a recent article on MBA COZA, Walter Baets,
Director of the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business, takes
exception to a statement I made in the September 23 online issue of Business
Business Week article dealt with opportunities that US business schools see, as
African markets are growing more rapidly than the American economy.
the heading: "A HUGE, UNMET DEMAND FOR QUALITY", the author cites me
as saying: "Business education is the fastest-growing single academic
activity in Sub-Saharan Africa. It is immensely popular and very much in need,
but the problem is that all but a few of the business schools are fly-by-night
or not very good” and "There is a huge, unmet demand for quality, so I
suspect that more Western business schools may come in, since there is a
Baets’ interprets me as saying that "a growing [African] middle class would
demand a more western-style business school experience” and asks: "Or do they
just want quality education that is relevant in their country (other than if
they want the education to get away out of the country)? I think we should not
confuse good business schools with western style business schools. I am not
sure that a business school based on fly-in/fly-out faculty really contributes
to the development of the local economy.”
statement was not a value judgment, but leaving that aside, I very much welcome
Baets’ comment because it raises a number of important issues.
Baets puts his finger on the key point: what is needed is quality education
that is relevant to Africa. I couldn’t agree more with him.
he agrees that Africa has a huge unmet demand for quality in this area, and
exhorts all parties involved: "let us build this up then”. Bravo! Indeed, the
main thrust of the organization which I founded and am directing, the Global
Business School Network, is enhancing the quality of business education for
developing countries, marrying global best practice to local relevance
(www.gbsnonline.org). GBSN is a partner organization of the Association of
African Business Schools, with whom we cooperate very closely, in part so as to
ensure local relevance. GBSN capacity-building programmes put local schools in
the driver’s seat. They are the ones who govern the focus and content of GBSN
programmes and are our ultimate clients (see list of GBSN program schools).
other points made by Baets are, in my view, open to discussion.
decision by CEIBS, the China Europe International Business School, to start
operations in Ghana brought up the question of development impact. The main
question, to me, is whether CEIBS and similar schools intend to develop local
African faculty or whether they plan to operate on a "fly-in-fly-out” (FIFO)
model. Developing local faculty is one of the main contributions to development
which top schools and their faculty can make. Ideally, this should be an
integral part of their strategies. It is only by "producing” larger numbers of
quality faculty that Africa will overcome its dramatic shortage.
to the impact of foreign schools on local ones, I suspect that initially they
will tap different markets. To cite an example from Asia, one FIFO school
charges executive education participants four times more than a major local school,
and thus attracts a different clientele. If however they tap the same markets,
then I would see foreign competition as a spur to the imagination of local
schools’ leaders which will raise the level of quality and relevance overall.
Baets questions the relevance of "Western-style business schools” in Africa. A
whole range of views was expressed about this by participants in the September EFMD/AABS conference, which we both
attended, and I am looking forward to discussing the topic further with him and
other deans and faculty of African business schools, but preferably around a
Read Walter Baets' article
response was also published on MBA.co.za.
Guy Pfeffermann is the CEO and founder of the Global Business School Network.