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Frequently Asked Questions

Many studies and experience have shown that brands can shape a nation's image, while a nation's image can also significantly influence purchase decisions. In "Brand New Justice", Simon Anholt argues that "branding is a powerful tool for economic development, and can make a worthwhile contribution to the growth of places." Consequently, as Wally Olins established in "Trading Identities": "As countries develop their "national brands" to compete for investment, trade and tourism, global companies are using nation-building techniques to achieve internal cohesion across cultures, becoming ever more involved in providing public services like education and health."

Therefore, there is no doubt that brands will play a pivotal role in the differentiation and development of Africa.

But to build great brands in Africa, brand builders need to understand the African consumer not just where they are but where they come from carrying their own dreams and the dreams of their villages. In that way, as Feyi Olubodun posits in “The Villager: How Africans Consume Brands,” the African village can no longer be viewed as a physical space, but a psychological construct that defines the filters through which African consumers engage with and consumes brands,” and the African consumer “ultimately as the economic portal of their communities and nations.”

Africa Brand Leadership Academy [ABLA] is an Africa-focused, post-graduate academy of brand leadership. Our aim is to ignite the ability of ambitious individuals and visionary organisations to create the next generation of meaningful brands that have the power to transform Africa and inspire the world.

Inspired by the African Union Agenda 2063 vision of an integrated, peaceful and prosperous Africa, ABLA aims to contribute to that agenda by sharpening the minds that build the brands that will grow the greatness of the continent.

ABLA is tailored for executives, entrepreneurs and the next generation of leaders building brands and businesses in Africa.

ABLA programmes are delivered through a blended approach anchored on our e-learning ABLA Learning Management System platform and integrate webinars, face-to-face and immersions. The delivery is structured to provide a dynamic mix of independent, experiential and live learning and are supplemented by an extensive Africa-focused digital library with the latest journals, periodicals, research and books on building brands and businesses in Africa and the world.

ABLA is a Hybrid Private Higher Education provider with regional hubs in key African economic capitals.


We are inspired by the diversity, entrepreneurial spirit and authenticity of Africa, and driven by a deep passion and the pursuit of purpose-led learning in order to have a meaningful impact on the continent and its people.



Thebe Ikalafeng

Thebe Ikalafeng is the Founding Principal of the Academy. He mobilises and leads a global African network of educators, supporters and partners to achieve the ABLA vision.

Thebe Ikalafeng is the pre-eminent global African authority in branding and leading advocate for a brand-led African renaissance. Described as the “the foremost branding and reputation authority in Africa” and recognized as one of the ‘100 Most Influential Africans’ by respected UK based New African Magazine, and one of the ‘100 Most Influential Creative People of African Descent’ during the United Nations ‘International Year of the Creative Economy for Sustainable Development’ in 2021, he has had a profound, sustained and distinguished contribution to branding in Africa and shaping a positive narrative for the continent in a career that spans over 30 years building brands across Africa.

Building on a distinguished corporate career that started at Colgate Palmolive in New York, USA and concluded with a lauded tenure as chief marketing officer for NIKE for Africa in 2002 where he won over 75 industry awards globally, and having been to every African country, he has purposefully committed his life’s work to inspiring Africans to create and consume African brands, and building competitive brand-led industries that will transform the continent’s reputation and economy, create jobs and ultimately alleviate poverty and inequality.

He is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Brand Leadership, the award-winning Africa-focused pan-African branding advisory firm which was inducted into the New York based REBRAND “Hall of Fame” for excellence in branding in 2015. In 2010 he founded the Brand Africa initiative to re-imagine Africa’s image and competitiveness, and “Brand Africa 100 | Africa’s Best Brands,” the widely cited survey and ranking of brands in Africa, to champion a brand-led African transformation agenda. In 2020 he founded the Africa Brand Leadership Academy [ABLA] to build the capacity and talent for Africa-focused brand leadership.

Inspired by former South African president Thabo Mbeki’s speech at the United Nations University on 9 April 1998 that “out of Africa reborn must come modern products of human economic activity, significant contributions to the world of knowledge, in the arts, science and technology, new images of an Africa of peace and prosperity,” and Ghana’s founding president Kwame Nkrumah’s speech on 24 May 1963, the eve of the founding of the Organisation of African Union (OAU) (the forerunner to the African Union), that “we must unite now or perish,” he has inspired and mobilized the continent around a brand-led agenda to inspire an African renaissance and realize this vision for a united and competitive continent.

