Nearly 1,000 leaders from business, politics and academia are converging on Cape Town for the World Economic Forum on Africa, and HEC Paris MBA student Arnaud Steinfels is one of them. As a business manager who successfully combines profit-making with planet-saving, it’s no surprise that Arnaud received one of the summit’s coveted invites.
Arnaud’s forward-thinking approach is most evident in his work at Semina, one of Madagascar’s biggest bottled water companies. As Semina’s general manager (a position he’s held since 2016), Arnaud updated the company’s equipment to reduce the amount of plastic in its bottles by 30 percent. He has also multiplied revenues by seven while doubling salaries for Semina’s 70-person workforce.
“I’m strongly committed to helping the local population while unlocking extra ROI for investors,” he says.
In 2017, Arnaud became a member of the Global Shapers Community. This powerful network works on issues ranging from clean water to equal access to education. A year later, he became a Climate Reality Leader. Since then, he has fought against deforestation in Madagascar, where an estimated 40 – 50 percent of trees have been burned or logged since the 1950s.
Even after starting the HEC Paris MBA in January 2019, Arnaud has maintained his managerial oversight of Semina. He relies on frequent phone calls and trips back to Antananarivo to keep the bottles flowing. Still, looking to create new opportunities, Arnaud decided to return to school for an MBA.
“An MBA is a way of smoothing my transition from the consumer goods industry to private equity investments,” says Arnaud, who is originally from France and Switzerland. “Working in Madagascar has showed me that private companies have a great potential for growth. The MBA is helping me add best practices and sound analysis to my practical experience.”
There’s no doubt that attending the World Economic Forum on Africa will be an invaluable experience. With elections taking place in more than 20 African countries this year, the continent is on the verge of significant change. The September 4-6 summit will address strategic priorities such as growth, stability and innovation in the region. “There will be lots of big personalities attending the Cape Town event, and I really look forward to learning how they see the future,” Arnaud says.