ABF Frequently Asked Questions

Basic FAQs

The Africa Board Fellowship takes place over the course of approximately six months and has the three components of: in-person seminars, personal advising and a virtual collaboration space. The in-person seminars are two-and-a-half days long and they bookend the fellowship with an opening kick-off seminar and a closing seminar at the end. The personal advising aspect of the fellowship matches fellows with advisors to establish and work towards individual and institutional goals. The collaboration space provides fellows with an opportunity to continue interacting with each other, faculty, advisors and subject matter experts between seminars. The collaboration space will provide more in-depth discussions, peer knowledge exchange and collaboration. It will also be a rich source of tools, resources, and expertise specific to board members and CEOs. 

The fellowship is mainly focused on governance topics, which an emphasis on risk management and strategy. Cases, content and resources will also cover the priority topics of managing sustainable growth, understanding and assessing new technologies and business models, navigating competitive and challenging markets, board composition and dynamics, and client centricity. These topics were identified through a thorough a Technical Needs and Demand Assessment conducted in 2014 but will be refreshed and modified based on the individual needs of each class.

The fellowship requires participation in all three aspects of the program: seminars, advising and the collaboration space. These components are not available separately to participants. Additionally, it is important that fellows make travel arrangements which will allow for participation in the full duration of the seminars.

Currently, the Africa Board Fellowship is limited to English speakers only.

Each fellowship cohort will have approximately 30-40 fellows. The cohorts will run back-to-back with one class starting in the spring (April-May) and ending in the fall (November-December), and the next class starting in the fall and ending in the spring.

In addition to attending two seminars for the full two-and-a-half days each, fellows are encouraged to engage regularly with their advisors, and also with peer fellows, faculty and subject experts through the virtual collaboration space. Fellows should expect to commit at least 3-4 hours per month for the duration of the fellowship, which will last approximately six months. The expectation is that fellows will participate in the majority of webinars presented through the virtual collaboration space.

Program fellows who fully complete and participate in the Africa Board Fellowship are invited to join the Accion-HBS Program on Strategic Leadership in Inclusive Finance. Fellows have to attend the Africa Board Fellowship program first and cannot attend both programs in the same year. Fellows are being offered the opportunity to attend the Accion-HBS course but funding for participation in the Accion-HBS program is separate.

The two-and-a-half day seminars require participation in many events both throughout the day and during the evenings. Most of the free time is structured around getting to know the other fellows. To get the most out of the fellowship program, it is advised that fellows do not bring spouses, friends or family members with them to the seminars. If you do choose bring someone with you, they would not be able to attend seminar meals or events. Also, all fellows are asked to stay at the location designated for the seminars and there may not be additional rooms available at that location for guests.

Participation FAQs

By the end of the ABF, participants will possess the technical knowledge and tools to be agents of change for effective governance at their institutions, and for the industry as a whole. This includes:

1. Clear sense of responsibilities and authorities as board members and management.
2. Understanding and implementing best practice governance structures and functions.
3. Identifying key strategic junctures and turning points when the board or CEO has to assert its authority.
4. Monitoring and assessing institutional risks faced and ensuring that the risk management system (RMS) provides them with adequate information so the board can ensure the continued survival and viability of the company implementing sound risk management strategies.
5. Listening to and keeping the client at the center of strategic decisions.
6. Ensuring that the company has the necessary human and technical resources to navigate competitive and challenging environments successfully.
7. Fostering good board dynamics and function, and the appropriate relationship between management and the board so that management and the board effectively and consistently focus on their core responsibilities.

Fellows will coordinate with their advisors to set institutional goals for the program, and work toward those goals during their fellowship. The institutional goals will be supported by individual fellow task assignments and fellows are also encouraged to develop separate individual goals with their advisors. We also request that all fellows connect directly with clients during the duration of their fellowship. Finally, we ask that participants share their fellowship experience with a larger audience, whether through a speaking event, participation in a roundtable, writing a blog, or by being featured in a publication or video.

In advance of the opening in-person seminar, fellows will be asked to join a virtual information session to meet their fellow participants, and to receive an overview of the collaboration space and the fellowship. It is encouraged that fellows also spend some independent time interacting with the virtual platform prior to the program to familiarize themselves with the content, resources, facilitators, and functionality available through the platform. Fellows will meet their advisors in-person at the first seminar but will also be contacted by their advisors to schedule an introductory welcome call in advance of the first seminar. Additionally, fellows will be sent cases in advance of both seminars, which they need to read prior to the seminars.

