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African Business Schools Need A Transformative Curriculum

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Blog post from AABS 

Written By: Professor Stella M Nkomo



Image: Prof Stella M. Nkomo

The prospects for Africa’s development and growth have never been so optimistic.  This optimism is expressed in the continental media as well as international publications like The Economist with its headlined edition, ”Africa Rising” in March 2013. Development agencies like the Africa Development Bank are also sanguine about the possibilities for post-colonial Africa. Critical to African countries claiming the 21st century as the transformative century  is good leadership and management. With the growing interest in business school degrees including the MBA on the continent, there is an opportunity to groom and prepare a generation of exceptional managers and leaders. While it is important that the curriculum of business schools in Africa contain the standard core management topics of finance, strategy, operations management, and marketing, it is imperative that it also includes context-specific knowledge. There should be a module that zeroes in on understanding  the macro environment of the continent, surveying the continent’s colonial past and its post-colonial, developmental state reality. Standard management theory is biased in its contextualization from a developed, Western perspective. The goal should be helping students to be able to critically reconstruct these principles and concepts for use in the national context.  We also need to encourage the development of indigenous management practices that are relevant to the challenges encountered.

In teaching MBAs for several years in South Africa, I found that many of my students knew very little about other countries on the continent. Therefore,  exposure to the diversity of the continent in terms of economic, social, and cultural differences are also critical as more and more companies engage in cross-border business. While international field trips to China, India, or Europe are interesting, we should also take our students to other countries in Africa.  Another critical module is one devoted to responsible leadership.  The latter is a topic applicable across the globe but its urgency for Africa is underscored by the opportunity to ensure the development of leaders who commit to the triple bottom line:  people, profits and planet. The socio-economic well-being and future of over one billion people rests upon visionary leaders with the right values who are dedicated to transforming  organisations and institutions for the common good.

This article follows the Africa Academy of Management 2014 conference which was held at the University of Botswana and hosted by the Centre of Specialization in Public Administration and Management (CESPAM) in the Faculty of Social Sciences. The conference theme was:  Sustainable Development in Africa through ManagementTheory, Research and Practice.
Click here to read the conference report. 


Professor Stella M. Nkomo is the Deputy Dean for Research and Post-Graduate Studies and a Professor in the Department of Human Resource Management at the University of Pretoria.  She holds a MBA and PhD in Business Administration. She is also the President of the Africa Academy of Management. Click here to read more about her.


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