January 28, 2013 6:04 pm

Lessons out of Africa

Iese business school

A visit to Kenya is, says Alejandro Lago, professor at Spain’s Iese Business School, a chance to “see what entrepreneurship looks like in an economy that is just waking up”.

This month, for the first time, Prof Lago will accompany 45 second-year MBA students on a two-week trip to Nairobi to see that first hand. The MBAs will spend time with Kenyan students, professors and executives, and work on consulting projects for local companies.

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Africa is still largely impoverished, but at a time when growth in India and China is slowing, some economists see the continent as the next big emerging market.

“Africa is interesting,” says Prof Lago. “We have seen a lot of growth there, and it is now at the stage where business can have a big impact on the development of society. We want our students to be part of that.”

During the first week of the elective course, students will spend time at Strathmore Business School, a partner school of Iese, in what Prof Lago describes as an “intense academic experience”.

They will debate cases with Iese and Strathmore faculty, hear from speakers who work in the country and visit local companies. They will see successful homegrown businesses, entrepreneurial ventures and multinationals with outposts in the country.

Students will also work on a consulting project for a Kenyan company. One group has been tasked with creating a financial strategy and budget for a beauty line that last year had a turnover of €40m.

“We also wanted companies that have not yet developed a professionalised culture; they are in a fledgling state. Our MBAs can have a bigger impact in these companies,” says Prof Lago.

“We have to be realistic: two weeks is just two weeks. It is intense immersion, but it is only an initial immersion.”

Stuart Watts, a student from Toronto in Canada who has never been to Africa, says the course is “a tremendous opportunity to have an understanding of what’s going on there.”

“It starts with an understanding of the business culture: how are decisions made? How do things operate on a day-to-day basis? You really can’t go in with expectations. I am trying to have a completely open mind.”

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