Alumni Thriving on Locust: Alumni Q&A on Private Equity and Sustainable Infrastructure

Sadio Wade joyfully walking across the Wharton graduation stage in 2019

When I won the Jacobson Global Venture Award in 2021, I reached out to both Lauder and Wharton Alumni and was connected with a wonderful alumni community across West Africa. The Lauder Alumni community is top tier and here is how they differ from their MBA peers:

Wharton Alumni will reply to an email and set up a call with you – however, Lauder Alumni reply to the email and invite you to lunch to break bread!

When I connect with Sadio Wade in Dakar, Senegal, he invited me to lunch in Alamadies, a posh neighborhood that’s home to some of the country’s most influential institutions. He was the first Lauder alumni member who welcomed me to his beautiful country! Over lunch, he shared anecdotes of his experience at Actis, his investment firm. He also encouraged me within entrepreneurship and offered other introductions for alumni in the area.

In this article, I am highlighting Sadio Wade’s, WG’19, G’19, robust career journey. This Senegalese business professional holds THREE master’s degrees and has worked in Paris, London, and Dakar. He has even guided a client to divest from a bank in Greece during the Greek sovereign debt crisis. While he graduated from Wharton/Lauder a few years before me, I read his profile in the Lauder Class Bio book, met him at the Wharton Africa Business Forum, and gravitated toward his passion for private equity and the African continent. After Sadio and I connected at lunch, we kept in touch and Sadio invited me out again for dinner with other Lauder alumni in Dakar. Sadio continues to support me time and time again, and I am honored to profile his business trajectory.

Wharton Africa Student Association informal student gathering as a farewell to INSEAD exchange students

AN: Sadio, outline your journey to Wharton/Lauder.

SW: “I was born and raised in Senegal – my formative years were spent here. However, my dad worked at a Pan-African airline company called Air Afrique and moved to Abidjan, Ivory Coast to pursue his career. While my family is Senegalese, we spent a considerable amount of time in Abidjan. Having the opportunity to travel early helped me develop a global lens and a strong interest in development policies for Africa. Additionally, my uncle was a well-educated businessman, and encouraged me to follow in his footsteps by considering a business school in France through the “classe preparatoire” system. Convinced by his recommendation of pursuing an intensive foundational degree, I believed these credentials would cement my technical capabilities and provide a variety of career opportunities down the line.

My aunt and uncle lived in Paris and provided invaluable guidance and advice throughout both my classe préparatoire at Lycée Carnot and my business school at ESCP Europe. This extension of family and close caretakers provided hospitality, mentorship, and wisdom during this educationally intense experience, and I have immense gratitude for this level of support. At ESCP, I focused on finance within the business curriculum as a core pillar to create impact and I gravitated towards mergers and acquisitions (M&A) with a view to eventually work in private equity and investing. After a gap year of internships in the midst of the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis, my passion for finance evolved.

Subsequently, I became an analyst at Nomura in M&A FIG, covering banks, insurers, and asset managers in Europe, Middle East, and Africa, based in the United Kingdom. I thrived within London’s multicultural environment. Within the finance capital of Europe, I interacted with global professionals and leveraged their perspective and experience to build up my expertise in finance. During the European sovereign debt crisis, my team advised Credit Agricole on the sale of its Greek subsidiary Emporiki. Reflecting on this unique experience, I evaluated the systemic importance of banks, particularly within the European Union, an important economic epicenter. Comprehensively, I genuinely enjoyed these work streams within investment banking. They enabled my professional growth and honed my knowledge of financial and economic fundamentals within global economies. Further, the office camaraderie became a cornerstone of my personal experience.

While the mergers and acquisition model of proceeding from mandate-to-mandate without connection to these deliverables was enriching, I felt encouraged to consider private equity. My interest to both implement acquisitions and follow through on insightful recommendations became the impetus to transition to the buy side with private equity. I joined Newton Group, a family office in London, focused on energy and infrastructure. The founder owned a Formula 1 team and was extremely connected within the energy sector through personal contacts and team sponsors. Here, I refined my thought process as an investor and learned necessary inputs to make deals happen. After a few years, I decided to diversify my technical capabilities in private equity and enhance my global leadership skill set – so it was time to earn my MBA.”

