Michael Kögeler is the CEO of Nedamco Africa, a social impact organization that combines education, innovation, and environmental stewardship to drive positive change across Africa. With a passion for innovation and positive change, Michael believes in the power of challenges to inspire growth and improvement.
He brings a wealth of experience to his role, having previously worked at Microsoft and AWS. Michael is a thought leader in the tech industry, regularly sharing his insights on social media platforms like LinkedIn. Learn more about Michael Kögeler and Nedamco Africa through our interview below.
The Professional Start
We started by asking, “Which career path led you to where you are today?”
Michael said, “I began my professional journey in the field of management consulting, gaining valuable experience at top-tier firms such as McKinsey and Company, KPMG Consulting, and IBM Consulting. My interest in technology led me to explore opportunities with leading tech giants like Microsoft and AWS. Throughout my career, I have been passionate about leveraging technology to drive positive impact and help individuals and organizations achieve their goals more efficiently and effectively.
As someone who witnessed and contributed to the rise of cloud computing from its inception, I am well aware of the significant benefits it has brought about.
During my tenure as COO at Microsoft MEA, operating from Dubai, I developed a deep passion for the African continent and played a key role in the creation of Microsoft 4Afrika. Since then, I have been driven by Africa’s incredible potential, including its talented people, boundless passion, and numerous growth opportunities. My goal is to contribute to the continent’s development and prosperity through my work, which motivates me daily.
UAE has an exceptional ecosystem that combines visionary yet pragmatic government policies, cutting-edge corporations, and a thriving start-up community. This unique blend has been a constant source of inspiration and a rich source of ideas for me since the first day I moved here 12 years ago.
Combining my professional experience, the “petri-dish” the UAE has been and is for me, with my passion for innovation and belief in the power of collaboration, I am committed to driving positive change in Africa by empowering Africans to make things happen for themselves. This is why I am proud to be part of Nedamco Africa, an organization that focuses on impact investments in sustainable climate technologies across the continent. This role represents the perfect intersection of my career and personal values, and I am excited about the possibilities that lie ahead.”
Idea For A Positive Impact
Nedamco Africa seems to have an exceptional concept. This got us curious to understand the idea behind it. So, we asked, “What inspired you to develop the idea for your company?”
Michael Kögeler replies, “Nedamco Africa is a subsidiary of Nedamco Capital, an international family investment firm. While we focus on investments and generating returns, we strongly emphasize making a positive impact on the environment and contributing to a better world.
As we considered where we could make the biggest impact, we concluded that Africa was the ideal place to focus our efforts. The continent is disproportionately affected by the effects of climate change, but it also has tremendous potential for growth and global impact. By working in Africa, we can help address the challenges posed by climate change while also fostering sustainable development and economic growth in the region.”
Adaptability & Flexibility
Priorities in business tend to shift over time based on market trends and goals. So, we asked, “How have your priorities in terms of business evolved since you first started?”
“At Nedamco Africa, we recognize that adaptability and flexibility are essential for achieving impact, particularly in Africa where unforeseen challenges are the norm. As one of my former colleagues at Microsoft once remarked, ‘The only constant thing is change,’ and I have taken that advice to heart. Embracing change is essential for success, both in business and in life.
As I have progressed in my career, my priorities have shifted from a singular focus on financial gain to a more holistic perspective that encompasses the impact on people, companies, and the planet. Coaching and mentoring others, and creating positive environmental and climate outcomes that can be shared with future generations, are increasingly important to me. However, I recognize that these priorities may evolve as I gain new experiences, and I remain open to change and willing to adapt as necessary.”
Challenges Are Opportunities
Obstacles are inevitable in both our personal and professional lives, and businesses are no exception. To gain insight into how Michael and his company navigate difficulties, we inquired, “What are the most arduous situations your company has faced and overcome?”
“I view challenges as opportunities for growth and improvement. Every challenge presents a chance to learn, innovate, and find better ways to achieve our goals. While social media platforms like LinkedIn tend to highlight success stories, I find it more fascinating to see people share their failures and the lessons learned. In my opinion, we can learn much more from failures that arise from challenges.
