Top business schools forge entrepreneurship partnership

Six of Africa’s top business schools have forged a new association through which they will share resources and expertise, promote academic and student exchanges and conduct research aimed at boosting entrepreneurship, job creation and economic development on the continent.

The African Academic Association on Entrepreneurship, or AAAE, said in a statement that it would develop cooperation – “particularly in the areas of entrepreneurship, small business development, innovation and start-ups” – through research, case studies, exchanges and academic materials and publications, professional internships and technical cooperation.

The consortium will be driven by the School of Business of the American University in Cairo – where its founding meeting was held last month – until a structured steering committee system is up and running.

The other participants are the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business and the University of Stellenbosch Business School in South Africa, Esca Maroc Ecole De Management of Casablanca in Morocco, Lagos Business School in Nigeria and Strathmore Business School in Kenya.

They are all top business schools and the Egyptian and South African schools have triple international accreditation, from the Association of MBAs, the European Quality Improvement System of the European Foundation for Management Development, or EQUIS, and the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.

Professor Karim Elseghir, dean of the School of Business at the American University in Cairo, said the AAAE would “play a key role in leading the continent towards stronger linkages among African business schools” as well as global collaboration.

Youth unemployment and education were Africa’s most pressing challenges and the AAAE was an important step towards enhancing entrepreneurship across Africa. “A sustainable solution to unemployment is a well directed entrepreneurship ecosystem and a more effective educational system,” said Elseghir.

An inclusive approach

Sarah-Anne Arnold, manager of the MTN Solution Space at University of Cape Town Graduate Business School and the university’s representative on the AAAE founding committee, said the association would welcome other business school members in future.

“At the kick-off meeting the approach was very much one of inclusion and wanting to build a network that will support entrepreneurship education across Africa,” she told University World News, adding that criteria for expanding the network had not yet been defined.

“The association is not exclusive – but having accredited founding partners provides a strong base to develop the consortium.”

Other major objectives are to invite collaboration between global business schools in the academic study of entrepreneurship, and to build knowledge bridges with industry.

Arnold said in the association statement: “If we want to build our continent then we need to invest in building networks that are broader than any one single institution. The fuel to innovate is created when people with different experiences, realities, passions and ideas come together with the mandate and support structures to develop new possibilities.”

David Wangombe, dean of the Strathmore School of Management and Commerce, agreed that “research and intellectual collaboration in the African entrepreneurship space will enable the exploration of the wealth of our diversity and contribute to sustainable development”.

Each association member shared a belief in the need for a continental approach to support entrepreneurship, said the president of Morocco’s ESCA School of Management Thami Ghorfi. Samantha Walbrugh-Parsadh of the University of Stellenbosch Business School is the other steering committee representative.

Next steps

Sarah-Anne Arnold told University World News that at the kick-off meeting in Cairo, the six business schools had discussed what activities to start the consortium with.

Each had areas of expertise, and one initial activity would be to look at how to combine this specialist knowledge and perhaps develop a joint research agenda. Secondly, the AAAE would look at faculty exchange so that schools could share experts, as well as at student exchange.

“We will also look at programmes we might develop together. In the much longer term we could create programmes around entrepreneurship in Africa, for instance an MBA with this particular focus.”

There would be further steering committee meetings in the coming months, Arnold said, to work towards creating joint programmes during the course of the year.