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In terms of economic gains universities and institutions of higher education the world over have recognized Africa’s importance. No wonder then that more and more of these institutions are increasing their involvement in Africa.
For students these days a wide base is of strategic importance. Hence, international experience and inter-cultural competence is more of a requirement than a luxury. Until now however, many obtained this “credentials” in neighbouring European countries and North America. Also, since there have been many emerging economies in the Far East, the path often led to Asia.
What is new now though is the growing interest in Africa and this development is no accident. Finally, the continent is gradually becoming economically important. The economy of the sub-Saharan Africa countries in recent years grew faster than the world average. And this year, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicts a growth of 5.8 percent. In comparison, global growth is expected to be only 2.7 percent.
Frankfurt School focuses on Africa
No wonder then that more and more universities are establishing contacts with African universities and are sending their students to the southern continent. For almost two years the Frankfurt School of Finance & Management has had a focus on Africa in its Master of Business Administration (MBA) program. It sharpens the awareness of the opportunities and needs of the African continent’s future economic experts. “The new focus on Africa was a logical consequence of the many contacts we maintain with Africa”, said Kathrin Valder, Program Director responsible for the Master of International Business (MIB). The university maintains a regional office in Kenya since 2008 and has implemented consulting projects in several African countries including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Ghana, Ethiopia, Senegal and Nigeria for several years through the department’s International Advisory Services (IAS). The experts of the IAS support local micro-finance institutions and banks, adding to the African need to develop tailored financing concepts coordinated by local partners.
A lot of practice
With the Africa specific specialization at the Frankfurt School students get the theoretical know-how in order to develop solutions to economic problems. They attend lectures, which range from cultural diversity to the current political and economic developments of the continent. Teaching staff is also specially flown in from the African partner universities.
In the third semester the students experience Africa first hand. During a two-week stay, they implement their theoretical knowledge in practice, and solve a “business case” whilst at it. Specifically, this may mean that they work out a strategy as to whether an establishment in Africa would be worthwhile for a company. In order to resolve their case study, an MIB former student Diana Kollanyi for example, attended lectures at the partner university USIU Nairobi, Kenya and talked to local entrepreneurs understand the Kenyan business culture. This information is what was needed to solve the assigned business case.
During her internship, Kollanyi additionally spent several months in Nairobi and worked for the consulting subsidiary of the Frankfurt School. Her impressions from the southern continent left her quite impressed. One gets a one-sided report and a rather distorted image of Africa from media. “There are a lot of crazy and very rapid changes and upgrades on the continent, yet those western ‘practices are not simply taken over, but interpreted with the present culture,” she says. Therefore, contrary to the majority opinion: “Africa seems to me not at all as the lost continent, as it is often presented in literature and in the media.”
Prepared for an international career
The focus on Africa may, but need not necessarily lead to a professional career in Africa. “We want to prepare in our master program different students for an international career fit. An Asia focused major is already mandatory in many universities. But the popularity of Africa is increasing. Nearly a quarter of students in the Masters of International Business opts for Africa-specialization”, says Valder.
The Frankfurt School is at the forefront with its new focus on Africa. China recognized the sign of the times earlier on as far as 2009 and even has its own campus in the Ghanaian capital Accra.
Although not previously planned in her career path, Kollanyi returned back to Africa. The 25-year-old is one of the first graduates of the new academic focus and more recently in Nairobi, working as a project manager for the consulting subsidiary of the Frankfurt School.