Building a successful business is a fete that few people can achieve. Building and running a successful business abroad is a harder undertaking. Yet, some people have been able to succeed overseas, building successful businesses and institutions that impact lives. Dr James Mulli is one of them, having a long career in academia.
Dr James is the Director, Dean of studies and President of the European Business University of Luxembourg (EBU) in Wiltz, Luxembourg. Prior to founding the University, Dr James worked at the State University of New York, taught blockchain technology at the European Business School and headed the department of business and economics at the Shanghai American School.
The choice of Luxembourg as the home of the university was not by accident. Dr James had a few reasons that informed his choice of the small European country. First, the country is one of the richest in the world. Secondly, it is one of the four seats of the European Union.
The 450-year-old Wiltz Castle in Luxembourg city houses the main campus of this university that has a student population of 9,000. About four thousand of them are Kenyans.
Dr. Mulli comes from an educated and well-exposed family. His father, Henry Mulli, was Kenya’s first ambassador to China and later served in Germany, Egypt and Somalia. His uncle Mathew Guy Mulli was Kenya’s Attorney General in the 1980s.
In a recent interview with Business Daily, Dr. Mulli said, “I am fortunate to have travelled the world with them. I went to school with President Uhuru Kenyatta and his cousin Jeff Koinange at St Mary’s Nairobi. They are both good friends.”
Thanks to his family links and fierce intention to succeed, he has been able to build a name for himself within and beyond Kenya. For his tertiary education, Dr. Mulli studied in the US where he also picked up a job as the portfolio manager at Soros Fund Management in New York. He later took up a course and career in economic development.
“I have come to learn that the truest measure of success that can be guaranteed in a country is education. This is where I have come to understand the importance of impacting people. The most important asset for any institution is its human resource. I had worked with most of the professors in other institutions. They joined me when I founded the university,” he said.
When asked about his decision and motivation to set up a University in Europe, Dr. Mulli had this to say, “We are oppressed globally, from an academic perspective. Not everyone can afford to attend top universities that offer quality education abroad. This way, we are being disenfranchised.”
Dr. Mulli further clarified that he founded the university to attain affordability, equitability and accessibility in education. “To be affordable, you cannot charge the same high tuition fees as other European universities. To be accessible, it has to be [largely] online. We charge only a commitment fee.”
The value proposition, he argued that what really counts is the quality of education. “It is one thing to offer education. But is it qualitative?”
The EBU has been nominated as the best MBA university in Europe four years in a row. Ultimately, he says the solution to ending education disenfranchisement is to make education free.
“There is no free public tertiary education in Africa except in Algeria and Morocco. By 2050, our population will be 85 million. Where do we get the resources to build universities for our people? Will it be qualitative? We can only make our education accessible, affordable, and equitable through technology. It may not be everything, but technology is an enabler.”
To expand his impact and touch more student’s lives, Dr. Mulli noted that his university is working out a model of partnership with local universities. As Dean, his role entails, among other roles, quality control, and hiring and assessing faculty professors and instructors.
“We have to keep abreast of and be on top of the changes that are happening in different spheres of life. We teach AI (artificial intelligence), data science, blockchain technology and python because technology is where the real change is,” he adds.
On recruitment of students, Dr. Mulli said the university works with the Office of the President and the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce, among other institutions, to distribute scholarships to candidates.
“We do not recruit students directly. We work with partner organizations who recruit them on our behalf,” he explains.
Dr. Mulli attributes his success abroad to his dedication to a cause, adding that that is key to sustaining a career in academia. “The academia is a social environment. You must have interpersonal intelligence to be able to have impactful interactions. If I can change a life, I am happy to go out of my way.”