Lesley Meall, journalist

Lateef Kareem FCCA is a man on the move in more ways than one. In mid 2020, he became CFO (Nigeria) at Honoris United Universities, a pan-African private higher education network, when his employer Nile University of Nigeria became part of the Honoris matrix (see boxout). Since then, his feet have hardly touched the ground. ‘In fact, for the past 12 to 15 months, travelling around has been my life,’ he says.

Kareem’s move into the education sector back in 2019 marked the start of a different kind of voyage, personally as well as professionally. ‘Going down this road has taken me on a journey that was beyond my imagination,’ he says.

‘Nobody gives me a set of instructions, they give me a brief’


CFO (Nigeria), Honoris United Universities

Head of finance, Nile University of Nigeria

Manager, financial reporting and control, IHS Towers

Financial reporting accountant, GE

Roles in audit, KPMG

After previous roles in professional services at KPMG (where he trained), the power sector (with multinational GE) and tech (with telecoms infrastructure provider IHS Towers), his shift to education was an interesting departure.

‘It felt like a risk,’ says Kareem, who could, at the time, see an international posting on the horizon with IHS. But he could not resist the opportunities at Nile University and then becoming involved in the development and expansion of the Honoris network, which attracted a US$275m private equity investment from Actis in 2017.

More than an employee

He says: ‘I consider myself an intrapreneur: everywhere that I have worked, I’ve seen myself as more than an employee. I have always tried to go beyond my defined boundaries, to ask, what can I do to add value to this business?’

Kareem created his own intrapreneurial opportunities earlier in his career; now, it’s at the core of what he does at Honoris and Nile University. ‘One of the things I love most about my job today is having the freedom to conceive an idea, execute, and monitor the results. Nobody gives me a set of instructions, they give me a brief.’

At Nile University, where he remains finance director, a multifaceted capital investment project is under way. During his time there, it has included (among other things) the construction of two campus hostels and two multipurpose halls for male and female students, a new law faculty building, a water supply upgrade, a solar power installation that makes the university self-sufficient in energy, and a digital transformation project with new and integrated computer systems ranging from student administration to enterprise resource planning.

‘You can see the transformative impact of education’

Some of this work built on Kareem’s past roles as a finance professional; some of it demanded new knowledge and skills – and opened his eyes to some of the blessings and challenges of the education sector.

‘In some ways it’s not so different to other sectors. But you are much more exposed to the customers – the students. You see how they walk in on day one, see how they spend years on their programme of study, then see them go out and become something. You can see the transformative impact of education,’ he says, echoing the Honoris ‘Education for impact’ mission statement.


One of the principles he lives by is to try to do good in society. ‘It’s an obligation,’ he believes. So when Nile University held a ceremony in June 2022 to sign a partnership agreement with ACCA, while the qualification and its potential to boost skills and employability were on the minds of all those present, Kareem was also thinking about ways to inspire more students to take the first step towards this career opportunity. ‘My ACCA is the qualification I’m most proud of because it was a turning point for me,’ he says. ‘Without it, I don’t know what my life could have been.’

Addressing the students at the event, Kareem did his best to convey the potential. ‘I told them the tale of a young guy, fresh out of school, having to face the real world with no idea what to do with his life. How he ended up doing the ACCA Qualification, the career journey it took him on, his travels. And when I saw that I had caught their attention, I admitted that young guy was me.’

He then announced he would personally pay the registration fee for anybody present who signed up to study for ACCA, a pledge that has benefited almost 100 Nile University students. ‘Since gaining fellowship status, I had been looking for ways to give back,’ he explains.

‘With the right framework and policies we can transform the sector’

Talking to the top

Even more students stand to gain from Nile University's ongoing collaboration with Nigeria's National Universities Commission (NUC). Kareem and other members of the institution's leadership team have played a prominent role in engagements with the NUC, successfully advocating for robust policies that encourage more involvement of the private sector in transforming higher education in Nigeria.

In 2022, the NUC announced new guidelines for foreign investment and partnerships between foreign universities and their Nigerian counterparts. The potential positive impact on education in Nigeria and beyond could be vast.

‘With the support of the right framework and policies we can transform the education sector,’ says Kareem, whose advocacy for the ACCA Qualification and education in Nigeria has not gone unnoticed by fellow finance professionals in the country. They recently voted him the 2022 winner of ACCA Nigeria’s Advocate of the Year Award – an accolade that he admits makes him 'immensely proud'.


Honoris United Universities is a higher education network of 15 private institutions, operating in 10 countries and 32 cities across Africa, with a total of 71,000 students and 3,500 active teachers. Six of the network members are in Tunisia, four in southern Africa, three in Morocco, and one apiece in Nigeria and Mauritius.

The network includes universities, specialist schools, technical and vocational institutes. It runs student exchange programmes with 190 universities in Europe, the US and Asia, and has 500 employer partnerships. Among the 420 degree subjects on offer are medicine, health sciences, engineering, IT, business, law, architecture, creative arts, fashion and design, media, political science and education.