Ivey makes case for Africa

Prompted by the demand for case-based management education at universities and the need for business cases in Africa following the launch of Ivey Publishing’s 39 Country Initiative, Richard Ivey School of Business professor Nicole Haggerty has initiated a new elective course for Ivey’s HBA students this spring, International Business Environment Studies: Service Learning in Africa, in hope of shedding light on the rapidly changing African business world and the opportunities there.

The 18 students enrolled in the course will spend five weeks in either Nairobi, Kenya; Mombasa, Kenya; Koforidua, Ghana; or Butare, Rwanda in May and June gaining international business experience and teaching African business students and faculty how to use Ivey cases to supplement their management education by building critical decision-making and communication skills. While there, they’ll also work with an local faculty member to write a case on an African business. They will also conduct research to understand the scope and consequences of informal micro businesses – non-tax paying small local vendors and service providers – on the local economic and social systems.

The African universities hosting students include Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology in both Nairobi and Mombasa, Kenya; All Nations University in Koforidua, Ghana; and National University of Rwanda in Butare, Rwanda. Prior to their visit, Ivey students will be trained to teach with cases, write cases and will receive cross-cultural and African context training.

Considering that in the next five years, seven of the fastest growing economies are predicted to be in Africa and the African business context has been evolving, Haggerty said the course provides a valuable opportunity for students to develop a better understanding of doing business in African countries, and it accomplishes some of Ivey’s UN Global Compact goals.

“This is a major opportunity for the school and our students. It makes good business sense to train future business leaders about what is going on, on this continent,” she said. “Unlike many service learning initiatives, this course is not targeted at the bottom of the pyramid.  In Africa, university education is very under-resourced, yet the local management talent gap is large – African businesses want strong home-grown talent and African universities want to adopt case method teaching to elevate their international standings.

“Our volunteerism to teach a business decision making with cases course benefits our colleagues at other business schools, helps them start to build their own capabilities to integrate case teaching into their curriculum and it provides a rich, immersive international  learning experience for Ivey students.”

As an example, Haggerty recently worked with All Nations University in Ghana on its newly launched Center for Case Studies and Management Research. Haggerty has already taught workshops on case teaching and case writing to faculty and students in India and now in Africa at All Nations University. During her recent visits to all the partner schools, she found them to be extremely responsive to hosting Ivey students for the service learning program.

“Everywhere I went, I was met with open arms. They were eager to partner with a school that is a leader in case teaching and case writing,” Haggerty said. “The opportunity for Ivey and these schools to partner and collaborate to co-create this course was tremendous. At the business school level there was tremendous motivation to build on opportunities.”

Recalling her first visit to Africa in February, Haggerty said she was impressed with the spirit of the people. In Kenya, she was able to connect with her own family history first in Nairobi where her father was born and raised, and in Mombasa where her great grandfather owned the Edward St. Rose Chemist pharmacy (for which original signage still exists at its former address).  Haggerty said she was deeply moved by the revitalization in Rwanda since the 1994 Rwandan Genocide.

“I saw a country that was well-connected to its past, but has found a way to move on,” she said. “It was incredible not just to see the business side in Africa, but to also experience the cultural side and the social dynamics.”

In Ghana, she learned how influential family is to the culture, where respect for others is commonly shown by referring to them in familial terms like ‘Auntie’ or ‘Uncle’.

Meera Haji, an HBA student enrolled in the service learning in Africa course, is of Tanzanian heritage and said she hopes the course will change some people’s mindsets about Africa.

“Some people only think of Africa as a place where there is poverty and disease and that’s not true. Some Africans might not have a lot of material wealth, but they are the happiest people and they appreciate what they do have,” said Haji, who has previously visited both Tanzania and Kenya. “China and India are two places that often come to mind to start a business, but I don’t think Africa is considered and it should be. I’m hoping this will change.”

Haji is considering a career in teaching and said the course will give her valuable hands-on experience.

“Ivey hopes to create leaders who think globally and this course gives us a chance to think globally and make a difference in another country,” she said. “To experience a different culture and do something you don’t feel comfortable with is a real opportunity to learn. It will make you stronger and help to differentiate you.”