His seminal Brand Africa initiative and pan-African research over the past 12 years across over 30 countries which collectively account for over 85% of Africa’s GDP and population, which is published annually on or round Africa Day, 25 May, has been reported and quoted widely globally by inter-alia, African Business, CNN, BBC, FT, New African Magazine and media in all major metropolitan Africa. Every year he tirelessly travels the continent to highlight, celebrate and champion excellent local and multi-national African brands, and inspire and empower local brand builders and entrepreneurs to build great African brands.

He was awarded a Marquette University American Marketing Association for marketing excellence upon graduation cum laude in 1992. A trailblazing and recognized doyen of branding in Africa, he was recognized with an Institute of Marketing Management (IMM) Roll of Honour in 2001, named one of the ‘100 Most Influential Africans’ by New African Magazine in 2013 and 2015 and one of the 100 Most Influential Creative People of African Descent in support of the United Nations ‘International Year of the Creative Economy for Sustainable Development’ in 2021. He has been recognized with the Financial Mail AdFocus Lifetime Achievement award in 2021 and the Public Relations Institute of Southern Africa Lifetime Achievement award in 2022 for his contributions to marketing, branding, communications and the industry. He was recognized as one of the African Titans in 2022 by the UAE Africa Networking Group. His work has earned over 75 awards in marketing communications and branding globally, including Loeries, D&AD, Cannes Lions, Institute of Marketing Management, FinWeek AdReview and the REBRAND Hall of Fame.

He has served in all significant industry bodies and adjudicated most of the significant industry awards in Africa and beyond, including as the first African to judge the prestigious Red Dot (www.red-dot.org) design awards in Germany (2014 – 2020); as the first indigenous African chairman of the Loeries, the premier advertising awards in Africa and the Middle East (1998 – 2002) and AdFocus, the landmark South African marketing and communications awards (2003 – 2004), through which he championed the creative industry’s Africa-focused transformation agenda; as the inaugural vice-chairman of the Brand Council of Southern Africa (2012 – 2015), and as a non-executive director at the Marketing Federation of Southern Africa (2002 – 2005), among others.

He has been invited to speak at most consequential Africa-focused forums across Africa and globally and written prolifically on leadership, branding and intellectual property, and has co-hosted the inaugural ‘CNBC Africa | Marketing, Media and Money’ show that navigates the billion dollar advertising industry in Africa.

A fellow of the Institute of Directors, he is a non-executive director on the Population Services International (PSI) board and a Trustee of the WWF Nedbank Green Trust. He has held extensive diverse public and private sector directorships, including a 15 years tenure at Mercantile Bank, 10 years at WWF South Africa, 10 years at South African Tourism, including one term as deputy Chairman of the board, 7 years at the New York Stock Exchange listed Cartrack Group, and served on the boards of Brand South Africa, Foodcorp Group and Nike South Africa, and as a member of the Durban University of Technology (DUT) council, among others.

A Chartered Marketer (SA), Ikalafeng holds BSc and MBA degrees specializing in marketing from Marquette University in the USA and a Master of Laws (LLM) in Intellectual Property from the University of Turin in Italy in collaboration with the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) in Geneva, Switzerland, and completed executive education at Wits Business School and Harvard Business School.

Born in Kimberley, South Africa and based in Johannesburg, South Africa, he has been to over 110 countries worldwide, every country in Africa and every continent in the world; summitted Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and Mount Elbrus in Russia, the highest mountains in Africa and Europe, and Mount Sinai in Egypt where God is purported to have given Moses the Ten Commandments; sky-dived in Swakopmund Namibia, where the stark beauty of one of the world's oldest deserts meets the Atlantic ocean; walked the 116 km Moshoeshoe walk, that retraces the path the great Basotho King Moshoeshoe I walked as he led his people to the safety of the top of Thaba Bosiu natural fortress in the 19th century; jumped the tallest bunjee in the world at Bloukrans Bridge, and took a plunge into the coldest waters on planet in Antarctica.

