Filling the gap: building African managers for Africa

The latest research by the African Management Institution (AMI) shows that the
continent is severely lacking in managers with the skills to advance its economy.
"Africa is a continent that is going through an economic growth spurt and is brimming
with talent but is tragically short of the skills needed to support this,' says Director
of the University of Cape Town?s Graduate School of Business (GSB), Walter Baets.

The 2012 AMI survey, which drew from 50 in-depth interviews with individuals at
40 organisations across Africa, including employers, educators, thought leaders,
training providers and more, showed that in Africa the overall efforts to develop high
quality managers are entirely inadequate to meet the opportunities the next few
decades will bring. The report states that more young Africans are pursuing higher
education, but too often the quality is low.

To address this, Baets believes that it is the responsibility of business schools to
rebalance education in Africa, so that leaders acquire the necessary skills to develop
inclusive business, and contribute to human and economic advancement.

"Educational institutions need to question the type of training that is being
provided. In confronting the lack of managers at home and in the rest of Africa, the
continent needs institutions that take on the responsibility to ensure that we have
capable managers who can perform to international standards and managers who are
capable of dealing with the unique opportunities and challenges that set Africa apart
from the rest of the world. At the same time they need to establish the foundations
for a strong economy and the continent?s progress,' he says.

The appetite for learning in Africa is clearly there. According to Bruce MacDonald
who heads the Programme for Management Development at the UCT GSB - a two-
week programme that runs twice each year - African delegates on the course have
surged in the past decade.

As one of the GSB?s longest running short courses, PMD deliberately changed its
focus in 2001 from serving a narrowly South African market, to rather encapsulate
the needs of broader Africa. MacDonald says that the development of the sub-
Saharan market for the PMD has been an enormously rewarding undertaking.

"We have built PMD into what is surely the most diverse management
development programme in Africa. Anything up to 70% of the participants in any one
group arrive from countries outside of South Africa?s borders. Up to 10 different
African countries are represented at a time.

The opportunity for sharing perspectives - cultural, personal, regional, occupational -
is breathtaking. The fact that, according to the CIA World Factbook for 2012, there
are 34 sub-Saharan countries with GDP growth rates higher than the fastest-growing
European country (Norway at 3.1%), suggests that we have been backing a winning
horse,' he says.

PMD takes a general management focus, and aims to upskill and equip
participants with the appropriate perspective to progress to general management
level; to ensure that the programme remains attuned to the needs of delegates in an
African business context, the focus is on practical implementation rather than theory
formulation. Presenters are well-qualified practitioners who can present from a
perspective of both academic validity and practical on-the-ground experience.

MacDonald says that through this practical approach, which includes a post-
course assignment to give delegates the opportunity to demonstrate the value of
what they have gained from the programme, delegates report "measurable payback
that has been realised far in excess of the cost of the programme - and in some
instances provided a return of investment that is so spectacular that it probably
beggars belief.'

The "Afropolitan? approach PMD takes is something the GSB strives to uphold in all
its programmes, and one that Baets believes African educational institutions need to
take to see that the continent reaches its potential.

"We live in a society that yearns for new ideas, and solutions for growing social
and environmental problems. It is here that universities contribute most. By saying
that the GSB is part of an Afropolitan university and being committed to this vision,
we have the opportunity to think about its position as an educational institution in
the context of global movements and developments; it forces us to ask the tough
epistemological questions about the role the university plays in post-colonial society.
Africa needs African ways of doing things,' says Baets.