IFC’s Dzidedi Akude bucked tradition to become a civil engineer but has found her niche in development finance. Photo: Andrew Edem Fiati

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By Lauren Stephanie Hess

Dzidedi Akude’s childhood curiosity and knack for disassembling household items led her to pursue a career in civil engineering. That same curiosity—and a passion for financial inclusion—led her to IFC, where she landed in 2017 as a consultant. She has since moved to a full-time Investment Analyst role with the Financial Institutions Group (FIG) in Lagos.

Having grown up in a medical family in Ghana, Akude says her decision to pursue engineering was somewhat daunting.

“My mother and sister are both doctors, so everyone thought I was going to be one too,” she says. “I’m glad I said no, because it’s given me the transferable skills to move around and eventually land at IFC.”

The transferable skills she mentions include not only her analytical thinking and training in resource allocation, but also her unwavering belief that successful partnerships with the private sector are the key to sustainable development.

Now working for FIG in Lagos, Nigeria, she focuses on supporting banks and other financial institutions. Since joining IFC as an Investment Analyst in 2019, Akude has worked on a number of large transactions, including several under the Global Trade Finance Program. She proudly notes that in her first year she worked as the sole analyst on five transactions totaling approximately $365 million—a cool $1 million a day.

That’s an even bigger accomplishment considering that when she first joined FIG, she didn’t have any formal training in finance.

“With the help of my team and supportive mentors to ease my transition, I definitely feel that I’m now up to speed,” Akude says. “They saw the value of my approach to problem solving, and I’ve been privileged to get to work on such interesting projects.”

Small business owners in a trading hub in Lagos.
Small business owners in a trading hub in Lagos. Photo: Anurika Azubuike/IFC

Akude’s excitement about her work is palpable—even across time zones and via Webex. She credits the broad variety of industries and people she has been exposed to while working with FIG. She sees IFC’s investment business as the perfect platform to fulfill both her intellectual pursuits and her drive to make a difference.

​​​​​​​Thinking beyond the dollar value of her work, Akude is a strong advocate for the importance of access to finance. She stresses the value of maximizing resources to create ecosystems where small businesses, in particular, can thrive, noting that SMEs can account for almost 90 percent of businesses in emerging market economies.

This connection to entrepreneurs and SMEs is both personally and professionally rewarding for Akude, who aspires to start her own nonprofit focused on providing small-business owners with the information and digital tools they need to grow their businesses.

Dzidedi’s painting reflects her passion for music and arts.
Dzidedi’s painting reflects her passion for music and arts. Photo: Dzidedi/IFC

From taking apart her family’s TV set to pursuing an investment career after training as a civil engineer, she embodies the energy and innovative approach necessary to make a difference in development.

“What can I say?” she laughs. “Opportunity sits at the end of your comfort zone.”

Published in October 2020