ABLA has a structured governance approach based on sound and best practice principles for organizing and managing a higher education institution with a pan-African focus and reach.


Dr Eleni Zaude Garbre-Madhin


Dr. Eleni Zaude Gabre-Madhin (Ethiopia) is a globally recognized thought leader and has held senior leadership at the World Bank, the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington, UNCTAD in Geneva, and is the founder and former CEO of the highly acclaimed Ethiopia Commodity Exchange (ECX) and LLC, Africa’s leader in designing, building, and supporting the operations of commodity exchange eco-systems in frontier markets. She is the founder and chief executive of blueMoon, Ethiopia’s first youth agribusiness/agritech incubator and seed investor and promoter of blueSpace, the first full service co-working space company. Gabre-Madhin has a PhD in applied economics from Stanford University, an MSc in Agricultural Economics from Michigan State University, and BA in economics from Cornell University, and received the Outstanding Dissertation award by the American Agricultural Economics Association in 1999. Eleni was recognized as Devex’ 2016 Top 5 Women Global Women of Impact, Newsweek 125 Global Women of Impact 2013, New African 100 Most Influential Africans 2012, and Yara Prize winner 2012, 50 Women Shaping Africa by The Africa Report in 2011, and Ethiopian Person o fthe Year in 2009.


The ABLA Council is the highest decision making body of the Academy. It is responsible for the good order and overall governing of the Academy. In discharging its role, the Council provides strategic direction and oversight on regulatory compliance, performance, quality of content and instruction, evaluation integrity, maintenance of appropriate financial affairs and institutional reputation in the management of the Academy. The council is not involved in the day-to-day management of the Academy which is delegated to the executive management, led by the Principal, who in turn is accountable to the Council.


Professor Tjama Tjivikua


Professor Tjama Tjivikua is a retired Namibian academic, Founding Rector of the Polytechnic of Namibia since its inception in September 1995 (later rebranded to NUST – the Namibia University of Science and Technology in 2015), which he served as the Founding Vice-Chancellor until March 2019.

Tjivikua left Namibia in June 1979 to study Chemistry in the United States at Rockland Community College (1979–1980), and then Lincoln University (1980–1983), from where he graduated cum laude. He then completed a MSc at University of Massachusetts Lowell (formerly University of Lowell) and a PhD at the University of Pittsburgh and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The thesis was on molecular recognition in organic chemistry.

He was a well recognised researcher at that time, and he worked as Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Lincoln University from 1990 to 1995 until he returned to Namibia to assume leadership at the Polytechnic. He is probably one of the first Namibian to receive a doctorate in the natural sciences, and one of the first doctoral honorees at his age in 2006.

Tjivikua has served on national bodies such as the National Planning Commission (1998–2009), the Namibia Qualifications Authority (1997–2019), the Namibia Council for Higher Education (2006–2010) and several others.

Tom Sitati

Dr. Puleng Makhoalibe
Lesotho/South Africa

Feyi Olubodun

Rebecca Enonchong

Omar ben Yedder


Professor Lyal White
South Africa

Kwame Senou
Côte d’Ivoire

ABLA Secretariat ensures that Council procedures are both followed and regularly reviewed, to guide the Council on their duties, responsibilities and powers under the rules and regulations to which they are subject as a private higher education provider, and on how they should be discharged.

Academic Committee

The ABLA academic committee, under the chairmanship of the Principal, is the highest authority of academics, exercising the power in decision-making, examination, evaluation and consultation on all academic affairs of the Academy to ensure that quality content, teaching and learning remain the utmost priority and aligned with the institutional vision. This Committee formulates the guidelines, rules and regulations of the Academic affairs of the Academy.



Thebe Ikalafeng (South Africa) is arguably the foremost global African branding authority. In a distinguished corporate career which started at Colgate Palmolive in New York and concluded as chief marketing officer for NIKE for Africa, he won over 75 awards in branding and marketing communication globally. He has travelled to over 100 countries globally, every continent in the world and to every country in Africa. This experience provides him with an advantageous global African perspective on African consumers and building brands in Africa. He has been recognized by New African Magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential Africans.

