5 July 2012

Africa: Business Education - the TIA Survey

South Africa's top-tier business schools still leave the others trailing, but regional leaders are emerging.

The majority of Africa's business schools fly under the radar. Most do not reach the standards required for international accreditation or to take a place in international rankings, and with little data available through which to establish the capacities of the continent's business schools, it has been hard to track the supply-side landscape or development within the sector. For this report, This Is Africa has collated its second annual comprehensive dataset of Africa's management schools.

Huge disparities exist between the leading schools - almost exclusively located in South Africa - and the rest. The majority do not gather the data necessary to make a conventional ranking possible. Only the best schools, for example, keep track of the employment or rising earning power of graduates. This dataset, therefore, takes the form of a listing, which aims to measure quality and provide quantitative indicators for the capacities of business schools in expanding Africa's skill-base and promoting private sector growth. Covering 58 contactable institutions, it represents most, but not all, of Africa's business schools - of which there are estimated to be around 90.

Biggest and best

The best established and globally rated schools are predominantly located in South Africa - the continent's biggest economy and commercial hub. Here, we find almost the only world class schools in Africa; among them the Gordon Institute of Business Science, University of Pretoria; Wits Business School; the University of Cape Town, Graduate School of Business - which was placed 54th in the Financial Times' 2012 global MBA rankings; and Henley Management College - whose parent school in the UK was ranked 50th last year for its EMBA.

Outside of South Africa, Lagos Business School (LBS) is the only institution to feature in those rankings, for its executive education offerings. But in eastern Africa, Kenya's Strathmore Business School - set up in 2005 - has positioned itself as a regional leader; along with Rwanda's School of Banking and Finance. In north Africa that accolade goes to Egypt, with the American University in Cairo and Ecole Supérieur Libre des Sciences Commerciales Appliquées; though Tunisia's Mediterranean School of Business is fast-rising.

South African schools also dominate in terms of quantity. The country boasts 24 percent of the surveyed schools, while Nigeria - the continent's second biggest economy, with a population of 158m - has only 3 percent of the total, with just two schools. Only one surveyed school is based in central Africa - BBS in Angola; pointing to the huge dearth in that region.

North Africa, often considered apart from the sub-Saharan region in developmental terms, accounts for another 24 percent of total schools. Elsewhere, business schools appear fairly evenly distributed, with 17 percent located in west Africa; 14 percent in southern Africa (excluding South Africa and including schools in Madagascar and Mauritius); and 19 percent in east Africa.

School Development

However, with advancements in democracy and governance, and growing investment flows and private sector growth boosting demand for quality managers, that dichotomous landscape is changing, with new schools opening across the continent.

Forty two - or 72 percent - of the total surveyed schools have opened since 1990. Twenty one, or 36 percent, have been operating only since 2000 - making the last decade the peak expansionary era for business education in Africa. Interestingly, among those, we see some of the continent's best institutions - Strathmore; the AMBA-accredited School of Banking and Finance, Rwanda; Namibia Business School; and Mediterranean School of Business, which opened in Tunisia in 2002 and offers its courses only in English. South Africa's GIBS, which was set up in 2000, is one of the continent's few schools boasting double accreditation.

With global business schools tracking investment trends, the last few years have also witnessed the opening of foreign schools in Africa. The China Europe International Business School opened with executive education courses in Accra in 2009 and runs an EMBA course taught by international faculty; the Brazilian Business School Angola launched in 2005; and perhaps most notably the US-based Duke Corporate Education opened its Johannesburg office in 2008. More will follow.

Programmes and accreditation

The traditional dominance of South Africa's business education is borne out in the proportion of the country's schools which hold international accreditation. Five of the surveyed South African schools have one or more of the coveted EQUIS, Association of MBAs (AMBA), or AACSB accreditation, with GIBS, Henley and Stellenbosch Business School boasting multiple accreditation.

Beyond South Africa's borders nine schools are accredited by one of those three world-recognised bodies. Six are in North Africa. In the sub-Saharan region, the newly opened Ceibs, the Namibia Business School and the Rwandan School of Finance and Banking are front runners, each with accreditation from at least one of these bodies. Morocco's HECI, an unlikely candidate for the accolade, is EQUIS-accredited through a joint MBA with Canada's UQAM. Some others are accredited by international, though less recognised bodies such as the Western Association of Schools and Colleges - namely, Kenya's USIU. The accountancy body ACCA accredits the University of Lusaka and University of Mauritius.

Currently, only 14 - or 24 percent of schools - require their students to have passed the GMAT, an international entrance examination designed for the MBA. The majority require either a national or school-specific exam, pointing to the less rigorous intake requirements that often result in high enrolment figures.

In terms of cost, courses the continent-over remain well below global averages - often, though not always, a reflection of quality. The costs of the best schools - the likes of GIBS, Henley and Wits - all hover around the $20,000 mark annually. Other quality schools are far cheaper - an MBA at the American University in Cairo costs just under $3,000 p.a., while LBS is priced at over $9,000. Across the continent, the average cost for an MBA is just $6,915 annually.

