Reflections of an IESE MiM: Building the “85 to Africa”

I need a new conversation,
I need a new obligation…
From Accra to Abuja,
I’ll just take the 85 to Africa.
- Jidenna, “85 to Africa”

Winter time in Madrid has been an interesting one so far.

On the car ride from Moncloa to Aravaca, where my roommate’s car breathes in the morning air with a little taste of Latin reggaeton and African soca to get it going, I greet IESE’s Madrid campus with a hunger to build what I like to call, the 85 to Africa: a metaphoric highway connecting the Western world to the African world. With our classes in Business Analytics and Operations keeping me grounded in that vision, the Startup & Entrepreneurship club as well as the Technology, Media, and Telecom club keeping the ideas flowing, and my classmates encouraging me to lean into the creative risk that comes with that vision, at IESE, I find that innovation is the future of Africa. To build my 85, for me, that lifelong journey starts in three stages: finding ways to learn, making your mark, and then changing the world, just like the IESE mantra reminds us of each and every-day.

My name is Sabrina Elouardi. I am a Moroccan-American student, absolutely in love with globalization and the entertainment industry, and prior to coming to IESE, the world was a monsoon of black and whites for me. I’m an avid gamer (die-hard Witcher and Assassin’s Creed fan), I’m hungry to bring innovation to the gaming industries of the third world and wanted to do so serving African clients. However, in leaving my Bachelor’s – where I studied in Boston, as a graduate of Bentley University’s Service Operations & Supply Chain programming – I found my options limited.

If you wanted to study global markets, you went to London or New York to fuel those passions. If you wanted to study technology, you went to the Bay Area or Shanghai to get exposed to the rapid-fire growth of the technology sector. If you wanted to study media and entertainment, you went to Los Angeles or Paris, Milan or Barcelona, to get seduced by Hollywood dreams. Institutions scarcely touched Africa or talked about the opportunities that are currently present in the diaspora.

At IESE, however, I found out that I could forge my own path.

IESE Madrid Campus. Photo credit to Oscar Segarra and Anna Costa Reina, my fellow IESE MiM classmates!

I applied to IESE because in the Master in Management, what you put into it is what you get out of it. You make your own way forward and you do so with the support of IESE’s Madrid campus (where us MiMs and Executive MBA students reside), IESE’s Barcelona campus (where the MBA students reside), and IESE’s global network in Latin America, Eastern Europe, and Africa at your fingertips!

The mornings at IESE start with a strong cafecito and a deep dive into IESE’s famous case method where we get to put ourselves in the shoes of C-suite executives from Fortune 500s hailing from all over EMEA, LATAM, APAC, and North America. Then, after the cases of the morning, we join our teams to debate, digest, and discuss the coming cases of the day – soaking in the different perspectives, vast opinions, and diverse approaches to tackling the 21st century’s most pressing issues in the world of business. At IESE, we greet the rest of the day with a hunger to grow each other while growing ourselves, teaching each other while teaching ourselves, all with the unlimited access to knowledge of the greatest scholars in the world.

When I go to Argüelles, my home here in Madrid, I find Madrid to be my living, breathing, laboratory to test these ideas and theories. In the heart of the city of dreams, la villa del Oso y el Madroño, I get to grow on an individual level first – improve the way I approach cases iteratively by bringing in the African perspective, improve my approach to networking and job searching in Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa, improve the way I brainstorm innovative ideas for companies and social initiatives to tackle what will bring true, pure innovation back to the African diaspora and to my people, the Amazigh tribes of the Kingdom of Morocco. Then, I get to grow with my peers – two sections of 40 strong each – enjoying the nightlife of Ponzano and Malasaña, their stories, their truths. And finally, I get to bring those perspectives together, and continuously learn.

At IESE, from the first days I stepped onto the Madrid campus, to now, the world has been my oyster. We are getting ready to wrap up the second period of the MiM, recruitment season is coming for the Media & Entertainment sector, and the future is unparalleled. Outside of school I am working on publishing a novel, and within the Technology, Media, and Telecom club, I am bringing a chapter of my global media initiative Vérité 2030 to write about with my peers.

Undertaking IESE’s MiM for me, has served as one of the most rewarding experiences of my life because I get to learn about Africa’s position in the world relative to others. I get to write my own story, from taking ownership in the way I study the cases our professors assign, to using my classmates’ insights as fuel to understand some of the world’s most difficult business practices, to applying those learnings to my own projects, initiatives, and goals.

At IESE, I see the road I am building to Africa beneath me; I see everything I have fought for in my life as a first-generation, Moroccan-American woman, who pulled myself out of poverty against all odds. To build the world we deserve, we must be hungry to create opportunities. And by leveraging IESE’s esteemed faculty, staff, and students, I know I will build that 85 to Africa.

And I know that as a future IESE MiM student, you can build your own 85, too!

Happy Winter!

Here’s to the future,


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selouardi View more

IESE MiM Class of 2021

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