Chief of Staff

POSITION: Chief of Staff
REPORTS TO: CEO & Co-Founder
LOCATION: Kigali, Rwanda (30% travel to other AEC sites)

TENURE: Open-ended contract; contingent on 3 month probationary period

African Entrepreneur Collective (AEC) believes that all of the problems in Africa have solutions that already exist in Africa. While unemployment across the continent is rising as more young people enter into the workforce, African entrepreneurs offer potential to create much needed jobs. Entrepreneurs will drive the continent into prosperity over the next century.

AEC supports small and medium enterprises (SME) and refugee entrepreneurs with business development services and affordable loans so that they can grow their businesses, improve their lives, create jobs, and transform their communities.

Since launching AEC in 2012, AEC has run business acceleration programs across East Africa for more than 6,000 local entrepreneurs. Today, AEC’s 130-person team headquartered in Kigali, Rwanda (known as Inkomoko) supports staff spread across 9 other offices in refugee camps in Rwanda and Kenya.

AEC is positioned for growth. By 2022, AEC will work with 30,000 entrepreneurs across 5 countries. We will demonstrate on a global stage the power of local and refugee entrepreneurs. In our growth, we need a team of talented, experienced, connected, and courageous professionals who are inspired to grow AEC into the best business development support organization on the continent.

AEC’s Chief of Staff position is highly dynamic and varied. Each day offers a different opportunity for you to contribute to the growth and direction of the organization in a meaningful way.

On a Monday, you might facilitate a strategy session with the leadership team.
On a Tuesday, you might lead a donor visit to one of our entrepreneurs.
On a Wednesday, you might conduct final-round interviews for a new senior staff position, while also needing to have a hard conversation with a low-performing staff later that day.
On a Thursday, you might prepare a slide deck for an upcoming board meeting.
And on a Friday, you might give a toast at a quarterly goat party to your colleagues for their hard work over the past term.

This is an exciting position for the right candidate who thrives on diversity of task and team.

The AEC Chief of Staff will perform several specific activity types (see below), but more importantly, the Chief of Staff will be need to play several roles. These are the varying roles and expectations of the Chief of Staff as described by the CEO:

The Advisor
One of the most important aspects of the Chief of Staff role is that of trusted advisor. I need a strategic thought partner, confidante, and sounding board. To effectively do my job as the external and visionary head of the organization, I need someone who I can brainstorm with freely, discuss various options for pathways forward, and vent frustrations to. I’m not looking for someone who only agrees with me. One of AEC’s core values is that of improvement. We are committed to continuous learning and growing, and the only way that I will grow as a leader is if my Chief of Staff feels comfortable giving me open and accurate feedback.

The Proxy
As the organization grows, there are increasingly more demands on my time. During any given week, I could be asked to be in multiple places at one time. I am constantly needed to weigh-in on important decisions or updates, and I can’t always be available. I need a reliable and trustworthy proxy who can step in and make decisions in alignment with my vision/values, inspire action, represent my voice and the organization when necessary. This role also includes acting as a gatekeeper – triaging problems to reduce distractions, thus allowing me to focus on what’s most important to my role for the organization. This does not mean blocking things from getting to me, it just means stepping in when necessary, elevating the right issues that are most pertinent, and succinctly briefing me to keep me informed.

To be a strong proxy, it’s crucial that my Chief of Staff and I communicate often and clearly with each other. I know that I need to be clear with my expectations, and it’s important to me that the Chief of Staff is able to act on my behalf with confidence and feels supported.

The Implementer
We have big dreams at AEC, and serving 30,000 entrepreneurs by 2022 is only a start. But, a well-crafted strategy is just words on paper until the right people take the reigns and drive it to reality. I know that I’m a much better visionary and strategist than I am an implementer, but we have a great team of implementers already at the organization, our COO, Managing Director, Finance Director and the directors of our client-facing departments. That said, the Chief of Staff will often play a role of project manager for some of our cross-department, organization-wide initiatives, and will need to support the other members of the leadership team by driving our strategic priorities from conception to completion. As an implementer, the Chief of Staff will embody another one of AEC’s fundamental values – we push ourselves to reach beyond what we thought was possible.

The Operator
Every organization needs someone who is good at demanding structure, establishing processes, and creating efficiencies within the leadership ranks of the organization. I am looking for a Chief of Staff who is skilled at converting our big, audacious goals and strategic priorities into smooth operations. Helping our team meet deadlines and budgets will keep the organization grounded in reality, preventing significant issues from arising later on.

