One of the latest trending topics for both business schools and professionals nowadays has to do with the MBA’s role in developing education in Africa. Although the MBA originated in the US, the format now spans entire continents and cultures. But why is Africa in the spotlight of business and management education?
As Vani Nadarajah, Director of Admissions at the African Leadership University (ALU) School of Business (Rwanda), told BusinessBecause: “It's important to change the narrative in Africa.” More and more educational institutions are investing time and resources in the continent’s development and well-being as they see the great potential of the market. At the same time, universities are also concerned with assisting and supporting African students who wish to contribute to the region’s development themselves.
School projects and initiatives for Africa
International business schools and MBA programmes are usually involved in the African cause through courses, school work, and other ambitious projects.
One of the schools which actively participate in the conversation and support the need to invest in Africa’s future is Harvard Business School (HBS) (US). In 2017, the prestigious institution opened a new research office with a global outreach in South Africa’s biggest city Johannesburg. According to the school, the goal of the research centre is to “strengthen its relationships with business and academic leaders across the continent” as well as to encourage and support the publication of African-related research work by Harvard faculty.
In addition, HBS has incorporated the topic in its MBA curriculum by offering its first Africa-intensive course called “Africa Rising: Understanding Business, Entrepreneurship, and the Complexities of a Continent” in January 2018. Other institutions are not lagging behind in this respect either. Similarly to HBS, the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania (US) features three global modular courses in Africa as part of its MBA: “Building Future Markets: The Case for Africa,” “Conflict, Leadership & Change: Lessons from Rwanda,” and “Opportunities and Challenges in Africa: Healthcare and Business in Ethiopia”.
Vision for the future thanks to African students
Perhaps even more importantly, business schools strive to help Africa live up to its potential by first investing in and providing support for students and professionals from the region. Their help and encouragement is manifested in scholarships and fellowships for locals, study trips, a strong local network, and more. The value is transferred in both directions as it is not only African students who benefit from the support provided by schools. Institutions themselves also recognise that their mission is promoted and reinforced thanks to the quality of their graduate pool. As Zimbabwean student Atherton Mutombwera explains, “Having come to [the University of Oxford Saïd Business School (UK)], and sitting in class, I realised that my voice matters. We see things very differently. Where you come from matters: you can add to the conversation.”
The fact that most of the highly ranked and well-known business schools nowadays have scholarships available specifically for African students proves that indeed there are global opportunities for people from the region. Although plenty of European programmes feature such financial aid, another interesting example worth mentioning once again comes from Harvard Business School. Earlier in 2018, the school started the Global Opportunity Fellowship (GO: Africa) with the aim of supplementing “the income of MBA graduates who go on to work in Africa following graduation.”
“We are eager to support HBS graduates who want to make a difference in emerging markets,” Chad Losee, Managing Director of Admissions and Financial Aid at HBS, says. “This pilot programme will help attract top talent to Africa and expand the school’s global impact.”
Nevertheless, it is not just institutions outside Africa who are making strides to promote the potential of the area. The ALU School of Business, with campuses in Rwanda and Mauritius and a large portion of online MBA courses, has been vocal about its ambitious goal of creating a truly pan-African educational network throughout the region. According to Vani Nadarajah, this is a necessary step in taking the continent into a prosperous future.
“Existing business schools in Africa tend to be very regional in perspective and cohort. Rising professionals know how things are done in their region but not beyond that. Nevertheless, they have the desire and passion to make a pan-African impact,” notes Ms Nadarajah whose previous admissions experience includes Yale School of Management (US) and IE Business School (Spain).
To achieve this, the ALU School of Business is actively recruiting faculty and students from around the African continent. For its MBA programme, the school also organises six week-long visits to its campus in Rwanda – this is an opportunity for MBA class participants to get direct guidance from prominent business leaders from across Africa.
Although only time will show the extent to which universities and business programmes will be able to promote Africa’s well-being, their current strides for change and impact shine a positive light on the topic.