Loyiso Bala has done it - just like he said he would four years ago. He's finished his MBA, four years after starting his PG Dip in Management Practice, and he did it the year he turned 40. There's just one difference... the multiple SAMA award-winning singing sensation who won the Johnny Clegg scholarship is graduating cum laude.
“I’m totally elated,” he says. “Looking back, I remember how anxious I was when I started and by the end of the first year being so unsure of my results.”
He rallied in the second year. “I got some really good marks and by the third stage after reaching out for some help, thought I might even finish with a distinction!”
He did and now the world’s his oyster.
“When I started, I didn’t have an undergraduate degree. My background was in music and in performing but my elective was in digital marketing and my dissertation was on digital disruption. Now with Covid-19, suddenly the entire world has to know that stuff. I always believed the future would be digital, but Covid-19 made it all happen that much faster, and when it did it was precisely what I was studying.”
Bala was able to apply what he had learnt and what he had studied about innovation to his job as channel director of Christian TV network, TBN Africa.
“We’ve been about two steps ahead of other companies in the sector in terms of pivoting to digital and in about two years’ time we should be fully transformed into the digital space,” he says.
He hopes his journey will inspire others who might have had the same background or who are working in the creative sector, as musicians or artists, to find the courage to dive in and study management practice.
“I’ve got the confidence now to work in innovation and digital disruption in any sector, not just music – all because of this degree and this journey, which at one stage was really just a dream.
“I really hope that my achievement inspires others, gives them hope to try because if I can do it, anyone can and not necessarily just in the MBA but in any field they want to get into. If they just put their heads down, they’ll be surprised at just how far they can get and become leaders in areas they never dreamt possible before.”
For Henley Business School Africa dean and director Jon Foster-Pedley, Bala has been a credit to the programme but also honoured the man whose scholarship he won.
“We set up the Johnny Clegg scholarship to commemorate an iconic South African and create opportunities for musicians in particular to be able to build sustainable businesses in the creative sector or, like Loyiso, unlock their potential and build their confidence to be able to venture into other sectors and play major roles there too.
“I think Loyiso is an inspiration for all our students but especially his fellow Johnny Clegg scholars like John Vlismas, who is today Henley’s marketing executive, and fellow musician Kahn Morbee, who is still busy with his studies. Loyiso has come from a non-traditional business background and a non-traditional academic background to pursue a ladder of learning in which he has won himself an internationally recognised triple-accredited executive MBA with distinction. It’s an achievement that he can be justly proud of – we certainly are of him.”
Henley Africa has created the largest self-funded scholarship programme of any business school in Africa, which allows the school to create diverse learning environments not just in terms of demographics but also in terms of interest, especially in non-traditional business disciplines like community leadership, media, sports, music or the creative sector. The net result is to further infuse the classroom with a far higher degree of representativity than either the boardroom or the shop floor.
“Where else will you get to share a class with a household name in music, a world standard TV anchor, a fantastic comedian, an internationally acclaimed investigative journalist or even a former prison gang boss turned community leader?” asks Foster-Pedley.
“It’s this kind of diversity and disruption that allows us to create the kind of agile, intuitive and innovative learning programmes that will help South Africa make sense of its post-Covid reality and allow us to build the leaders that will build the businesses that will build Africa.”
- Henley Business School Africa is a leading global business school with campuses in Europe, Asia and Africa. It holds elite triple international accreditation; has the number 1 business school alumni network in the world for potential to network (Economist 2017); and is the number 1 African-accredited and -campused business school in the world for executive education (FT 2018, 2020), as well as the number 1 MBA business school in South Africa as rated by corporate SA (PMR.Africa 2018, 2019, 2020).