Africa, the world’s youngest continent, is not short of jewels and ingenuity. Sadly, brain drain is one of the things that hinder its ability to progress and reach its economic potential. Research done by the UN and OECD showed that one in nine Africans with a university education were living and working in the developed world.
The African Union estimates that 70,000 well-educated and skilled Africans emigrate to the US, Europe, and elsewhere every year. These trends and figures appear to justify Western perceptions that have for long associated Africa with poverty, hunger, and violence. However, that is not the case in contemporary Africa.
Unfortunately, some African professionals still do not believe that they can achieve their dreams in Africa. They believe that opportunities for higher income and better life can only be found in Western countries. However, Adaora Mbelu-Dania, a successful creative from Nigeria, holds a completely different view. She is a firm believer in reverse brain drain. Today, we explore her journey to success including her background, reasons for returning to Africa, and impact in the creative industry.
Who is Adaora Mbelu-Dania?
Adaora Mbelu-Dania is a Nigerian entrepreneur and the founder of A2 Creative, a brand management company. She is also the founder of Lumination Global Network and Socially Africa. Adaora is passionate about innovation and believes that creativity has the power to bring about extraordinary business results.
She began her entrepreneurial journey at age 16 by producing a magazine that celebrated works by the African diaspora. She has worked as project manager for Nigeria’s Got Talent, Nigerian Idol, and Freemantle TV Shows. As a brand developer, Adaora Mbelu-Dania worked with several global companies such as Google LLC, Microsoft, and TWE Global.
Before returning to Nigeria, she served as a Credit Analyst at Citi Group in the US. Adaora has been recognized and awarded for her outstanding impact in the entrepreneurial world. In 2017, she featured in Entrepreneur Magazine’s list of 11 African entrepreneurs transforming the business landscape.
What is Success to Adaora Mbelu-Dania?
According to Adaora Mbelu, success is not synonymous with money. “I don’t believe money or popularity should be a key measurement to success,” she says. Adaora believes that success is basically accomplishing what you want to achieve. She says that anyone can become successful by concentrating on what needs to be done and doing it in the best way possible.
Also, she points out that many startups fail because people put in little effort, yet they want quick and big wins. Pursuing non-sustainable businesses is another major cause of failure, according to Adaora Mbelu-Dania. Through Adaora, we can conclude that building a successful business requires focus, a sustainable strategy, doing your best, and of course patience and discipline.
Adaora Background and Journey to the US
Little is known about Adaora’s early years. Nevertheless, what we know is that at the age of 9, she wrote her first book. She is an alumna of Queen’s College Lagos. When Adaora Mbelu-Dania was 16 years old, she attended the Global Young Leaders Conference held in New York and Washington DC as Nigeria’s representative. When it was time for her to pursue tertiary education, she traveled from Nigeria to Highland Heights, Ohio, United States to join Northern Kentucky University (NKU). But this was not her initial plan. She explains,
“Interestingly, I hadn’t initially applied to NKU, I was so sure that I was going to Georgetown or somewhere in the D.C. tristate area.”
But her brother was a student at NKU. So, he had always wished that his sister will join him there someday. When Mbelu-Dania started studying in the US, her first days were somewhat challenging. She recalls, “It was culture shock at first, but I loved it.” At NKU, Adaora Mbelu-Dania was the first black recipient of the Spirit of the Entrepreneur Scholarship. This award was a recognition of her entrepreneurial journey, which she started at age 16. At age 19, Adaora got a job at Citi Group as a Credit Analyst.
Reasons for Returning to Africa
After graduating with a degree in economics and entrepreneurship, Mbelu-Dania packed her belongings and returned to Nigeria. Her plan all along was not to work and live in the US as many Africans do or dream. She explains,
“I came to America with the mindset that I was going to learn and take it back home. There’s always been a brain drain out of Africa in general. But with the world being a global network now, you can do business anywhere. I do business with a lot of clients who are in the states.”
When Adaora got to Nigeria in 2008, she first landed a job in production. Although her educational background wasn’t in production, she was prepared for the challenge. The successful entrepreneur says,
“That’s the brilliant thing about studying something like economics or entrepreneurship—you gain so many skills that you can pretty much take into any industry.”
As Mbelu-Dania began to excel in her work, she discovered that she wanted to do more. “I really wanted to touch the creativity and innovation by creating things that I felt would actually solve problems,” she says.
Adaora discovered that many young creative Nigerians were unable to harness their creativity and make money out of it. Many were creative but didn’t know how to turn their creativity into a business. Driven by her passion to push other people’s dreams, Adaora Mbelu-Dania spotted a business opportunity in the challenge. So, in response to her desire for creative control, she founded A2 Creative.
A2 Creative Agency
Established in 2015, A2 Creative Agency specializes in brand development, creative strategy, and marketing. As a brand and business management agency, A2 Creative helps brands to develop innovative strategies and conduct experimental marketing. The ultimate goal is to help businesses connect with their target customers and increase their customer base.
Mbelu-Dania believes that businesses can achieve extraordinary results by capitalizing on the power of creativity. The Nigerian entrepreneur helps people to turn their visions and passions into reality. Also, Adaora Mbelu-Dania holds that creativity cuts across all industries. She explains that brand strategy can be done for any industry. Thus, she envisions the creativity industry growing more and more in the future.
Adaora Mbelu’s Other Businesses
Adaora runs more than one business. In 2015, she also founded Socially Africa, a movement that educates people to, “Be Good, Do Good, and Inspire Good.” Through Socially Africa, Adaora Mbelu aims to nurture a generation of problem solvers and leaders that transcends professional and entrepreneurship success. The movement runs impactful projects mostly in Nigerian schools through crowdfunding and personal contributions.
Adaora’s recent establishment is Lumination Global Network (LGN), which she founded in 2019. The mission of LGN is to empower organizations and individuals to live purposeful lives and becomes the best versions of themselves. Lumination fulfills this through several platforms including seminars, masterclasses, podcasts, and live events.
According to Adaora Mbelu-Dania, people can have a more meaningful life when they live a life of purpose. To help people understand their purpose and live it, she has written a book titled This Thing Called Purpose.
Adaora Mbelu-Dania Future Plans
Adaora Mbelu wants to become a serial entrepreneur and a venture capitalist. She aims to establish a business that can compete globally not just financially but also in terms of work productivity. Also, she desires to establish a sustainable business that will have brand loyalty that lasts. Adaora looks forward to building a business that runs even when she isn’t around.
The inspiring story of Adaora Mbelu-Dania shows that Africa is not short of business and investment opportunities. Adaora is a testament that Africans can achieve their dreams in Africa if they are determined and hard-working. As a successful entrepreneur, she advises young and upcoming entrepreneurs to be authentic and stay focused in order to achieve their objectives.
On funding, Adaora emphasizes that as an entrepreneur, you need to believe strongly in your business idea. Then, you should be open to criticism especially when it comes to investors. This is because they might not understand your vision or believe in it. But to win their support, you need to show them your vision from their angle, which is mainly profits and sustainability. We believe that Adaora’s advice and success story will indeed lead you to success.