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Putting International & Development Economics to Work in Africa

March 27, 2017

After graduation in May, Chinweuba (Chuba) Ezekwesili (IDE) will go home to Nigeria to work at Akanka, a company he and his twin brother Chine founded in January 2016.

Akanka is a design agency that empowers brands through beautiful and impactful design. We have a network of handpicked freelance graphics and web designers all over Nigeria,” Ezekwesili says.

They launched Akanka for several reasons, he says. “First, to tackle the prevalence of poor designs in Nigeria. Good design involves a more deliberate and thoughtful approach towards the aesthetic and functional purpose of a company’s identity, and we felt that this was largely lacking. Second, to access top talent across the country and give these designers opportunities to gain experience and earn money. Third, to link designers in Nigeria (and eventually all across Africa) with the global market — and we're certain we have a shot at it.”

The eleven people who now work for Akanka have already served more than 100 clients, most of them startups. In addition, they have created infographics for government agencies like the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics and package designs for established businesses like ReelFruit. And they offer their services for free to female-run nonprofits based in Nigeria. Chuba focuses on web development and design, research analysis, and management; Chine is the lead graphic designer.

The Ezekwesili twins were born into a middle class family in Nigeria that fell on tough times. “On a number of occasions, my brothers and I couldn't afford to attend primary school,” he recalls. “My experience certainly played a significant role in my desire to focus on the development aspect of economics.”

After high school in the United Kingdom, Ezekwesili earned his undergraduate degree in economics at Claremont McKenna College in California. “What surprised me was how different Americans were from the English. Americans are a lot more open and friendly. However, most challenging was having to deal with more overt displays of racism in the U.S.”

He came to Yale for his master’s degree because he was attracted to IDE’s rigorous quantitative program. He also liked that he could take courses offered by other units of the university and is “currently taking an amazing design class at the School of Management, thanks to this level of intersection,” he says. He plans to integrate the lessons from the data-focused classes offered by the IDE program and the design class at SOM into a new company he’ll be starting next January.

Ezekwesili was also drawn to Yale because the international nature of the program brings students from around the world, which creates “an invaluable learning community and experience.”

Examples of Akanka’s work, top to bottom: Identity design. Package design. Web design.