BSN graduate, Matilde Mendes: “An MBA allows people to expand their knowledge on their chosen sector issues. I find this to be crucial, especially in emerging countries.”
Matilde Gomes Mendes, 39, from Guinea-Bissau studied an MBA with BSN, through the Netherlands Fellowship Programmes (NFP) scholarship, in 2011. She graduated two years later, proud and very grateful. “If I hadn’t ever received this great opportunity I would never have been able to study an MBA. As a low-income professional, living in a poorly managed, fragile country depending on external aid, challenged by the army and socio-political instability (dating back to the eighties!), I could never afford studying such an impressive programme.”
How did the NFP scholarship benefit your life?
“When I received the NFP scholarship through EP-Nuffic it changed my life by providing the opportunity for me to access a quality MBA education and enabling my socio-professional development. Today, I am sure of my quality education, experience and professional open-mindedness. In addition, in terms of social entrepreneurship, I am very resourceful.”
Which personal skills improved most when you studied your MBA?
“It’s been a few years since I completed my studies, but I’d have to say my business awareness, multi-disciplinary approach to team management, flexibility and written communication skills improved most. I was a completely different person before I commenced with my studies as I was a dominant teammate, who then turned into a more collaborative, flexible, driven and persuasive teammate/coach/consultant as my MBA studies continued, and still now, years later.”
You are currently involved in various initiatives, what is it that you do, exactly?
“After leaving my previous company, SNV Guinea Bissau, I started working as a consultant/technical assistant delivering ‘tailor- made’ management services to cooperatives, particularly the PROAGRI, UN agencies, international consultancy firms, NGOs and social entrepreneurs. My job entails running programmes and project management, monitoring and evaluation, perception studies, supporting administrative teams to improve accounting and finance management practices, coaching young professionals, introducing them to management service delivery, team working and Action Learning. Currently, I work for the European Union Delegation in Guinea-Bissau.”
Is food security a priority area for Guinea Bissau?
“Yes. Food security in Guinea-Bissau is still very critical, due to plaguing socio-political instability. Despite the country’s natural potentials, food security figures are still worrying and strongly dependent on sector performance.”
What do you think is needed for the food security crisis to improve?
“I think that the country would need to achieve autonomy in terms of staple food production and the diversification of the national ‘agro-export’, aiming at empowering economic operators, including rural families, boost the national economy, leverage public finance and contribute for re-establishing social peace.”
How do you wish to contribute to this necessary change and improvement?
“I would like to contribute by becoming involved in diversification dynamics, to help increase cash crop production, and creating a suitable condition for rice, otherwise dry cereal and peanut mass production. Strategically, I would support farmers’ organisations by offering them better quality products, which captures high market value.”
How important do you think it is for individuals in emerging markets to study further, perhaps specifically by studying an MBA, and focus on specific sectors?
“I think it is very important. This would allow them to deepen their knowledge on chosen sector issues, master different learning tools, and contribute to knowledge production and sharing. Furthermore, they would be able better equipped to deal with challenges in these specific sectors.”
Is it important for you to give back to your community?
“I find it to be very important for me to give back to the community, in order to allow it to afford advisory support on its agribusiness initiatives, through an accessible knowledge sharing method.”
How do you give back to your community?
“I meet many women, men and youth, whom I’d previously advised, who are now able to run their initiatives autonomously, supporting their communities’ initiatives and inspiring others to develop their businesses. Overall, for the past decade, I have assisted different communities in developing their social business initiatives. I participated in many regional network initiatives on rural socio-economic development, including peace building, gender, and community-based initiatives focused on overcoming HIV/AIDS, market access, food security and land tenures.”
What’s your biggest dream for the future?
“My biggest dream for the future is to pursue a doctoral degree and to gain a better understanding of my country’s challenges, especially how to sustain its economic growth through public finance reform and healthy investments on export diversification. There is still very little information about the development of countries with very fragile public management institutions. My plan is to help invest in diversification and increase household production and income where possible.”