Thursday, 25 August 2011

What the world needs now is... more MBAs?

By Noshua Watson

Economist Guy Pfeffermann points out that businesses in developing countries need good managers and aid for management education. In Africa, he says aid donors focus on primary and secondary education rather than tertiary education, local governments are unlikely to request funds for business schools because they are largely private, and business schools typically attract the middle class, rather than the poorest. Foreign donors also contribute to a shortage of management talent, as aid projects attract the best and the brightest away from the local private sector. 

Despite their relatively better-off clientele, African business schools are starved for resources. Rather than dismiss business schools as a target for development, we should think of training effective managers as a way of building capacity across many sectors – health, manufacturing, education, small business and so on.

The inaugural meeting of the Africa Academy of Management (AFAM) was held as part of the Academy of Management (AOM) conference in San Antonio, Texas last week. AOM has nearly 20,000 members, mostly business school professors, from 110 countries. One of AOM’s strategic objectives is to increase the international diversity of management research theory, evidence, collaboration, teaching, practice and career paths. Sessions at last week’s conference included ‘The Landscape of Management Education and State of Scholarship in Africa: Enlightenment for the East and West’, ‘Innovative Approaches to Understanding Management in Africa’, ‘Environmental and Social Issues in Africa’ and ‘Challenges and Opportunities for Academics Working in Emerging Markets’.

Should we really prioritize educating the relatively well-off? Or should we channel some resources into a segment of society that will generate considerable impact in the governance and success of local institutions?

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