Inspiring Stories

Be Inspired by the Life and Works of Ndidi Nwuneli, of LEAP Africa

Ndidi Nwuneli
Ndidi Nwuneli

Some days ago, I was scanning through my IG feeds when I saw it was Ndidi Nwuneli’s birthday. As my famzing nature is, I decided to wish her a happy birthday on my IG page, and guess what? She liked my post.

That singular action further reinforced the respect I had for her. So today, I have decided to write about the amiable Ndidi Nwuneli in this post.

Who is Ndidi Nwuneli?

Ndidi  Nwuneli was born on March 22, 1975 at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital in Enugu, Nigeria to a Nigerian professor of Pharmacology—Paul Obuekwe Okonkwo and an American professor of History—Rina Okonkwo. Ndidi Nwuneli, MFR is a Social Entrepreneur per excellence. She is the Co-Founder of Sahel Consulting, an Agricultural and Nutrition Company that also renders Agricultural consulting services. She is also the co-founder of AACE Foods, a social enterprise which processes nutritious food made from the best of West Africa’s cereals, herbs, pulses and spices.

She is the founder of LEAP Africa a non-profit organisation committed to developing dynamic innovative and principled African leaders.

Her Family Life

She is happily married to Mezuo Nwuneli, the Managing Partner of Sahel Consulting.

Her Educational Background

Nwuneli attended The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania in 1992, where she concentrated in strategic management and multinational management. In May 1995, at 20 years old, Nwuneli graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in Economics. By 1997, she was enrolled at Harvard Business School (HBS) and graduated with an MBA at 24 in 1999.

Her Professional Career

Ndidi Nwuneli’s career began in her junior year at The University of Pennsylvania when she held a Summer Business Analyst position with McKinsey & Company in New York. In 1995, she was offered a full-time position at McKinsey as a Business Analyst working out of Chicago, Illinois. She also worked for McKinsey in their office in Johannesburg, South Africa. Her work with McKinsey in 1997 led to the management and training of police officers across 25 South African Police Service Stations, as well as an increase in criminal convictions and a reduction in crime rates.

In 1998, she accepted a position as the Lead Consultant with a non-profit founded by Professor Michael Porter called The Center for Middle East Competitive Strategy. She consulted with Palestinian and Israeli businesses and made recommendations for decreasing transaction costs and increasing trade across the region.

In 1999, Ndidi Nwuneli Nwuneli worked as the Lead Consultant for The Ford Foundation on a project focusing on Nigeria’s largest microcredit institutions, COWAN and FADU. That year, she rejoined McKinsey and served on client service teams, consulting for consumer goods companies and large American retailers. In 2000, she resigned from her position at McKinsey and returned to Nigeria to serve as the Executive Director for the FATE Foundation founded by Nigerian Businessman, Fola Adeola.


Her Humanitarian Work

In 2002, Ndidi Nwuneli founded two non-profits, LEAP (Leadership, Effectiveness, Accountability, and Professionalism) Africa and Ndu Ike Akunuba (NIA), Igbo words which translate in English to Life, Strength, and Wealth.

NIA’s focus is on female empowerment—inspiring university students in South-eastern Nigeria to live full and meaningful lives while LEAP’s focus is to inspire, empower and equip business owners, youth, teachers and social entrepreneurs with the skills and tools for personal and organizational transformation.


For the tremendous impact, LEAP has made on people’s lives, she has been invited to speak at the UN Commission for Social Development, the World Economic Forum and the Clinton Global Initiative.

LEAP has also worked in partnership with the Ford Foundation, Citi Foundation, World BankUnited States GovernmentUK Foreign & Commonwealth OfficeALI (Aspen Institute’s Africa Leadership Initiative), Nokia, and the International Youth Foundation.

Her Entrepreneurial Pursuit

Ndidi Nwuneli
Ndidi Nwuneli

In 2010, Nwuneli and her husband Mezuo Nwuneli, Co-Founded Sahel Consulting and AACE Foods. Sahel Consulting is a consulting and advisory firm specializing in the agriculture and manufacturing industries. Sahel was selected as the fund manager for Fund for Agricultural Finance in Nigeria (FAFIN), a $100m Fund focused on SME’s. The firm completed its first close of $33 million in 2014. Sahel Consulting has also provided advisory and consulting services to clients in Nigeria, Senegal, Ghana, and Liberia. It has also supported international agencies such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, USAID/ Africa LEAD, ECOWASDFID, Oxfam International, TechnoServe/ Humanity United, Alliance for a Green Revolution in AfricaIFDC, and the Ford Foundation. AACE Foods’ is focused on processing spices, complimentary food and spreads sourced from smallholder farmers across Nigeria. AACE’s work in promoting nutrition, supporting smallholder farmers and displacing imports have been recognized by the Africa Diaspora Marketplace, IAP and AECF. Both firms have served as catalysts in the Nigerian and West African agribusiness landscape

Ndidi Nwuneli
Ndidi Nwuneli

Awards and Recognition

  •  Aspen Institute New Voices Fellow   –  2018
  • Africa Women Innovation & Entrepreneurship Forum Award  –  2017
  • Change Agent of the Year at Awesome Awards     –   2016
  • Honoree of the Global Fund for Women during their 25th Anniversary Celebration in San Francisco – 2013
  • Winner of the Harvard Business School Nigeria Business Club 2013 Leading Social Entrepreneur Award
  • Forbes: 20 Youngest Power Women In Africa, 2011
  • Excellence Award from Anambra State, 2011
  • Selected for Harvard Business School’s Africa Business Club’s Excellence Award, 2007
  • Selected as Young Manager of the Year by THISDAYNewspapers (Nigeria’s leading newspaper), 2005
  • Received a National Honor – Member of the Federal Republic – from the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on December 16, 2004
  • Selected as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum, Davos; 2004
  • Selected as a Global Leader of Tomorrow by the World Economic Forum, Davos, Switzerland; 2002

She sits as Board Member on the following companies

In Conclusion

Ndidi Nuwuneli is such an inspiring woman making waves both locally and internationally. Here is my favourite of her quotes:

‘’You have to be very honest about what your limitations are and be very self- aware. You have to know when to shut down and say NO’’.

Ndidi Nwuneli

About the author

Joyce Olawunmi


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