It’s time that African business schools stopped sitting on the side-lines

African business schools white paper

New research from Henley Business School Africa shows consensus among African business school deans that it’s time for business schools to step into a more activist leadership role – pushing for continental collaboration and change.

There is no limit to the areas in which African business schools can widen their footprint, believes Jonathan Foster-Pedley, dean and director of Henley Business School Africa and chairperson of the Association of African Business Schools (AABS).

According to a new white paper ‘Amplifying the Impact of African Business Schools’, authored by Foster-Pedley, African institutions have untapped potential to embrace a broader and more strategic role in society.

“As governments across the continent battle to solve the many social and economic challenges they face, it’s time for business schools to play a more conspicuous role in helping to solve these,” he says.

The white paper draws on insights gained through in-depth interviews with 10 high-level international educators and African deans.

Three areas of potential impact are identified: direct, social, and systemic. Direct impact refers to the business models and pedagogical approaches of business schools themselves. This spills over to the broader social impact, which encompasses the students, organisations and entrepreneurs that African business schools cater to and their subsequent impact on business and leadership. “To put it simply, we need to be producing graduates who have a sense of purpose for this continent. If we don’t do this we will be failing,” says Foster-Pedley.

Finally, systemic impact broadens the areas of impact to include country-specific influences, which have the potential to fundamentally change the national approach and discourse around key differentiators, such as leadership style, education systems, and each country’s standing in a globalised world.

The white paper also sets out a roadmap for business schools, highlighting nine core areas which, if executed in concert, have the potential to radically change the face of management education across the continent.

Core challenges include that schools will need to find ways to ensure that their “compass is Africa” and that what they teach is relevant to an African context, while at the same time meeting the criteria of international accreditation and standards of research, and competing on the world stage for top-flight academics, staff, and students. To achieve this, it will be necessary to collaborate and find common purpose across what is a highly fragmented continent with 54 economies each with distinct and varied needs and priorities. “Because the development of business schools on the continent is still in its infancy, the handful of top international schools have a vital role to play in enabling other schools to emerge,” says Foster-Pedley.

Other points in the nine-point plan include: embracing digitalisation; understanding future and unfolding contexts; supporting greater autonomy and independence; engaging with business and society; and developing a world-class, credible faculty.

Central to the successful adoption and implementation of this action plan is the role of various business school bodies and associations active in Africa, including the EFMD and, of course, the Association of African Business Schools (AABS).

“What we know now is that the leading business schools and associations active in Africa have long shared a vision of a collective focused on ‘educating people who can make a change and lead Africa’, but we can do so much more. We have a strong foundation to build on. These recommendations can help us to build momentum, enthusiasm, and success through small wins across the business school community in Africa that could ultimately yield big results.”

Download the full paper here.

Leave a Comment