Deep in the conflict in South Sudan, you will run into Dr Addis Ababa Othow Akongdit, one man trying to both make a difference and be a role model to the youth both an academics and management.
Born in June 1974 in Malakal in the Upper Nile State, Dr Akongdit has risen to serve as managing director of Equity Bank in South Sudan.
The EastAfrican met Dr Akongdit in Nairobi where he had come to attend the bank’s board meeting.
Dr Akongdit comes across as go-getter, who though affable and soft-spoken has a burning desire to show that South Sudan is not all about wars but that her youth can reach for the stars if given peace and opportunity.
The holder of two PhDs is a man of many firsts: He is the first South Sudanese to head a regional bank in a challenging market where banks are struggling for foreign reserves due to the war.
His exploits do not stop there. Dr Akongdit got his second PhD in 2016 in Business Administration from Atlantic International University, USA, was the first southerner to work as a teaching assistant in the Faculty of Commerce and Economics at Al-Neelain University, Khartoum between 1996 and 1997.
“I had to demonstrate to the northerners that the southerners can have the ability to teach. I again moved to Central Bank of Sudan where southerners just dreamed of,” said Dr Akongdit.
He speaks fluent English, Arabic, Dutch and his mother tongue Shilluk. Dr Akongdit was named Addis Ababa by his father because he was impressed by the 1972 Addis Ababa Agreement that ended the 17-year conflict between the Anya Nya led by Gen Joseph Lagu and the Sudanese army, and which ushered in semi-autonomy for the southern region.
His parents wanted him to be a medical doctor but later changed course.
He went to school in Malakal until 1988 when he moved to Khartoum and then Port Sudan where he attended secondary school and Al-Neelain University, where he graduated in 1995 with a bachelor’s degree in Economics.
As a student, he experienced first-hand, the discrimination visited on South Sudanese by the Arab north. However, this did not make him bitter but made him sensitive to other people’s needs.
He got a scholarship to study accountancy at Free University Amsterdam. Upon graduating, he worked with Dubios & Co Chartered Accountants as an assistant accountant/auditor until 2010 when he came back to his homeland, the Republic of South Sudan.
“At Dubois, I was the first African there and I demonstrate that Africans were capable. It was akin to carrying the whole of Africa on my head,” he said.
Besides his Equity job, he still creates time to supervise Master’s degree students at the Juba University.
Dr Akongdit believes that he is lucky that most times finds himself in situations where he has to follow the untrodden path and beat a path for those coming behind him.
He, however, attributes his steady rise to integrity, honesty and passion. “It is a big challenge to head Equity in South Sudan and it comes with enormous pressure but it a good opportunity for me to demonstrate to the team that South Sudanese are ready to take over corporate leadership,” he said.
Given his many firsts, Dr Akongdit wants to change the attitude of young South Sudanese through leadership mentorship programmes and scholarships.
Dr Akongdit wants to mentor the youth from poor background to gain higher education. He planned to incorporate South Sudanese students into the Equity Wings to Fly Scholarship programme but then the war broke out in 2013 everything got interrupted.
Instead, he runs the South Sudanese Leadership Programme that sponsors talented but disadvantaged students to higher learning institutions in Canada, US and Kenya.
This article was first published on The EastAfrican