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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 in Africa and the foremost advocate for a brand-led African renaissance. In a distinguished corporate career that started at Colgate Palmolive in New York, USA after being awarded the Marquette University American Marketing Association award for marketing excellence in 1992 and concluded in a lauded tenure as chief marketing officer for NIKE for Africa in 2002, he won over 75 industry awards globally. He is the founder of Brand Leadership, the award-winning Africa-focused branding advisory firm inducted into the New York based REBRAND “Hall of Fame” for excellence in branding in 2015; Brand Africa, a brand-led initiative to re-imagine Africa’s image and competitiveness; Brand Africa 100: Africa’s Best Brands, the widely referenced survey and ranking of brands in Africa, and Africa Brand Leadership Academy (ABLA), to build the capacity and talent for Africa-focused brand leadership.

He has since been 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 honoured with the Financial Mail AdFocus Lifetime Achievement award in 2021 and the Public Relations Institute of SA Lifetime Achievement award in 2022 for his contributions to marketing, branding and communications.

A fellow of the Institute of Directors, he is a non-executive director at PSI Health Services and a Trustee of the WWF Nedbank Green Trust; and has held numerous public and private sector directorships, including 10 years at South African Tourism, where he served as deputy Chairman for a term, 7 years at the JSE and now NYSE listed Cartrack Group, 15 years at Mercantile Bank, 10 years at WWF South Africa, and full terms at Brand South Africa, Foodcorp Group and Nike South Africa, among others. He has served in all significant industry bodies, including as the inaugural vice-chairman of the Brand Council of Southern Africa and as the first indigenous African chairman of the Loeries, the premier advertising awards in Africa and the Middle East.

Born in Kimberley, South Africa, he has been to over 110 countries worldwide, visited every country in Africa and every continent in the world; summitted Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and Mount Elbrus in Russia, the highest mountain in Africa and Europe; sky-dived in Swakopmund Namibia; jumped the tallest bunjee in the world, Bloukrans Bridge, and took a plunge into the coldest waters on planet in Antarctica.

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.

Based in Johannesburg, South Africa, he advices, writes and speaks on all branding, intellectual property and related matters in Africa and widely quoted and interviewed globally by inter alia, BBC, CNN, FT and others.

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.