The majority of schools offer part-time MBAs, with students trying to hold down jobs while they study - a necessity for most self-funded participants. The number of distance learning courses also appears to have increased - most likely a reflection of the continent's growing connectivity and the possibilities that engenders in terms of leap-frogging infrastructural deficiencies. Thirteen of the surveyed schools offer distance learning, against 8 last year. Open University, the UK's distance learning university, is also working to further entrench itself on the continent, offering an MBA and a Masters in Public Administration, as well as a certificate and a diploma in management to meet demand at the lower level.

Among broader offerings, nine schools provide executive education courses, which offer an affordable alternative to degrees -among them the American University in Cairo, the University of Dar Es Salaam Business School, Rwanda's School of Banking and Finance, and Henley. Lagos Business School has positioned itself as a front runner in the arena and is rated 54th this year by the Financial Times for its open executive education, beating Wits, which came in at 55th.

Others - particularly in South Africa - run customised programmes tailored to companies' specific needs. Among the leaders here, GIBS is ranked 42nd globally by the FT for its customised executive education.

Across the majority of sub-Saharan schools, though, offerings additional to the MBA, EMBA or DBA/PhD tend to come in the form of Masters programmes. A number of business schools - not included in the listing since they do not offer conventional MBAs - offer combined undergraduate and postgraduate degrees.

Among these are Tunisia's Institut des Hautes Etudes Commerciales de Carthage, the Institut Universitaire de Gestion in Mali; Madagascar's Institut Supérieur de la Communication, des Affaires et du Management; and Senegal's BEM. Others, like Namibia's Harold Pupkewitz Graduate School of Business offer masters and short-courses, with an EMBA in the pipeline.


Quality of faculty remains one of the major constraints to business education. Only 34 percent of Africa's faculty has a doctorate qualification. That is equivalent to an average of 12 professors per school. Again, it is among the South African schools that the largest proportion of faculty hold doctorates. North Africa doesn't lag by far, though, with 54 percent of faculty qualified at this level.

A number of schools - particularly the international setups - operate with fly-in-fly-out faculty. Notable among those are Ceibs - where 64 of 66 faculty members are international, and Henley. The Ecole Supérieur Algérienne des Affaires has none of its own faculty, using faculty supplied by the Paris and Algerian Chambers of Commerce.

While doctorate qualifications provide an indicator of faculty quality, African schools - even more so than their international counterparts - have come under scrutiny for lack of engagement with real business needs and experience. That is reflected in academic, rather than business-strong faculties. One way of assessing school's focus on the real needs of business is to assess the composure of their advisory boards. Tellingly, among the schools which have boards, these remain heavily dominated by academics.

However, pointing to an awareness of meeting industry's needs, around 30 percent of Africa's school's board members are businessmen - mostly the company directors from groups that schools partner with. The American University in Cairo, for example, divides its 41-member board into a strategic positioning committee - consisting of business leaders from across sectors; a corporate engagement committee - comprising primarily banking and financial officials; and a programme committee - a group of PhD holders and visiting professors and deans.


With the reputation of business schools resting on the delivery of practical experience, class size is an important indicator of competency. There are huge discrepancies in student intake across the continent - from well over 1,000 in the last enrolment in South Africa's Regent Business School and Senegal's CESAG, to only a handful in the likes of Egypt's Nile University.

Access to tutors, the ability to apply learning, and the formation of networking relationships all relate to core class sizes. Schools appear to be keeping these numbers down, with most below 50.

The growth of business schools across Africa has remained, for the large part, a local phenomenon, with enrolment dominated by domestic students, pointing to both low quality in global terms, and a preoccupation with supplying domestic needs. That said, there does appear to be a greater influx of international students - including those from other African countries - than last year's survey indicated, with a total 1,640 international students in schools' last enrolment.

Some of the best schools are developing global models, or positioning themselves as regional hubs. Among the best performers in drawing in international students are not only international schools like Ceibs and USIU, but the University of Nairobi School of Business, as well as HECI in Morocco, ISM and CESAG in Senegal, and a number of the South African schools, including UCT, North-West University Graduate School of Business and MANCOSA.


If schools are to improve, idea and resource sharing will be necessary with both international and other African schools. Most - over 80 percent - do have links to other schools for faculty, research and exchanges. These partnerships have risen up the agenda thanks to networks like the Association of African Business Schools - a not-for-profit organisation established in 2005 to help develop intra-Africa school collaboration. AABS has 27 member schools and 8 more in the pipeline. (For more on school partnerships, turn to p12).

While stakeholders are encouraging intra-Africa ties as relevant to schools' regional needs, the links that schools have formed stretch across the globe, often in accordance with language. Francophone West African schools hold strong links with counterparts in their former colonial power France, though they have tended to develop others too. Take ISM, which partners with the likes of Rouen and Grenoble, but has also developed ties with GIBS and Ghana's GIMPA.

Industry links are equally as important - with one of the main complaints levelled against Africa's lower tier schools being that they simply do not meet companies' needs. Again, 88 percent of schools have links to industry, although it remains concerning that the remainder profess to have no ties to business whatsoever.


The business education landscape in sub-Saharan Africa remains far removed from that in either South or North Africa, where private sectors are larger and demand for qualified managers has been higher for longer. With only about 90 schools serving a population of over a billion - versus India's over 1,500 schools for a population not much bigger - the supply-side landscape will have to develop fast if Africa is to meet demand for well-equipped managers. Schools that have achieved success in recent years will provide good models for others to follow.

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