Online learning tool to empower entrepreneurs across Africa

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Africa is a continent that is going through a growth spurt and is brimming with
talent but is tragically short of the skills to support this. The launch of the online
learning tool is expected to provide the skills needed to grow small business.


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A new online learning platform has been launched to upskill and empower African
entrepreneurs to start and run successful businesses in extremely challenging
contexts.

The initiative - launched by the UCT Graduate School of Business - has the potential
to train hundreds of thousands of men and women across the continent within the
next few years.
The "free-for-all' platform, dubbed GSB Hluma, is the result of more than 15
years of research and development and will be rolled out early this year.
Walter Baets, director of the GSB and the lead developer on the project, said
that Africa is a continent that is going through a growth spurt and is brimming with
talent but is tragically short of the skills to support this. "GSB Hluma will seek, as the
name suggests, to germinate a new generation of individuals who are empowered and
motivated to run better businesses,' he said.
Baets said that the platform is based on one key, very simple premise, that of
learning by doing.
"We are placing the learning squarely with the learner,' he said. "Rather than
giving them the expectation that someone will be "teaching? them or "giving? them
anything. What they learn and how they learn it is up to them. The amount of effort
they put in is what they will get out.'
To help reward this effort, the development team has created a novel, low-
bandwidth delivery system to give learners, wherever they find themselves, the keys
to their own empowerment.
GSB Hluma runs on Moodle - an open source learning platform - and has a
powerful natural language engine to help learners navigate through the system by
suggesting links and related content.
At the core of the system is a database of more than 300 traditional business
concepts, everything from Return on Investment to market segmentation. These
come with an explanation of what they mean and case studies to illustrate how they
have been successfully applied. Learners are then invited to take these concepts
and apply them in whatever context they are working in, to learn by doing, while
reflecting on the process.
In a first step to disseminate this new learning tool, the GSB has teamed up with
the African Management Initiative (AMI) to roll out the system across Africa. AMI,
formed by the African Association of Business Schools, the Lundin Foundation and
The Tony Elumelu Foundation, is working to promote management best practice in
Africa and to expand access to management education and training across the
continent.
As part of this strategy, AMI is building a Virtual Campus for African managers
(www.africanmanagers.org) which features a free repository of tools and resources
to help managers from across Africa improve their skills. The GSB platform is one of
the first significant chunks of content making up this virtual campus.
AMI director Rebecca Harrison said that they are excited to be partnering with
the GSB in this way.

"GSB Hluma is a great tool and I am confident that it will soon be helping to start,
strengthen and expand businesses across the continent,' she said.
"AMI membership has grown rapidly since its launch earlier this year - indicating
the huge need for this kind of initiative on the continent. We are building a
community of African managers committed to personal effectiveness and
responsibility, and the GSB Hluma will play a big role in helping us achieve this.'
Entrepreneurs wanting to access GSB Hluma must first sign up to AMI, which is
free and can be accessed at www.africanmanagers.org/join-ami. In the coming
months the GSB will be investigating additional partners to help roll out the initiative.
AMI is also looking for additional content partners to expand its library of free
resources for African managers.

"Many business schools talk of the challenge of rolling out skills into Africa - we are
taking a very concrete step towards actually doing this,' said Baets.

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