Mariama Keita
Mariama Keita
Home Region

Cote d'Ivoire

Undergrad Education

McGill University, 02, BEng Electrical Engineering

Previous Experience

Field and technical engineer, Schlumberger, Gabon

HBS Activities

Africa Business Club, Finance Club, Admissions Representative for Section C

“The section experience delivers an education greater than the sum of its parts.”

With a degree in electrical engineering, Mariama Keita was well prepared for a career in telecommunications. "But I realized early on," Mariama says, "that I can have more impact as a finance person, someone with the authority to set budgets and make decisions."

Mariama visited four different schools to evaluate her MBA options. "I felt completely at home at HBS," she says. One of the things that impressed her was an article in the school paper, The Harbus, that reported on the efforts of HBS students to raise money for victims of the 2004 Asian tsunami. Another was the case method. "For someone like me without a lot of business experience," Mariama explains, "it's a great way to practice real management skills."

Information that empowers

Mariama grew up in Cote d'Ivoire, a nation whose economy is based on two commodities, coffee and cocoa. One of the cases she has found especially relevant involved an Indian company that helps farmers understand worldwide commodities pricing. "Greater information gave them greater power," Mariama says. "The farmers could make more informed decisions about their own crops – how much to bring to market, what prices to set."

The Business, Government and International Economy (BGIE) course has been "life changing," says Mariama. "There can be a pessimistic attitude in Africa. But learning about fiscal policies gives us access to tools we're not using effectively. GDP is about output and adding value. If we could go beyond farming cocoa to process it, we could expand our economic base. To take the next steps, we need a better understanding of fiscal powers such as adjusting interest rates and controlling the money supply."

Of the student body experience, Mariama says she has been pleasantly surprised "by how respectful we are of each other. Spending a year together, studying cases and challenging each other in classes, pushes us to grow. The section experience delivers an education greater than the sum of its parts."

Education and politics

For the first three or four years after achieving her MBA, Mariama plans to gain more experience in finance. But her long-term ambition is to "get more involved in education in Africa. When people learn more about macroeconomic issues, they can ask better political questions," Mariama says. She would like to learn more about microfinancing options for women in rural areas, and hopes to develop a fund that invests in small- to medium-sized African enterprises.