INSEAM trains new generation of top African managers
INSEAM was set up by France's Grenoble Ecole de Management, or GEM, and the ESCA School of Management in Casablanca, Morocco, where the institute is located.
It has brought together a network of business schools from eight countries in French-speaking North and Sub-Saharan West Africa - Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cote d'Ivoire, Madagascar, Morocco, Senegal, Togo and Tunisia.
Each can propose up to eight outstanding bachelor-level students to attend the institute. It is INSEAM's decision whether or not to enrol the selected students.
The idea behind INSEAM was that African businesses needed structured economic and societal development and managers who were responsible, aware of sustainable management and not only capable of understanding the characteristics of African businesses but also issues related to globalisation.
"The prime objective of INSEAM is identifying, revealing, accompanying and developing talents in Africa so that they can become powerful developing contributors to African businesses on the international scene," said Thami Ghorfi, president of ESCA who sits on INSEAM's executive committee.
INSEAM offers an MSc in business development and an advanced management programme for African leaders, and seminars on best practices for an academic network of African institutions and research.
Projects are supported by organisations such as the Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie, or AUF, the Dutch cooperation programme NUFFIC, ministries of higher education, European and African embassies and university presidents.
A current INSEAM project is a three-year education and research programme to increase the capacity of the University of Parakou in Benin to train young students and women in entrepreneurship.
Representatives of the African network schools met in Paris in February for the INSEAM annual workshop, focused this year on 'Entrepreneurial innovation and sustainable development in Africa', a theme on which a book is planned. The event was held at Strate College school of design, a new INSEAM partner.
IPER - the Institut Portuaire d'Enseignement et de Recherche in Normandy - has also recently joined as an INSEAM associate, adding a new specialisation for the institute, in port and shipping management; and negotiations are taking place for collaboration with the Microsoft 4Afrika Initiative.
The institute's two founding partners, GEM and ESCA, worked together for 15 years, developing joint degrees for management, marketing and in-service information system management, explained Jean-Francois Fiorina, director of GEM and an INSEAM executive committee member.
"Six or seven years ago we said, 'good, it works'. We had 300 to 350 students together in joint degrees - how could we go further in this partnership?
"There was a lack of skills in African countries. Those who have studied abroad often don't want to return, and the local training systems were deficient. There is a real need for good local skills. Subsidiaries of French companies in Africa agreed - they did not want to send more expatriates to work abroad because it is expensive.
"We decided we would create a new innovative model, a network of local business schools with a representative from each country; they would send their best students to Casablanca for an MSc created specially for African students, for entrepreneurs focused on potential African companies," said Fiorina.
Each African school puts forward its best students, who already have bachelor-level degrees, and they are accepted - or not - by INSEAM to study in Casablanca for the two-year MSc.
The selected students are grouped together in 'all-African' courses specialised for careers in African companies, though they mix with other students in some ESCA classes. All the students must have basic English and study the language as part of their courses.
The first students started at INSEAM 18 months ago, and they will graduate after their final examinations in September.
"Our main problem is to find money. We are not a public institution, so it's difficult for us to have access to funds from the IMF or other financial institutions," said Fiorina. "It is paid for from our GEM and ESCA budgets."
Fees for INSEAM students are EUR6,000 (US$8,300) a year, though grants are available for 10 students who are exempted from paying the fees.
Another difficulty, says Fiorina, is timing. "It is quite complicated because the process for students to go abroad begins four or five years before they come to Casablanca, so we need to talk a lot to parents; we have to convince them. Parents call us all the time to check up. But the students have no academic problems."
Entering contracts with companies is also time-consuming. "Our main goal is to find some money and to do some marketing, to make ourselves known," said Fiorina. "We have already asked companies to support us, and they are interested, but it takes time."
He added: "We are very ambitious, and we believe in this project. Our customers are not the students, they are the companies - we need interested companies. We have to provide for companies that want to grow in Africa, that need talented people who can deploy strategies. These companies have to invest in human capital resources."
Experiences of three INSEAM network schools
Graduates from the faculty of economics and management, or FASEG, of the University of Parakou in north Benin are qualified for management careers in fields including public service, banking, local government, development projects, and international institutions such as the UN Development Programme and the World Bank, said Leandre Gbaguidi, CAMES lecturer in management sciences.
FASEG currently has four of its 4,800 students studying at INSEAM in Casablanca. Gbaguidi heard about the institute through the Dutch organisation CINOP Global, a partner of FASEG and two other faculties of the university.
"We are in regular contact with the students by telephone and emails to keep in touch with how the courses are going, how they are working there, how INSEAM is monitoring them, how internships will be organised in Moroccan companies so the students have experience of working in other countries," said Gbaguidi.
He was satisfied with the students' progress so far, "taking account of the results they have got for various class projects and examinations, and the emails we exchange regularly with the director of studies of ESCA-INSEAM, Madame Bouchra By."
The students are bound by contract with Parakou University to return to Benin to support the Centre de Developpement de l'Entrepreneuriat, an incubator programme being set up by the university with CINOP Global for students of entrepreneurship.
ISCAM, the Institut Superieur de la Communication, des Affaires et du Management, was a rare institution when it was set up in 1990 in Antananarivo, with help from the private sector, to contribute to Madagascar's economic development by training young people in management.
"At that time, very few schools of this type existed in Madagascar, although companies lacked technical and commercial staff," said Jaona Ranaivoson, director-general of ISCAM.
The institute has about 1,000 students and offers initial training in management sciences at bachelor and masters levels, and in-service training for company employees.
ISCAM heard about INSEAM as it is a partner of GEM and of ESCA, and "we decided to join the network to participate in the emergence of an African elite of quality, to contribute to the improvement of our schools and to widen our partnership base. We have also found its masters programme very interesting," said Ranaivoson.
Three of ISCAM's graduates are currently at INSEAM, keeping in touch every month with news about their studies and daily life.
While there is no requirement for them to return after they graduate, "generally our students who go away to study come back to Madagascar. Those who have left most recently are expecting to return to Madagascar at the end of their studies," said Ranaivoson.
The Ecole Superieure des Sciences Economiques et Commerciales, or ESSEC, a public business school created in 1979 in Douala, Cameroon, offers programmes from first degree to doctoral level. It heard about INSEAM through personal contact between its director, Emmanuel Kamdem, and a colleague at GEM.
ESSEC Douala joined the INSEAM partnership "to contribute actively to the constitution and functioning of an international network of African business schools", said Kamdem. The collaboration was formalised in 2010 with a partnership agreement between INSEAM, the University of Douala and ESSEC.
Its student body numbers about 1,600, and it currently has one masters student at INSEAM in Casablanca. He is in regular contact, and ESSEC is "totally satisfied" with his progress there, said Kamdem, who saw "a student expressing himself with much assurance, enthusiasm and commitment for his education" in a video in which INSEAM students described their experiences at the institute.
It was "still too soon" to know if the student would return to make his career at home, said Kamdem.