Similarly, I believe a ‘negative CV’ that lists failures and lessons learned would be more valuable than a traditional resume that only highlights successes. If someone were to send me such a CV, I would be impressed and more likely to hire them. The ability to learn from challenges and failures is critical for personal and professional growth.
At Nedamco Africa, we face numerous challenges daily, but I view them as opportunities to innovate and create a positive impact. My job is incredibly rewarding and diverse, ranging from mundane tasks like selecting toilet paper color to tackle complex issues like detecting trees from real-time satellite images. Every challenge we overcome teaches us something new, and I am grateful for the opportunity to learn and grow through my work.” says Michael Kogeler.
“What’s the key strength to overcome it?”
He added, “Maintaining a positive attitude is crucial in all aspects of life, particularly when it comes to tackling challenges. To address a problem effectively, it is necessary to roll up one’s sleeves and undertake a thorough analysis, discussion, sharing, and learning process. Once the issue has been fully understood, an approach can be developed to fix, correct, or stop it.
Unfortunately, some companies follow a herd mentality, blindly executing plans without considering whether they are working. This approach can be counterproductive and ultimately lead to failure. During my time at Microsoft, I always urged my teams to review the previous year’s plan before embarking on the next one. We examined what worked, what didn’t, and whether we achieved our goals. This process encouraged critical thinking and helped us to improve our approach moving forward.
It is important to remember that the world is constantly changing, and plans must be updated regularly to remain relevant. Bi-weekly plans may even be too long in some cases, given the rapid pace of change. A willingness to adapt and pivot is essential to success in today’s dynamic environment.”
Nedamco’s Unique Social Impact
We were curious about the distinctive features of Nedamco, and hence we inquired, “What sets your company apart from others in the same industry?”
“Nedamco is a unique organization that defies easy classification as either an NGO or a commercial company. We are a hybrid entity that can shift between these two identities as needed. Our focus on skilling for a purpose through the Nedamco Academy is an essential part of our mission to empower millions of African youths. Our aim is to provide them with technical knowledge and valuable industry-specific and soft skills that will prepare them for key roles across various industries.
We employ many of these skilled individuals ourselves, utilizing their talents to deploy our climate technology impact projects across Africa. These projects are designed to address climate change’s impact while meeting basic needs such as access to clean water, consistent green electricity, and reduced water waste. Our efforts align with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, impacting nine out of sixteen of these goals.
In addition, our work also helps countries to generate valuable environmental credits that can be sold to companies outside of Africa to offset their carbon emissions on their journey towards becoming Net-Zero. This creates a new source of foreign currency for African nations, further contributing to the continent’s growth and development. Overall, our unique combination of social and commercial objectives makes us a powerful force for positive change in Africa.” he says.
Simple & Focused KPIs
We asked Michael, “What KPIs do you use to measure your business success?”
He replies, “At Nedamco, we believe in keeping our Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) simple and focused. Over the course of my career, I have seen companies become obsessed with KPIs, resulting in dashboards with hundreds of metrics that distract from the essential goal of serving customers and partners.
We have purposefully limited the number of KPIs we track to avoid this pitfall. For each of our company’s strategic pillars, we have identified five simple KPIs that can be measured within a fixed period of time. For example, in the area of skilling, we track metrics such as the number of people we have trained for a job. In the area of water management, we monitor the amount of water that is saved through our solutions. In the area of environmental credits, we monitor the number of credits sold on an exchange. These KPIs are easily measurable and aligned with our core goals.
Moreover, we remain agile in our approach to KPIs. If new metrics are needed, or existing ones are no longer relevant, we will update or remove and add them accordingly. Our focus is on serving our learners, customers, and partners, not on endless spreadsheets and metrics. We remain closely connected to our core mission and values by keeping things simple and measurable.”
Ultimate Sustainable Climate Tech
We also wanted to know more about the services provided by Nedamco Africa. So, we further asked, “Tell us something about your services. What are you working on now?”
