One Million African Managers Needed Over Next 10 Years

Conference highlights business gaps and seeks solutions

05/11/2014 Barcelona

Quality in Context: Management Education for the Developing World
“There's a key role for business schools to manage this gap between talent and business competencies,” stated IESE professor Africa Ariño (middle) / Photo: Jordi Estruch

Africa needs to add one million trained business managers to its workforce over the next decade, in order to drive the dynamic growth that is forecast across the continent. But harnessing this potential will require educational solutions to bridge a gap between talent and business skills.

These were among the principal findings of the Global Business School Network (GBSN) and the Management Development Network (EFMD) conference, hosted by IESE in Barcelona this week.

Under the banner of "Quality in Context: Management Education for the Developing World," the conference convened deans and faculty from around the world to discuss the challenges and solutions of business education in Africa. Participants debated on-the-ground realities facing African students and businesses, with a focus on the acute need to provide comprehensive in-company training for new graduate recruits who still lack core business skills.

Developing Talent to Match Growth Potential

"Africa faces significant challenges in terms of business education. It is estimated that one million people will need to be trained to become business managers to respond to economic growth over the next 10 years," said IESE Professor of Strategic Management, Africa Ariño. "African business education operates in a very different context to the West with more constraints on resources. Many African businesses are vertically organized so they have to provide things like energy, and the same is true of education and talent development from within their own environments.

"African employers face a more acute need than their Western counterparts to provide university graduates with company training," she added. "Most recent graduates don't have the requisite business skills when they join a company. There's a key role for business schools to manage this gap between talent and business competencies."

The conference heard from deans, academics, education specialists and business leaders from all over the world, including Kwaku Sakyi-Addo, CEO of Ghana Chamber of Communications, Azam Chaudry, dean of Lahore School of Economics, Anjali Sastry, senior lecturer at MIT Sloan School of Management and Keith Engel, director of African tax policy at Ernst & Young.

Sessions focused on how to deliver quality and excellence in business education and the benefits of building partnerships with the private sector. Delegates also discussed the scarcity of soft, or "transversal" skills that are needed to fuel sustainable growth.

Delivering Value Locally and Globally

Director of EFMD Business School Services Department, Nadine Burquel, stressed the importance of this kind of competence building: "Business education in Africa needs to have a defined role in developing a spirit of entrepreneurship. We can’t just go into African countries, deliver curricula and leave. There has to be sustainable value – and this in turn needs to have the double dimension of delivering entrepreneurial and soft skills and to create jobs and prosperity at a local level, while building inter-cultural and transversal skills to help businesses and entrepreneurs compete at an international or global level."

Touching on the presence of overseas businesses operating in Africa, she also insisted on the need to hire locally. "Multinationals have the responsibility to find and employ local, African talent, and reward and nurture it. It’s about harnessing local excellence that better understands local markets. Too much has been extracted from Africa over the course of history," she added. "It’s high time to give something back."