For Black History Month, we caught up with Queen Chinyere Quinn, an alumna of MPhil in Innovation, Strategy & Organisation (2010) and a PhD (2011-2015).
During her time at Cambridge Judge, Queen co-founded the Cambridge Africa Business Network (CABN), a Cambridge alumni- and student-led initiative to promote networking and dialogue about business in Africa.
Queen is a founding partner of Kupanda Capital, a leading investment and advisory firm established to incubate, capitalise and scale pan-African companies.
Queen reflects here on her experience as a co-founder of CABN and her hopes for positive change:
What motivated you to found the Cambridge Africa Business Network (CABN) and what was the vision behind it?
At the time, I was a PhD candidate researching the emergence of impact investing in frontier markets such as those in Africa, and I was interested in creating a forum for diverse perspectives about business, investment and entrepreneurship in Africa. I noticed that several of the leading business schools had student-led Africa business conferences and I thought it would make sense for there to be something similar at Cambridge Judge. I already had experience of launching a student-led conference while a graduate student at Harvard Kennedy School so I thought it would be great to collaborate with colleagues such as Namukale Chintu who shared the same vision.
What were the highlights during the inaugural year of CABN?
There was a lot of camaraderie among the Steering Committee, which comprised a cross-disciplinary team of students from the University. I think this diversity of perspectives contributed to the richness of the conference programme and the quality of the speakers – including high-level keynotes, such as the former President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo, and former Vice-President of Zambia, Dr Guy Scott, as well as leaders in the fields of finance, technology and academia. It was also wonderful to receive enthusiastic support from the senior leadership at Cambridge Judge, alongside the support from members of the then External Affairs team, who devoted significant time and energy to ensuring that the conference was a success. This helped to ensure that CABN could become institutionalised and endure beyond the inaugural year.
How did your work with CABN influence your subsequent career journey?
My experience with CABN reinforced my commitment to, and passion for, promoting sustainable investment on the continent and support for African entrepreneurs. This aligns with my work as a Founding Partner at Kupanda Capital, where we advise, create and scale impactful companies. For instance, one of the companies we created is Nithio, an AI-powered energy and climate financing platform to facilitate universal energy access for millions of people across the continent.
The strapline for this year’s Black History Month is: “Time for change; action not words”. How does this resonate with you?
This resonates with me especially as we embark on upcoming talks in November for COP27. Undoubtedly, the time for action on climate change is now and we have a profound moral responsibility, especially to those on the African continent who have contributed the least to climate change yet are disproportionately impacted by the effects of carbon emissions. As a global community, we can do more to ensure that the billions of dollars committed to developing countries during the Paris Climate Agreement actually reach the most vulnerable populations.
What changes would you like to see happen?
Continued dialogue, focused attention and bold policy action to redress the perverse system of inequality that exists in finance (limited credit and capital flows), business (limited board governance & C-suite representation) and healthcare (limited access & equity), and that disproportionately affects women and people of colour.