The roles listed above are meant to present a larger picture of what this position will entail. The time allocations of each role will vary by ever changing priorities and at various points throughout the year. To be more specific in terms of expected responsibilities, here is are several examples, but do not represent an exhaustive list:

  • Help CEO identify priorities, strategically align her time with those, and revisit them regularly to assess progress;
  • Act as a key thought partner, brainstorming & identifying solutions to challenges, and identifying and leveraging new opportunities in alignment with our strategies;
  • Play a key role in supporting other members of the leadership team and ensuring that the CEO is being the best support possible to key managers and leaders within the organization;
  • Manage a variety of long-term, cross-organizational projects, including opening new country offices, establishing AEC as an industry thought-leader in entrepreneurship development, building an organizational infrastructure to support growing to 300+ staff in the next three years, etc;
  • Support the CEO to ensure that the AEC culture is thriving in each department and across all of the various branch locations;
  • Help the CEO meet annual fundraising goals, by supporting in report writing, donor visits, representing the organization at conferences and other convenings;
  • Plan leadership team retreats, developing objectives and agenda, coordinating with admin team on logistics; and mentoring other leaders throughout the year;
  • Oversee meeting preparation and planning for Board of Directors; support CEO in interactions with board chair and committee leaders;
  • Provide on-brand and strategy-aligned communications support: drafting emails, reports, memos, presentations, internal and external communications, and social media posts.

AEC has found that the happiest and most effective AECers are proactive, resourceful, self-motivated, trustworthy, and accountable. They are go-getters with a can-do attitude, who support their teammates with sincerity. No task is too small for the stellar AECer and above all, they are humble and willing to give and receive feedback.

For this role, the successful candidate will have these qualities in spades:

  •  Ability to get things done: Great chiefs of staff are results-driven and meet adversity with tenacity. They are master organizers and project planners who consistently look ahead and anticipate needs before they arise, and put strategy into action.
  • Strategic mindset: Chiefs of staff must be natural problem solvers who are analytical and structured in their thinking. They create order out of chaos by identifying systems and processes in need of adjustment. They deeply understand business operations and can synthesize information to recommend a plan of action.
  • Emotional intelligence: Chiefs of staff should be both highly self-aware and perceptive toward the CEO and other key relationships. They should serve as connectors who are aware of every key project and can connect the dots across the company. Successful chiefs of staff are positive, empathetic, flexible, and curious. Importantly, they are respected by their colleagues for their “radical candor” where we care personally and challenge directly.
  • Trustworthiness and humility: Leaders must be able to implicitly trust their chiefs of staff, and strong chiefs of staff are constantly looking for ways to offer support. They must be confident enough to be candid when needed, and also humble enough to work behind the scenes.
  • Respectful and open: As AEC continues to expand our global footprint, we have more and more diversity among our staff and entrepreneurs. We need to make sure that our organization is respectful and representative of this growing population, while maintaining our “Made in Rwanda” ethos. Our Chief of Staff needs to actively embrace increasing diversity and fairness, and model this for others. In addition, AEC’s CEO interacts often interacts with and has the personal contacts of very high-profile donors and stakeholders. It is essential that the Chief of Staff maintains discretion and respect for the privacy and wishes of these relationships.
  • Flexibility and willingness to travel: AEC has offices in 3 different time zones – West Coast, US, Central Africa, and East Africa. We often have team members separated by 9 – 11 hours, which means early morning and late evening calls/emails. We try to be respectful of work/life boundaries, but this job requires flexibility, long hours at strange times, and intense periods. Our Chief of Staff will need to balance a varied and intense work load, while avoiding burnout.

Additional qualification and skills must include:

  • Excellent communicator in spoken and written English, additional languages preferred
  • Master’s degree in Business Administration or similar field (preferred)
  • 7+ years in a business management or leadership role
  • Experience planning and leading strategic initiatives
  • Proven success in project coordination
  • Experience with data analysis
  • Demonstrated experience and results in nonprofit fundraising
  • Strong computer skills in MS Word, Excel, and PowerPoint

Compensation includes salary and potential KPI-based bonus, healthcare, retirement benefits, flexible annual leave, international travel, professional development opportunities, and more. In addition, this role is a tremendous opportunity to work in a high-growth, mission-driven organization

You’ll also work with a diverse set of colleagues, who nonetheless all embody the company’s culture and values:

  • Purpose: we are solutions-oriented and produce high quality work to be a global leader.
  • Achievement: we push ourselves to reach beyond what we previous thought possible.
  • Improvement: we are humble and committed to continuous learning and growing. We improve through giving and receiving open and accurate feedback.
  • Bravery: we are willing to take risks and create a safe space for others to take risks. We are compassionate and inclusive.
  • Turikumwe/Tuko Pamoja (“We are together”): we take time to appreciate colleagues, celebrate success, and hold each other up in hard times. We eat goat.

AEC seeks to reflect the communities we serve. Africans, refugees and immigrants, women, LGBTQ+, people of color are strongly encouraged to apply.

Submit your CV and short answers (<200 words) to the following:

  1. Why would this job be meaningful to you?
  2. Describe one time when you “managed up”.
  3. Describe how you have been successful and securing resources to complete a project.

Feel free to let your personality shine. We’ll be working closely with you and you will be carrying the AEC vision, so let’s make sure there’s a strong fit in both skills and culture.

Please send all materials to AEC’s COO Sara Leedom,, by 20 January 2020. Include “CHIEF” in the subject line.