Class of 2019 Lauder Africa Program lunch with their families during graduation weekend

AN: The Lauder Institutes attracts global citizens, and you harnessed your life experiences in Europe and Africa as you considered an MBA. Being that you were primarily based in Europe, how did the  Wharton/Lauder program cross your radar?

SW: “I was intrigued after a friend from my ESCP master’s program mentioned the Lauder program at the Wharton School during a casual conversation. They insisted that I should learn more because I would thrive in the program. I valued The Lauder Institute’s international approach to learning and Lauder’s’ emphasis on global leadership acumen resonated with me. Equally enticing, the Africa program concentration created an opportunity for me to sharpen my business capabilities on the continent. I hired an admissions consultant because I knew the value of leveraging the consultant’s insights to execute a strategic admissions plan.

My view on the MBA experience is compared to a restaurant buffet. MBA students have everything to choose from, but they must be strategic and thoughtful on what to do. Time is your most precious asset. This is where I believe MBAs should focus on maximizing to get the most from their own unique perspective – but this requires self-awareness and introspection on their needs and wants during the experience. For some, this can look like entrepreneurship or investment banking. Maybe they hate it, or the business venture is unsuccessful, but there is value in absorbing the learnings and having peace of mind for attempting something new. This is a valuable learning tool that should not be overlooked in the program.

In hindsight, I wish I was more extroverted and prioritized networking with more MBA students within random spaces or more interest-oriented groups. I really wanted to participate in the P3 program – Passion, Purpose, Principles, the 6-week small group seminar focused on identifying your inner decision-making mindset. I became very close with the Francophone Africa community, and we remain a close-knit friend group today. They were cornerstones of my Wharton experience and helped me though difficult experiences where I was stretched within the MBA.

My sister also lived in Philly and studied at Camden County College and Drexel University. She blazed the trail that enabled me to relocate to Philly. Our family has close ties to another family who became extended family, as a value of my Senegalese culture. They hosted me when I moved from London and ensured I had everything I needed to be settled within the MBA program. I appreciated their hospitality as they made me feel connected to my heritage. Their support gave me peace and comfort to navigate other aspects of the MBA, since Lauder students take four classes and have an eight-week global immersion before the Wharton pre-term program.

Within my Lauder Africa classmates, we clicked during the Lauder summer immersion, remained close, and our families still meet up! I feel lucky to find a group of Francophone African at Wharton: we had similar personal backgrounds and quickly bonded over common life experiences. Overall, having such diverse, colorful and reliable personalities as close friends was a huge plus during the MBA experience.”

Sadio’s Francophone community: Arnaud Ligan C’19, Gracian Kamgang C’19 and Sadio outside of Huntsman Hall


AN: You interned at Actis in London during business school. Actis initially invested in emerging markets, but has since expanded its reach further though investments in sustainable infrastructure. Sounds like you enjoyed working alongside seasoned and passionate professionals since you accepted the full-time offer! Tell us about moving to London and how you were presented the unique opportunity to support an energy project in your home country, Senegal.

SW: “One of the portfolio companies, Azura Power, had recently acquired a plant in Senegal called Tobene Power, an independent power producer (IPP). We believed there was a unique opportunity to convert Tobene Power from heavy fuel oil (HFO) to natural gas as part of the gas-to-power plans of the Senegalese government. This conversion would reduce the fiscal burden of HFO imports for the government, reduce emissions, and also ease the pricing for consumers buying electricity. We quickly realized that Azura needed boots on the ground to push its conversion plans and better understand the government’s gas-to-power plans since the situation was quickly evolving.

