Reflections from Olamide Oguntoye on his Cambridge-Africa Scholarship

Portrait Olamide

We talked to recent graduate and Cambridge-Africa scholar Dr Olamide Oguntoye about his time in Cambridge.

What’s your most memorable aspect of the Cambridge life?

What I find memorable about Cambridge is the opportunity to learn and grow in the company of incredibly brilliant minds.

One evening during the first term of my first year in Cambridge, I hung out for drinks with a small group of friends. It had been a long hectic day so an evening of mocktails and chitchats with friends was a welcome craving. Jackets doffed, chairs pulled closer, drinks served, and chitchat started.

Just as I began to unwind, I soon noticed that what started as a casual relaxing conversation, had begun to tilt in the direction of something strangely different – something which sounded like “cheese from south-eastern Tibet in the 1850’s”.

“Wait!”, my mind alarmed. “What books have these folks been reading?”

I was just about to pat myself on the back for having a distant familiarity with Tibetan cheese. However, with ‘south-east’ and ‘1850’s’ stringed to it, it was difficult to feel more lost!

After weeks of observing casual conversations morph into what seemed like intellectual black-holes, I adjusted. I adopted a more curious attitude, engaging more deeply and ultimately becoming able to lead a much broader variety of topics.

With loads of brightness and intellect packed into one city, Cambridge is both a stimulating and inspiring place to study and grow. I find this very memorable.

What have you been up to since leaving Cambridge? And what are your next steps?

My first role after Cambridge was a strategy advisory role for a leading energy investor. Energy and infrastructure development remain top priority in many African countries. So, this role offered an ideal space to further develop practical skills relevant for my contribution to African development. In this role I applied experience from my Cambridge research on sustainable industrial systems in helping my clients navigate the complex landscape of the global energy transition.

I continue to forge ahead in building a career that contributes to African development – particularly in areas related to clean energy and infrastructure investment. I have also been involved with establishing and running initiatives to support, inspire and mentor young leaders across Africa. An example is the OxBridge-Unilag Alumni Initiative – an initiative I founded with alumni colleagues from universities of Cambridge, Oxford and/or Lagos, which supports young African leaders through mentorship, fundraising and scholarship. The initiative now boasts of a vibrant cohort of achievers whom I am more than convinced will help shape a brilliant future for Africa.

 How would you describe the Cambridge-Africa scholarship’s contribution to your Cambridge experience and career development?

The Cambridge-Africa scholarship provided a fantastic opportunity to focus on what mattered the most while enjoying a decent level of living support. As a recipient of the generous award, I could spend more time on all key aspects of becoming a proficient researcher, while focusing less on how to make ends meet. A highlight of time well-spent was when honing career-critical skills such as multi-disciplinary stakeholder engagement as I presented research insights at leading industrial sustainability conferences. Today the multi-disciplinary communication skills I gained through this process continue to help me traverse organizational boundaries and engage top stakeholders on strategic topics across the clean energy and infrastructure sector.

In terms of career development, the Cambridge-Africa award is a defining credential that helps scholars stand out from the crowd. While putting in the application for my first role after study, one of the points I was sure to highlight was the fact that I had been a Cambridge-Africa scholar. This turned out to be a potent attention-grabber. I recall one hiring director remarked “Oh wow! So, you have this award? … and it’s got this value? Tell me more …” The Cambridge-Africa award generates interest, starts conversations, and potentially opens doors. Combined with the skillset of a Cambridge doctoral graduate, the award can tip the scale in a positive direction.

Any thoughts you like to share with current and incoming scholars?

I will sum up my Cambridge-Africa award experience in three bits. First, the award is an opportunity to enjoy one of the most inspiring and stimulating university communities in the world. Second, the award allows scholars focus on the skills and experiences that matter the most while enjoying decent living support. Third, the award can open doors and pave the way for significant career impact in Africa.

I would encourage current and incoming scholars to focus on making the most of the opportunities created by this prestigious award. 


Cambridge-Africa Scholarships are supported by the Cambridge Trust and the University of Cambridge, learn more here