July 12th, 2013 – SEO Africa Class of 2013
Dear SEO Africa Supporters,
We would like to share with you the progress we’ve made since selecting our inaugural class of SEO Africa interns. From June 10th to 21st, we ran an intensive corporate skills training bootcamp for our interns. It was conducted every weekday from 8am to 8pm, with remedial sessions on weekends. As filling in the skills gap is a big component of what our partner firms are looking for, it was important for us to design and deliver a world-class training program.
We worked with Taiwo Ajayi (SEO ’04), a Harvard Business School graduate and former McKinsey consultant with a background in training and skills development. She helped us design and lead our 2-week training program. We were also fortunate to have Trish Amoah-Ntim (SEO ’07), a recent Harvard Business School graduate, volunteer her time to assist us with the training and coaching of the interns.
The program covered both soft and technical skills, including courses in the following areas:
SEO Principles & Values, Professional Attitude & Behavior, Personal Effectiveness, Written Communication, Oral Presentations, Business Research Practices, Financial Statement Analysis, Financial Modeling & Valuation, Excel and PowerPoint.
Additional highlights of the training program were:
– A speaker series where 6 top business leaders in Ghana came to speak to our interns to share their experiences
– A case study analysis where the interns worked through a corporate finance case study scenario to develop a recommendation and deliver a group presentation
– A fine dining etiquette course, combined with dinner with SEO alumni
Completing the training program and having our first class of interns begin their internships has been a very exciting milestone for SEO Africa. This would not have been possible without the support and guidance of Michael Osheowitz, the teams from SEO New York and SEO London, the SEO Africa Alumni Board, and various other alumni and friends who have donated their time and money to support this effort. As we begin our planning for next year and look to improve on what we have established, we will be updating you soon on how you can be involved in supporting the future growth of SEO Africa.
The SEO Africa Team
May 9th, 2013 – SEO Africa intern selection
Dear Friends and Supporters of SEO Africa,
Over the last two months, we conducted presentations at 8 of the top universities in Ghana, completed an application and interview process, and selected the students that will become the first ever class of SEO Africa interns. The selection process has turned out to be more emotional than we expected, as some of these students have overcome immense challenges and demonstrated incredible drive and resilience to get to where they are.
We would like to share parts of an application essay submitted by Wisdom Akakpo, a student that will be among our first class of interns. This section of his essay addressed how being selected as an SEO Africa intern fits into his personal and professional goals.
“I have benefited tremendously from the volunteer efforts of people I have never met. Others have sacrificed their resources in order for me to be where I am today. In 2005, NEO Africa Foundation sponsored me when I desperately needed scholarship. This and many others have inculcated in me a strong sense of self-sacrifice and volunteerism. I made a personal resolution to also pay back to society what I have received – to contribute my quota to society in any way I can…Apart from being a world class finance professional, I also would like to coach and mentor our younger ones and to contribute to their personal growth and professional development. I strongly believe that the coaching and mentorship experience with SEO alums will enable me to be a better mentor…By becoming an SEO alum, I would be able to more meaningfully contribute my quota to society’s development.”
To provide some context, Wisdom is one of the top (3.86/4.00 GPA) Economic students at the University of Ghana, and the NEO Africa Foundation is a small nonprofit started and funded by a group of Ghanaian finance professionals (of which some are SEO alumni) that pays for the tuition and other expenses of students that cannot afford to attend high school. SEO Africa is now in a position to provide motivated students like Wisdom the next phase of support so that they can be further empowered to serve the continent of Africa and contribute to its growth.
While our immediate focus is to continue expanding the Career Program, the intern selection process has taught us so much about the roles that SEO Africa can potentially play in 1) impacting the lives of talented but underprivileged high school students, and 2) introducing gender diversity to Corporate Africa (there were a significantly lower number of female applicants to our program, and they tended to be less prepared for our interviews).
We have so much more to share with you about what we have learned throughout this process of starting SEO Africa and what the next steps are for our organization, please look out for more updates soon.
SEO Africa Team
March 14, 2013 – SEO Africa Update
Dear Friends of SEO Africa,
I am pleased to share with you a brief summary of SEO Africa’s development.
We have made tremendous progress over the last few months on building up SEO Africa, with our initial focus on Ghana. Following what was done in the early developments of SEO in New York and London, we are starting small for our first year, targeting a small group of companies and interns. Our focus will be on delivering a high quality program and establishing the SEO brand in Corporate Africa.
