Ada Osakwe


On Friday, 19th June, Ada Osakwe, award-winning food entrepreneur & investor, and Founder of The Nuli Juice Company, delivered the convocation address to the Kellogg School of Management Class of 2020. She is the first African to be given this honour and fourth black woman; following in the footsteps of outstanding Black-Americans Edith Cooper, Global Head of Human Capital at Goldman Sachs in 2017, Roslyn Brock, Chairman Emeritus of the NAACP in 2012 and media titan Oprah Winfrey, in 2011.

With a critical phase of their lives upended by the ongoing global health pandemic, the class of 2020 completed the last few months of their MBA degree Program virtually, instead of on campus in the classroom, and they will receive their diplomas in the mail or on their phones. Recognizing the need to offer extra inspiration at this extraordinary moment in history, in her commencement speech, Osakwe praised them for their bravery, resilience and courage!

For Ada, it’s important to believe in yourself to make it through challenging times: “So in your quest to thrive, there will be curve-balls thrown your way and you’ll have to take risks, it’s a given. But you’ve just got to trust your journey,” she advised the graduating students. As a Black-African, in her speech, Osakwe said she will always speak out against racial injustice and urged the non-blacks to also find their voices on this issue as allies to ensure there is more equality, tolerance and acceptance for all.

Ada Osakwe is a creative food entrepreneur and passionate agribusiness advocate. As the Founder and Chief Executive of Agrolay Ventures, an investment firm targeting early-stage agribusinesses, Ada seeks to redefine the food production and retail opportunity across Africa’s large consumer markets. Agrolay invests in food start-ups as well as incubates its own new agri-ventures. The company currently has four investments including The Nuli Juice Company, Nuli Foods, Nature’s Bounty and African Courier Express. For three years, on a secondment from the Tony Elumelu Foundation, Ada served as the Senior Investment Adviser to Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, the former Nigerian Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development. There, she advised the Minister on agriculture investment-related activities involving private sector investors and led investment policy and financing initiatives including the development and launch of the Fund for Agricultural Financing in Nigeria (FAFIN).

Prior to her role at the Ministry, Osakwe was a Vice-President at Kuramo Capital Management in New York, where she led the firm’s Private Equity investments. For four years, she was a Senior Investment Officer at the African Development Bank Group (AfDB), based in Tunisia. She began her career as an Analyst in the Debt Capital Markets team of BNP Paribas investment bank, London.

Ada received her MBA from the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University, holds an MSc in Economics and Finance from the University of Warwick, U.K. and a BSc in Economics (First Class Honours) from the University of Hull, U.K.

Osakwe is a Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum and on the 2016 Choiseul 100 Africa list, a unique ranking of young African economic leaders. She received the ‘Achiever in Agriculture’ Award in 2015 and in 2014, was named one of Forbes 20 Youngest Power Women in Africa.

A lover of nature and food production, she likes to describe herself as a creative food entrepreneur.