March 12, 2013 11:15 am

Aiming to overcome neglect of Africa

The business of Africa

The African continent is far more neglected by business schools than it ought to be, according to Katie Carr, regional director EMEA and India at the Esade Business School in Spain.

When she was appointed to her role six months ago she decided to do an analysis of Esade’s connections with each of the main regional areas for which she had taken responsibility – Europe, the Middle East, Africa and India. She found GMAT research that showed, for example, that more people took the GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) test in Nigeria than in Spain. However, students from the whole continent account for only 2-3 per cent of Esade’s intake on its graduate business courses.

Not only does Africa not figure highly in Esade’s intake Ms Carr says, it also scarcely registered with students as a possible region for future job opportunities.

The research prompted Esade to run an event, which took place on Monday 11 March, aimed at inspiring Esade students to consider work in Africa.

“The number one goal of this event was to open students’ minds to the opportunities in Africa,” Ms Carr says.

Shaun Gause, chief executive and co-founder of Global Group Inc (GGI) a trade development and consulting firm currently focused on Sierra Leone, was one of five panelists who addressed students at the event.

He decided to form his company after completing the Georgetown University-Esade global EMBA two years ago. He had previously been involved in charitable healthcare activities targeting Africa which had left him feeling frustrated.

“My previous work in Africa involved me chasing after money and equipment. While it made an impact, it only lasted as long as the money was there. Then you had to go and get more money.”

GGI has taken investments from wealthy individuals who are prepared to invest in projects chosen by GGI on a not-for-profit basis. The investors’ principal is protected. If the project makes a profit the investors can also share in that, but profit is not the investors’ primary aim. Mr Gause plans to expand the investor profile and also the countries and the projects GGI invests in.

“Especially coming from the west, there is a lack of appetite for Africa,” Mr Gause says, but he believes it was particularly rewarding for graduates from business schools.

“You can go there and learn not just how to survive, but how to thrive,” he says, pointing not only to the learning opportunities offered by the complexities of working there but also to the huge entrepreneurial spirit graduates are likely to meet. He cites the example of Sierra Leone teenager, Kelvin Doe, who worked out how to make his own batteries at the age of 13 and has now built his own radio station.

“They say necessity is the mother of invention... If you take the lessons you learned in Africa and apply them in the US and Europe you might find you learned more than you expected,” Mr Gause adds.

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