He is the founder of the award-winning Brand Leadership Group and has worked on over 100 corporate, nation and political brands across Africa. The Brand Leadership pan-African branding and reputation advisory firm has been recognised by Fin Week Magazine as “Marketing Services Agency of the Year” in 2008 and was inducted into the Rebrand “Hall of Fame” for Excellence in Branding in 2015.

He is the founder of the non-profit Brand Africa initiative to mobilize Africans and the diaspora to proactively drive a brand-led African agenda and the widely regarded Brand Africa 100: Africa’s Best Brands initiative to survey, understand and celebrate leading brands in Africa.

A fellow of the Institute of Directors, he is a non-executive director at South African Tourism where he has served a term as Vice Chairman of the Board and Chairman of the Marketing and Commercial Committee and WWF South Africa. He has held directorships in the public and private sector on listed and non-listed organizations, including a 15 years tenure on the board of Mercantile Bank Group and 7 years tenure on the listed Cartrack Group operating in over 25 countries globally, where he served as Chairman of the Remuneration and the Social and Ethics Committees, and served full terms on the boards of Brand South Africa, Foodcorp, Nike and the inaugural Brand Council of Southern Africa, and is a former council member of the Durban University of Technology and advisory council member of the Vega School of Brand Leadership.

Ikalafeng has summited Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, the highest free-standing mountain in the world, and Mount Elbrus in Russia, the highest mountain in Europe.

Ikalafeng holds BSc. and MBA degrees from Marquette University in the USA and LLM (Intellectual Property) from the University of Turin in Italy, completed executive education at Wits Business School and Harvard Business School and is a Chartered Marketer.

Based in Johannesburg, South Africa, he advices, writes and speaks on Africa-focused branding, leadership and related matters. Africa is central to everything he does.

Human Resources

Basetsana Magano is a seasoned and respected Human Resources professional and leadership coach with over 30 year track record of developing and driving HR strategy to measurable success across multiple industries. She has held executive roles at various benchmark local and global organisations, including as Human Resources Director at Nike and Hewlett Packard and Executive GM – Group HR at Mutual & Federal. She earned an Advanced Diploma in Labour Law (University of Johannesburg), MBA (Milpark Business School), Bachelor of Administration from Newport University, Leadership Development Program (Wharton), Senior Management Program (Henley) and Advanced Diploma in Law (University of Johannesburg) and is a certified Coach.

Her passion and understanding of people has enabled her to engage successfully with people of diverse backgrounds and levels across organisations. Her authenticity and transparency are invaluable to her role as a facilitator enabling her to drive cultural integration and transform organisational culture in line with both the business values and overall growth objectives. Discipline, diligence and resilience are the qualities she values most which have seen her advance from humble beginnings as a reservation agent to one of the most respected Human Resource leaders.

An experienced board member, Magano has served as a non-executive chairperson of Go-Awaste, chairperson of Nike South Africa Pension and Provident Fund, a member of the boards of Larox South Africa, HP Pension and Provident Fund, Mutual & Federal Pension Fund, and is currently a Chairperson of Thuto Thebe Educational Fund and a board member of Unisa Centre of Business Management.

Governance and Compliance Advisor

John Arnesen has focused on post-school education policy, strategy and leadership career spans for over forty years. He has worked for Eskom, the Institute of Marketing Management, the Financial Planning Institute, the South African Qualifications Authority and Chartall Business College. .

He holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree (Rhodes University (1978), Honours in Commerce and Business Economics UNISA (1983), the MDP UNISA (1985), the General Manager Programme from Harvard Business School in Boston (1998), and the Chartered Marketer (SA) (Institute of Marketing Management) (1999). Arnesen is a registered assessor and moderator and an ASDSA Master Skills Development Practitioner.

Instructional Designer

Hendrien van Zyl is a specialist instructional designer with extensive experience in training needs analysis, design of accredited curricula and the development of learning and assessment material, technical workplace procedures and training manuals for traditional and interactive online learning environments.

Van Zyl holds a B Com (Personnel Management), B Com (Hons) (Business Economics) (UP), Higher Education Diploma (HED) and MBA all from the University of Pretoria, and Strategic Implementation of ICT Integration in Education (Wits in collaboration with GetSmarter).

She is passionate about contributing to the growth of individuals, teams and organisations through formal and informal coaching, mentoring and consultation.