02 July 2019 | Story Valentino Ndaba | Photo Charl Devenish
Dr Ufok Samson-Akpan
A family built on education and entrepreneurship: From left; Dr Ufok Samson-Akpan, Dr Ekaete Benedict, Aniebo Hagan, and Mmedaara Samson-Akpan.

Graduating from the University of the Free State (UFS) is a family affair for the Samson-Akpans. Over a period of 16 years the family have garnered a total of nine qualifications from the UFS. The mother and her five children have among them an undergraduate degree, two honours degrees, two master’s degrees, and two postgraduate diplomas. During the June graduations, they added another master’s degree and a PhD degree to their haul. 

Dr Ufok Samson-Akpan, a specialist family physician and the coordinator of the Nelson Mandela Fidel Castro Student Training Programme, was the first to register at the UFS. She graduated with an MBA degree in Management and Health Care Management   the same day as her first daughter Ekaete Benedict who graduated with a BCom Hons degree in Business Management in 2003. Sixteen years later, on 28 June 2019, the family celebrated another double graduation. Benedict obtained her PhD in Business Management alongside her sister Aniebo Hagan who graduated with her Master’s in Disaster Management.

Empowerment through education

Benedict is walking in her father’s footsteps as a lecturer at the Department of Business Management. “We hail from an academically inclined family. Our late father was a lecturer in English and Theatre Arts. Our house was always filled with books and we were encouraged to read, to be creative and inquisitive about our surroundings,” Benedict explains.

Her belief in education and women empowerment led her to establish a NPO called Cherished Rubies. “It focuses on projects and activities related to the empowerment, development, training and health of the girl child and women in the province,” she elaborates. 

Merging education and entrepreneurship

Her PhD thesis titled: The Influence of Environmental and Individual Factors on the Growth Intentions of SMMEs in the Free State investigates internal and external forces that could facilitate or hinder entrepreneurs’ intentions to grow their businesses. “The results and recommendations should benefit current entrepreneurs, policymakers, educational institutions and relevant government agencies seeking to decrease the failure rate of Small Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) in the province,” she said.
Benedict is also the CEO and co-founder of Mdy Designs (Pty) Ltd, which she operates with another sister, Mmedaara Samson-Akpan who graduated from the UFS with a B.Sc in Information Technology and Management in 2015. Mdy Designs is an award-winning business in Bloemfontein which focuses on clothing and accessories inspired by indigenous African designs and materials.

Descending from a lineage of women who used education to empower themselves, Benedict is a true inspiration for women in education and entrepreneurship and takes the baton to empower future generations. 

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