Young, La­gos and Price Water­house Coop­ers in London. She serves as a Board mem­ber at Har­vard Busi­ness School Health­care Ini­tia­tive; Re­sults for Devel­op­ment In­sti­tute (R4D), a Wash­ing­ton Dc-based think-tank that fo­cuses on poli­cies for Global Health & Ed­u­ca­tion; Hygeia Group, Nige­ria; Old Mu­tual Life In­sur­ance Com­pany, Nige­ria; and Pen­sion Al­liance Lim­ited (PAL), one of the fore­most Pen­sion Fund Ad­min­is­tra­tors in Nige­ria.

Fola was nom­i­nated as a Young Global Leader by the World Eco­nomic Fo­rum in 2011, and in 2013 she was awarded the Har­vard Busi­ness School Africa Busi­ness Club Lead­er­ship Ex­cel­lence Award.

Tran­script of the interview ses­sion with Fola Laoye;

What is your ca­reer back­ground?

My name is Fola Laoye. I am a Char­tered ac­coun­tant and I have spent the last 20 years of my ca­reer in the Nige­rian health sec­tor. I started by join­ing and even­tu­ally run­ning the Hygeia group which has the La­goon hos­pi­tals and the Hygeia HMO. We were pi­o­neers in the health care in­sur­ance in Nige­ria as well as the lim­ited health care model that was more fash­ioned af­ter the USstyled Kaizen model. I re­tired from Hygeia a few years ago and I have been more ac­tive in the in­vest­ment space (the parts that are very much tied to health care), pri­vate eq­ui­ties, and some ven­ture capi­tals. Most re­cently, I set up my own ad­vi­sory firm called Health Mar­kets Africa which fo­cuses on ad­vi­sory and in­vest­ments in the health care space.

I at­tended HBS for my MBA in 1997 and grad­u­ated as a mem­ber of the Class of 1999. This leads up to my 20th year an­niver­sary and 20th HBS reunion which I’m re­ally look­ing for­ward to.

Why Did You Make The De­ci­sion To At­tend HBS?

First for me was the Har­vard brand. I was al­ways in­trigued by the brand from my univer­sity days in Nige­ria. I had heard about the school and I made it part of my per­sonal goal to at­tend. But more im­por­tantly, the tim­ing I chose to at­tend was a time I was tran­si­tion­ing in my ca­reer. I was mak­ing a very con­certed de­ci­sion to switch from fi­nance to health and so I felt I needed an MBA that could give me a tool kit, to help me fast track my new ca­reer de­ci­sion.

I must say that I did think about other schools. I had got­ten admission into London Busi­ness School and a cou­ple of oth­ers, but in the end, the Har­vard brand was go­ing to af­ford me be­ing truly part of a global net­work that was also go­ing to be rel­e­vant in Africa. Af­ter do­ing my re­al­ity check, Har­vard was the one school to give me that push, hence my de­ci­sion to go there.

Has HBS lived up to the hype?

Ab­so­lutely! Cer­tainly, I must say. Even while I was at HBS, I made ex­ten­sive use of the alumni net­work in the US. The kind of calls I could take and even the peo­ple who took my calls was re­ally un­prece­dented. The amount of sup­port I re­ceived when I got back in set­ting up what was one of the first HMOS in Nige­ria was a lot eas­ier due to re­la­tion­ships and con­tacts from Har­vard.

What ad­vice will you give a per­son who wants to make a ca­reer de­ci­sion and sees HBS as the place to go, know­ing that the Nige­ria of to­day isn’t the same as 20 years ago?

Over the last 20 years I have had course to re­late with dif­fer­ent schools and uni­ver­si­ties around the world and Har­vard still holds a very unique propo­si­tion. Like I said, the mix of net­work and ac­cess that it gives. Har­vard prides it­self as be­ing the Gen­eral Man­agers Busi­ness School, and so it gives you a round sense of what it takes to be a man­ager which I be­lieve is very im­por­tant in be­com­ing a leader.

Se­condly, it pays a lot of at­ten­tion to en­trepreneur­ship. HBS teaches you to cre­ate a suc­cess­ful busi­ness model. One that is true and will stand. It makes you think out­side the box, in­no­vate and ex­plore. I re­mem­ber my­self and a few other col­leagues of mine de­cided that we wanted to take Africa to the world (and not just leave it as the ‘dark con­ti­nent’ on the map). We talked with Har­vard Busi­ness School man­age­ment about our plans and we got a lot of sup­port. We even­tu­ally co-founded the Africa Busi­ness Club at the school which was most es­pe­cially to bring the mind-set of African busi­nesses into the school. We shed light on the op­por­tu­ni­ties that African busi­nesses of­fered to busi­ness own­ers around the world. An­other thing we got done was to cre­ate the African Busi­ness Con­fer­ence which has hap­pened once a year on the school ground for the last 20 years.

So af­ter go­ing to HBS, how did you im­pact the health busi­ness which you re­fer to as fam­ily busi­ness?

