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Executive Education

African business schools organize

By Peter Walker for CNN
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(CNN) -- When people consider taking an MBA or similar qualification, their thoughts overwhelmingly turn to the United States, Europe, Asia, even South America.

What about Africa? Thus far, much of the continent has lagged behind other regions in terms of business education.

But that is starting to change.

Set up in mid-2005, the Association of African Business Schools (AABS) is seeking to raise standards around the continent, linking schools so they can exchange staff, students and ideas and work jointly towards all-important international accreditations.

George Njenga, director of Strathmore Business School in Nairobi, Kenya, is a member of the AABS board, which met last month in the Kenyan capital.

The organization was set up, he said, to ensure all African schools have "good quality control that is in tandem with the trends of the world in business school education."

"We needed to speak as one voice, so we could have the benefits of group presentation," he added.

A key part of the AABS's work is helping members work towards accreditation by one of the internationally-recognized bodies that assess business schools, such as the US-based AACSB.

"You can imagine a school like Strathmore going through a seven-year program of accreditation internationally, it becomes a tremendous job," he said. "We don't have the economic capability of the United States and Europe.

"But if we have an Association of African Business Schools, we can embed within our terms of reference and membership conditions some of the accreditation procedures the universities should have. We start building them up slowly to that high level."

Different levels

Some African business schools are already well known, notably in South Africa, where for example, the University of Cape Town's MBA ranked 66th on the Financial Times's 2006 global rankings, the only African school in the top 100.

However, "the vast majority of Africa is nowhere near there," noted Njenga.

Apart from South Africa, the continent has lagged behind in academic capability, he said, due to a variety of factors including sluggish economic growth, a lack of investment and civil war and other instability.

This was now being addressed, Njenga said: "I would say that right now, growth (in business education) is strong in southern Africa and sub-Saharan Africa, we have Kenya growing tremendously, we have Nigeria coming up, Ghana as well."

Njenga is at pains to point out that whatever its current disadvantages, Africa should never be treated as a special case in terms of business education.

"I don't belong to that school," he said. "I belong to the school that believes that what is good and excellent management is good and excellent everywhere. It's a global thing. A good research paper from Europe should be the same from anywhere."

Parts of Africa such as Kenya have cultural issues in that business can tend to be "relationship business," he said, where family or other ties take precedence over competition and performance.

"We have failed to generate the benefits of individuality, when people are competitive individually," Njenga said.

"Now how do you solve that problem? Good management education. We train Africans in understanding the values of good skills, looking at things objectively from the point of view of customer service.

"What you are going to teach them is the same you would teach them in South America, Florida, China -- it's the same thing."


story.nairobi.jpg

Raising standards: the AABS met recently in Nairobi.

FACT BOX

FT's Executive MBA Rankings
1. Wharton, U.S.
2. Hong Kong UST, China
3. London Business School, UK
4. Instituto de Empresa, Spain
5. Fuqua, Duke, U.S.
6. Chicago GSB, U.S.
7. Columbia, U.S.
8. Kellogg, U.S.
9. Stern, NY, U.S.
10. Cass, City University, UK
Source: Financial Times 2006

FACT BOX

EMBA SNAPSHOT

Executives taking the top EMBA courses in the U.S., Europe and Asia have average salaries of around $130,000 to $200,000.

A typical EMBA student is likely to be aged in the early 30s, with 6-10 years of working experience.

A top EMBA course can cost $100,000. Customized courses start at a few thousand dollars.

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