Azura needed someone to map the gas-to-power plans and cultivate a network of relationships with the utility, the ministry, the various governmental institutions, and BP (the developer of the gas fields) to work together towards a gas conversion. The Actis partner overseeing the Azura offered me this opportunity, and I was literally thrown in the deep! I accepted this challenge and began conversing with key institutions to identify the pain points, challenges, and areas to better collaborate. Through daily processes, we eventually established a working group with national utility professionals and signed a memorandum of understanding for the conversion of the Tobene Power.

I was proud of myself for successfully cultivated these relationships and establishing a reputable business brand for myself in Senegal, because this is something I have always been inspired by my family to do. However, the hardest relationship to manage in Dakar was with my family! This project occurred during the pandemic and my sister and niece were home, along with other extended family members. My family was very happy to have me around and welcomed me home with open arms! It was my first time working in Senegal, and I had to constantly remind my family that I was NOT here on holiday! It was a delicate piece to manage because I was working most of the time, as this project was a big undertaking.”

Sadio and Anneka Nelson C’20 enjoying their visit in Senegal together

AN: Beyond your business success, you look forward to starting a family when the time is right. In Dakar. I dined with Anneka Nelson, your partner, who also graduated from the Wharton School and the Lauder Institute, WG’21, G’21. Sadio and Anneka are Lauder Love, whereby both partners graduated from the Lauder program. Hopefully your picture ends up on the infamous Lauder Love wall in Marcy’s office – my fingers are crossed! Iron sharpens iron and you and Anneka complement each other’s personality, career goals, and outside interests. Tell us more about the dynamics of this relationship.

SW: “Anneka and I acknowledged the importance of remaining in sync to ensure professional vitality since we both have demanding careers. We met during business school, she studied within the French Africa program at Lauder, and relocated to London as a consultant for BCG. For us, communication and prioritization are key, to avoid over prioritizing one career over the other. We have healthy conversations to regroup after work, and we are valued thought partners to discuss wins and learnings in our lives to ensure we’re both fulfilled.”

AN: Your global career in finance and private equity has been fruitful and personally fulfilling. This can be a tough industry to enter. Can you share tactical advice and recommendations for MBAs and recent graduates looking to transition into private equity?

SW: “1. Start from the beginning and master the basics – ensure that you have a strong foundation in finance and know the fundamentals well. Investment bankers that have worked on many deals have some advantage but regardless of background, these technical skills can be learned over time. This is table stakes to excel in the industry.

2. Put yourself out there in the industry. Organize or participate in the Private Equity Club treks or industry events. This is an excellent opportunity to have conversations to intimately evaluate each firm. You realize the differences between companies to better internalize how the firm works, thinks, and generates returns. Each private equity shop executes a different approach to investing and balancing risks. This industry is not one-size-fits-all, so do thoughtful research and have conversations on personal alignment.

3. Finally, cultivate an investor mentality and learn to think like an investor – understand how to build an investment thesis and take the time to identify and mitigate risks. This is a healthy approach to differentiating yourself in the recruiting cycle so that preparation can meet opportunity.”

2017 Lauder Africa Trek visiting Yamoussoukro Basilique


Sadio’s commitment to family, his community of friends, and his passion for working and improving the business ecosystem in Africa shined bright throughout our interactions and within this interview. You do not come across many people with Sadio’s rich background in finance or meet many people who enjoy working in investment banking! His future is bright, and Sadio is very well-positioned for leadership opportunities that support sustainability and business development in Africa. We wish Sadio the absolute best in life as he prioritizes family, manages a blossoming relationship Anneka, enhances deal flow on the continent, and executes sustainability projects within emerging markets.

Azline is a Waterloo, IA native and a National Gates Millennium Scholar. She earned a B.A. in International Studies and French at Spelman College. She has visited 47 countries, having lived in Geneva, Switzerland, and interned in Dakar, Senegal and Accra, Ghana. Azline worked for Delta Air Lines for seven years before earning her MBA in Finance from The Wharton School and her M.A in French African Studies from the Lauder Institute. She currently works at Vanguard within the general management development program.





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