My par­ents started Hygeia as a sec­ond ca­reer. So hold­ing it up as a fam­ily busi­ness, we needed to make it a cor­po­rate hos­pi­tal. Not one that we owned, but one where we could bring in in­vestors and bring in other doc­tors. How­ever, it got to a point where pri­vate health care didn’t re­ally have the mar­ket and they needed to in­no­vate. Then health in­sur­ance came in. This was the time when I had seen what they were go­ing through and I was mak­ing the switch to help out. I was 26 at this time, so go­ing to Har­vard was a way to gain cred­i­bil­ity be­cause I was go­ing to come back to deal with med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als. It was a male dom­i­nated area at the time and I had a lot of se­nior doc­tors who had way more ex­pe­ri­ence than my­self.

Har­vard did cat­a­pult me to hav­ing a seat at the ta­ble with these peo­ple. The busi­ness needed a man­age­ment role in clin­i­cal per­for­mance to help grow the brand and this was va­cant. When I came in, I had to work at the short floor be­fore I even­tu­ally be­came a man­ager. How­ever, peo­ple sat up and lis­tened to me a lit­tle more be­cause I had a Har­vard MBA. I came back with key part­ners and tech­ni­cal know-how.

We had to mar­ket be­cause in­sur­ance is a game of num­bers and we needed to grow the busi­ness very quickly. Around that time the Na­tional Health In­sur­ance Scheme (NHIS) was get­ting started, so I and my fa­ther got in­volved in pol­icy and ad­vo­cacy with lots of ne­go­ti­a­tions with the govern­ment. For­mer Pres­i­dent Oluse­gun Obasanjo had de­cided to place all the Fed­eral civil ser­vants on an in­sur­ance pol­icy. That was 3 mil­lion peo­ple need­ing this ser­vice and we all needed to be ready to serve.

It was a very ex­cit­ing time and of course, I was able to pull on the tools, knowl­edge and re­la­tion­ships I had gained from Har­vard to grow the busi­ness and in­dus­try at the time. How can a HBS Alum make an im­pact?

As at when I joined the as­so­ci­a­tion, it’s safe to say that we had a lot of cap­tains on board and a lot of whom had gone through the Ex­ec­u­tive Pro­grams. Then there were a few of us who had come in through our MBA pro­grams and were par­tic­u­larly younger ca­reer wise. So to our ad­van­tage (the younger mem­bers), we had straight away a pool of men­tors who had earned their stripes in work­ing in Nige­ria. They taught us so much on how to han­dle many as­pects of what we call the “Nige­rian fac­tor”. They also had very strong views on ethics, lead­er­ship and to some ex­tent gov­er­nance.

They had put their feet for­ward in run­ning large cor­po­ra­tions - UAC, Shell, UBA, First Bank, etc. They set up in­sti­tu­tions out­side of the or­ga­ni­za­tion - Nige­rian Eco­nomic Sum­mit Group (NESG). The Har­vard alumni had also been very in­stru­men­tal in writ­ing the vi­sion 2020 strat­egy for Nige­ria.

These have all formed a mode of dis­course be­tween govern­ment and pri­vate sec­tors. Even schools (Pan At­lantic Univer­sity and La­gos Busi­ness School), have been formed out of the as­so­ci­a­tion. So these and many more things made me want to be part of the as­so­ci­a­tion at that time and even now.

I went on to be­come the pres­i­dent at a time when there was a grow­ing num­ber of MBAS re­turn­ing to Nige­ria. This was ex­cel­lent. We knew we had to bring the as­so­ci­a­tion, its role, and im­pact up to date with its next gen­er­a­tion.

What about mak­ing an im­pact in Govern­ment?

We iden­ti­fied that a cer­tain co­hort of our mem­bers were in pol­i­tics hence, the Abuja chap­ter. I think in do­ing so, there is a bet­ter net­work of mem­bers who go into this busi­ness, as there is a plat­form for them to meet other fel­low mem­bers in pol­i­tics. Net­work­ing is al­ways very im­por­tant be­cause that’s where you can ad­vo­cate and share ideas.

More for­mally, with an Abuja chap­ter, we have been able to put out more con­tent. I re­cently at­tended a dis­cus­sion in Abuja, where other mem­bers and guests at­tended. It was on dif­fer­ent top­ics on na­tion build­ing. In fact, at the gath­er­ing, we took the HBS case study of Malaysia and we tried to view the pros and cons of Malaysia and Nige­ria. Where the two coun­tries are now and where they have come from. Mem­bers who were in govern­ment were there and we had an hon­est and open fo­rum for ev­ery­one to dis­cuss around these is­sues.

We need to do more of this, as these is­sues around the coun­try, lead­er­ship and ethics need to be spo­ken in in places like Abuja. For in­stance, we can have “The Ak­in­tola Wil­liams Lec­ture” and make sure both stake­hold­ers and mem­bers are present.

Note: the rest of this ar­ti­cle con­tin­ues in the online edi­tion of Busi­ness Day @https://busi­ness­day­on­line.ng/

Fola Laoye, Di­rec­tor, Health Mar­kets Africa, Trustee Board Mem­ber and for­mer Pres­i­dent of HBSAN.

L-R: Collins Onuegbu, com­mu­ni­ca­tions sec­re­tary, Hbsan/ex­ec­u­tive vice chair­man, Sig­nal Al­liance, and Fola Laoye, di­rec­tor, Health Mar­kets Africa, trustee board mem­ber and for­mer pres­i­dent of HBSAN.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Nigeria

© PressReader. All rights reserved.