We have secured partnership commitments and internship positions from 4 top financial firms in Ghana: Barclays, Stanbic Bank(division of Standard Bank), UT Bank (top local commercial bank) and IC Securities (top local investment bank). The program will be run from June to August of this year and we are currently in the process of recruiting our first class of interns from the top universities in the country.
We have also formed a Ghana Advisory Board and a Pan-Africa Advisory Board, made up of passionate alumni on the ground who will help oversee the expansion of the program going forward. In the coming weeks and months, we will be reaching out to you to share more details and updates of our exciting progress.
SEO Africa Team
January 4th, 2013 – Why SEO Africa
Dear fellow-SEO alumni,
Thank you for your interest in supporting SEO Africa! We have been overwhelmed by the responses and feedback to the email that Michael Osheowitz sent out a few weeks ago. Between responses to that email and alumni who have verbally committed to helping us, we have close to 300 people that have shown strong support for SEO Africa. We’ve had alumni based in Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Uganda who have said they are interested in helping spearhead the development of the program into those countries once we get the Ghana program up and running; alumni that want to volunteer with us this summer; and, even non-alumni who have been forwarded the email and have expressed interest in helping us!
Now as we begin the dialogue with each of you, I wanted to share with you why we decided to spearhead this effort to build SEO Africa.
Firstly, because like all of you, we have experienced first hand what an opportunity like SEO can do to impact a person’s life, and we felt it is important for us to give back and create a similar opportunity for someone else.
But perhaps more important than giving back to SEO, we also feel very strongly that having SEO in Africa is one of the ways we can create long-lasting positive change on the continent. As individuals, each one of us can never in our lifetime solve all the problems that exist in Africa. But collectively, we are in a position to build an organization that can last beyond us, that can instill in future generations of young Africans the values around work ethic, integrity and serving their communities. And while doing that, if we support them with mentorship and resources to achieve success in their careers that they otherwise would not have without SEO Africa, then these future leaders can be empowered to later create solutions to improve their communities. This potential impact that we as a group can have on not just one individual, but on a community, a country and a continent is what truly excites us about developing this effort.
Thank you all for your support. I’ve attached a photograph of the reunion we had when Michael visited Accra in November; this is the group of alumni on the ground that are helping build the program in Ghana. We are very excited about your involvement with SEO Africa and we wish you all a wonderful 2013!
Co-Founder & Managing Director
Sponsors for Educational Opportunity (SEO) Africa
December 5, 2012 – Letter to SEO Alumni from Michael Osheowitz (Founder of SEO)
Dear SEO Alumni,
When I started SEO in 1963, my intention was to open up opportunities for young people in underserved communities. Never did I expect SEO to become an organization with over 10,000 alumni operating programs in New York, Washington DC, Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, London, Beijing, Shanghai and Ho Chi Minh City. Today we have nearly 2,000 young people annually participating in both the Scholars and the Career Programs worldwide.
Thirteen years ago, when we developed a plan for international expansion, Africa was one of the areas we targeted. One reason was because a large number of alumni working in the States had strong ties to Africa; our ties with the continent have become even more prevalent as we’ve seen the rapid expansion of our UK program. More importantly, SEO felt it could play a role in helping train the next generation of African business leaders. Although it has taken thirteen years, I am delighted to announce that SEO Africa is going to be a reality.
Two of our Career Program alumni, Edgar Seah (SEO NY 2001) and Kwabena Amporful (SEO NY 2002), are spearheading an effort with other alumni on the ground to build up SEO Africa, with an initial focus in Ghana. Starting in the summer of 2013, SEO Africa will select, train and mentor university students, and provide them internships at top companies in Africa, while instilling in them the SEO values of work ethic and giving back. Through this process, we hope to empower the future business leaders of Africa to create positive change in their communities.
I just spent a week in Ghana visiting potential partner companies, universities and alumni, and the reception to us bringing SEO to Africa has been very positive. I am now even more excited about the impact that SEO can have on the lives of young people in Africa.
We are currently putting together a list of SEO alumni that are interested in following the development of the SEO Africa program. If you are from Africa, have personal or professional connections in Africa, or would simply like to support and follow the growth of SEO into Africa, please reply to email@example.com to let us know that you would like to be on the distribution list.
SEO would not be where it is today, in multiple countries around the world, and in a position to expand to a new continent, without our alumni. So I thank you for your continued support of SEO, and we look forward to sharing with you the exciting development of SEO Africa.
SEO Founder & Chairman Emeritus