“Nedamco Africa is passionate about sustainable climate technologies and their potential to create a lasting, positive impact on the African continent. Our focus on climate tech is driven by our recognition of the urgent need to address the challenges posed by climate change, including rising temperatures, sea levels, and extreme weather events.
To tackle these challenges, we work on climate technology impact projects across Africa that help reduce carbon emissions, conserve natural resources, and promote sustainable development. These projects include increasing access to clean energy, improving water management, reducing waste, and promoting sustainable agriculture.
We also prioritize developing and deploying digital twins, which are virtual replicas of physical systems used to optimize resource management and reduce waste. By using advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, we can improve the efficiency of resource usage and reduce the negative impact of industrial processes on the environment.
In addition to our direct work on climate tech impact projects, we also focus on generating valuable environmental credits that can be sold to companies outside of Africa to offset their carbon emissions. This creates a new source of foreign currency for African nations while also supporting global efforts to combat climate change.
Our commitment to sustainable climate technologies is at the heart of everything we do at Nedamco Africa. We believe that leveraging the power of technology and collaboration can create a more sustainable and prosperous future for Africa and the world. Currently, we are running multiple initiatives across the continent, including our recent announcement at the UN2023 Water Conference in NY, where we unveiled our SDG6 Water Management Digital Twin in Addis Ababa in partnership with the Governments of Ethiopia and The Netherlands. See here.” shared Michael Kögeler.
Teamwork And Empowerment
We inquired with Michael Kögeler about building trust and productivity within his team without causing burnout. His response was:
“At Nedamco Africa, we believe in fostering a culture of empowerment and accountability. We focus on listening, learning, and coaching to achieve this rather than simply managing employees. We believe that when people love what they do and work in an amazing environment with a great team, work doesn’t feel like work anymore – it becomes a passion.
We give our employees a lot of responsibility and autonomy to do what they think is right, and we trust them to roll with it. At the same time, we emphasize the importance of accountability and encourage our employees to let “bad news travel fast.” We believe that transparency and honesty are essential for learning from mistakes and failures, which we see as opportunities for growth and improvement.
As a leader, I see myself as a ‘no news is good news’ manager but do read the ‘news.’ Ultimately, we believe that by fostering a culture of empowerment, accountability, and learning, we can create an environment where employees are passionate about their work and committed to achieving our mission of creating positive impact and long-term value in Africa.”
Passion For Technology
As technology and market trends constantly change, businesses must adapt to remain current. We asked Michael, “How do you stay on top of new technologies and trends in your industry?”
He added, “This is easy – if you love fishing, you read about fishing, talk about fishing, and think about fishing. The same applies to me – I have always loved technology, its impact, and its possibilities. It just comes naturally. Although my family complains that I spend too much money on technology gadgets and toys, I have developed certain routines and habits to keep up with the latest in technology and stay inspired. For example, I wake up early every day (often before my alarm clock) feeling excited and full of ideas to read the latest news, articles, and industry sites.
Additionally, I have a “holy” non-bookable thinking day every month that I have been practicing for years. This day is not just for sitting and thinking but also for exploring new ideas, installing new tools and software, and dreaming about the future. Many of my best ideas and insights have come from these days, so I consider them worth the time and effort.”
Words Of Advice
Lastly, we asked, “What advice would you give to starting entrepreneurs?”
“Perseverance is key. Avoid social media platforms where people only highlight their successes. Instead, focus on reading, thinking, and growing. Don’t be afraid to fail – learn from your mistakes and keep moving forward. But most importantly, stay true to yourself.
Many people make the mistake of changing who they are, their behaviors, opinions, and appearance just to fit in or impress others. However, this is not sustainable and can lead to unhappiness. It’s essential to focus on what makes you happy and fulfilled and to find your own purpose. Remember, there is only one you, so ensure your goals and aspirations align with your values and beliefs. By staying true to yourself, you can achieve long-lasting success and happiness.”
Connect with Michael Kögeler on LinkedIn.
Find Nedamco Africa on LinkedIn.