Coles College Alum Leads Economic, Social Change in Africa
KENNESAW, Ga. (Dec 9, 2019) — Kennesaw State University alumna Nuru Mugambi has made a lasting impact on the banking industry in Africa, both economically and socially, but she feels that she still can accomplish much more.
Mugambi, the director of public affairs and sustainable finance for the Kenya Bankers Association, has been involved in several initiatives to develop entrepreneurs, promote diversity and support responsible banking that has lasting benefit for both clients and society at large. She has earned several recognitions, including an invitation to the White House from President Barack Obama in 2016.
“The banking industry and broader financial services sector play a central role in any economy, so I recognize that my impact may be a drop in the ocean,” said Mugambi, who lives in Nairobi. “A lot more can be done to unlock value through effective policies and industry innovation, so I constantly question myself if I’m doing enough. However, I believe I have made a positive impact in my own little way.”
Her “little way” is making a big difference through efforts such as the Sustainable Finance Initiative that she began in 2012. The program “has been able to change mindsets and industry practices,” she said, by training more than 28,000 bankers on the need for responsible banking that factors economic, social and environmental impact. Also, Kenya made history this year for issuing east and central Africa’s first green bond, a bond specifically earmarked for climate and environmental projects.
Mugambi, a 2000 KSU graduate in business administration, also is a strong advocate for bringing more women into Africa’s banking industry. She started the Leading Women in Banking and Finance network to promote diversity at the executive level and is a founding trustee of the New Faces New Voices network, which strives to make the financial and business sectors more accessible to African women as consumers, investors and entrepreneurs.
“I am most vocal about gender inclusivity – especially because the financial services sector is male-dominated at the senior levels and, from a sustainable economic development perspective, women in Africa often are marginalized,” Mugambi said. “However, they have the greatest potential to catalyze socioeconomic development.”
Mugambi serves as Kenya’s chair of Eisenhower Fellowships, an international organization committed to making the world more peaceful and prosperous. Through the Eisenhower Fellowships program, Mugambi was part of a delegation of emerging African leaders President Obama hosted at the White House.
“It was awesome,” Mugambi said. “President Obama challenged us to have the courage to make transformative change on the continent. It was inspiring and a privilege that I keep reflecting on. Indeed, people in positions of influence have a duty to do what they can to make a positive impact in their professional and community spaces.”
Mugambi credits her undergraduate experience at Kennesaw State with laying the foundation for her success. While looking into a university in the U.S. to attend, Mugambi said she was drawn to KSU’s affordability and “world-class” Michael J. Coles College of Business.
She found a mentor in Jerome Ratchford, who then was the director of the Department of Student Development as part of his 26 years at KSU. To this day, Mugambi appreciates that Ratchford always encouraged her to be active on campus and to do her best.
“He instilled in me – at the young age of 19 when I joined Kennesaw State – the need to make a difference and to be a responsible leader,” Mugambi said. “I know that I made the right decision to attend KSU. The professors were excellent, the learning environment was dynamic and the practical training support I received from the career development team set me on the path for success.”
After completing her degree, Mugambi achieved her goal of moving back home to Africa and making a difference. Her many accolades include being the youngest woman to receive the Fellow designation for contributions to the banking industry and earning Top 40 Under 40 recognition by Business Daily, Africa’s leading business publication.
However, Mugambi isn’t content with her accomplishments so far. She looks forward to the next challenges and opportunities that come along.
“We live in a global village so, even at the most basic community level, our actions and interactions go beyond ourselves to have an impact on others,” Mugambi said. “I therefore think it’s important that we have a society and global system that operates on the principles of shared value and ethics, and respect for the rule of law.”