Advisors are seasoned professionals with personal board experience, and experience in or knowledge of financial inclusion and Africa. They often have previous experience with mentoring, coaching or advising and all advisors will also go through a training program specifically for the ABF program. You can expect your advisor to be a peer and to be able to share their personal experiences and knowledge. You can expect them to be a resource able to provide informed advice, and to recommend additional resources as needed. Advisors will help fellows to structure their goals and to develop plans for working toward those goals. Advisors will then schedule regular times to speak with fellows about their goal progress, helping to address and roadblocks to obstacles that might arise.

In-person seminars are case-based and structured in a manner that encourages peer-to-peer learning and discussions among fellows. These discussions will take place through facilitated small groups of 6-8 fellows and plenary sessions with all participants. Fellows will be grouped into independent study teams during the seminars as a resource to prepare the cases. Seminars will also include a variety of keynote speakers, multimedia presentations, and panels. Fellows will arrange a time outside of the agenda to meet one-on-one with their advisors in order to further discuss their goals for the fellowship. At the first seminar, fellows are also asked to schedule a time with one of the program coordinators to receive a personalized overview of the virtual collaboration space.

Post fellowship, you will receive an invitation to join the private ABF alumni group on LinkedIn, and you will also receive a photo of your ABF class, and a certificate of completion. All alumni are encouraged to continue connecting with past and current fellows through the virtual collaboration space. Fellow alumni will be contacted after the program as part of our monitoring and evaluation process, to share any changes they’ve implemented because of their fellowship experience. We may also contact alumni to share their fellowship experience with a larger audience, whether through a speaking event, participation in a roundtable, writing a blog, or by being featured in a publication or video. We also would appreciate hearing from alumni regarding any changes they would suggest to the fellowship, or with any referrals for future programs.

Application and Eligibility FAQs

The Africa Board Fellowship (ABF) program is for board members and CEOs of institutions working toward financial inclusion throughout sub-Saharan Africa. The program requires an institutional commitment and suggests that the board chair, CEO and at least one other board member attend the fellowship program. Ideally, at least the board chair and CEO would attend together as part of the same class and then additional participants from the institution can join future classes.

On select occasions, individual representatives will be selected as fellows for the program on a case-by-case basis. We are looking for fellows who are eager to share their experiences, learn from their peers, implement changes and strengthen their governance, risk management and strategic planning.

Interested parties should submit an online form to indicate their interest in becoming a fellow. These expressions of interest are accepted on a rolling basis. Accepted institutions will receive an institutional application to fill out, including information about the CEO and board members that would participate. Fellows would also agree to the terms of the fellowship by signing and submitting the institutional application. Accepted fellows will be contacted for a follow-up call. This process from application to selection should take between two to three months.

Yes. The program is mainly focused toward microfinance institutions but is open to all institutions working toward financial inclusion. Most classes will include participants from institutions that are not MFIs.

A large portion of fellowship participation does require at least some internet connectivity. However, the fellowship is structured to be participant-led and virtual content is not time-sensitive. Fellows can interact with the virtual collaboration space at times when they have internet access, and at their convenience.

To be considered a fellow, participants would have to complete the entire program, attending both seminars and actively engaging with the collaboration space and their advisor throughout the fellowship. However, we recognize that situations arise that may preclude that. In these cases, fellows may be able to join a future class, if they still qualify. However, the institution will not be able to substitute in a new participant once the program has started. Any current/remaining fellows from that institution are encouraged to complete the fellowship. Any participants unable to complete the program are not eligible for automatic acceptance in the Accion-HBS Program on Strategic Leadership in Inclusive Finance.

Cost and Affiliation FAQs

The only out-of-pocket expenses for fellows to participate in the Africa Board Fellowship program are the travel costs of getting to and from the two in-person seminars. Once fellows arrive at the seminars, costs associated with hotel accommodation and food will be covered for the duration of the seminars. Fellows would cover any additional costs incurred if they decide to extend their travels, bring additional guests, or exceed the specified allotment for hotel incidentals. All fellows are required to stay at the location being provided for the seminars.

ABF is implemented by the Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion (CFI), an action-oriented think tank working toward financial inclusion, and a branch of Accion. The ABF program is not associated directly with Accion’s operations in Africa, and although some Accion affiliates may participate in the program, the program is open to all institutions throughout sub-Saharan Africa who are working toward financial inclusion.

One institution per country will be invited to participate in each class. This will help build a candid atmosphere conducive to productive, open discussions on risk and governance. In select cases, more than one institution may attend the same class from the same country but only if both institutions agree to this arrangement.

Additional Questions? Contact Us.

We are happy to provide additional information and answer your questions about ABF.

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