African business schools lack relevant, local case studies for their teaching, leaning instead on first-world examples. But thanks to a joint investment with the Harvard Business School alumni club of SA, UCT's Graduate School of Business (GSB) hopes to change this.
Both institutions will invest R1 million each in a new case study centre at the GSB's Breakwater campus. The centre will help academics on both sides of the Atlantic to write business case studies and develop relevant teaching material focused on African social and economic realities. This is seen as a major step towards decolonising African business schools' curricula.
Until now the trend has been to use case studies from universities abroad, notably Harvard Business School. However, these do not prepare local business leaders sufficiently to allow them to cope with the conditions and realities of Africa's emerging-market economy. African business schools still lack relevant, local material, said GSB director, Professor Walter Baets.
Baets said that there had been talk at the recent African Academy of Management conference in Nairobi about developing local teaching material and decolonising the curriculum.
“For many, there is simply too much of a focus on Western case studies and textbooks,” he said.
Though the Wits Business School Case Centre has already made some headway in this arena, the GSB hopes the new development will go further, creating the largest body of Africa-focused business learning material to date. It is envisaged that the new case study centre, a library of material on emerging-market business and social innovation, will be the largest on the continent.
“This is an exceptional investment and a potential game changer when it comes to business education on the African continent,” said Dr Francois Bonnici, the director of the GSB's Bertha Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship. “Investing in local material means that African business education is where it should be when it comes to business in Africa – leading, not following.”
Bonnici said that the new material would advance students' understanding of the particular context and challenges for ventures with social purpose in African countries, and would raise the standard of business education on the continent.
“The idea is to develop case studies that are not only used at African business schools but elsewhere in the world. After all, if global business wants to operate successfully in emerging markets, it will need access to quality African case studies.”
Why has it taken this long?
Dr Linda Ronnie was the winner of the inaugural Accreditation for African Business Schools (AABS) Emerald Case Study writing competition. The GSB senior lecturer said that writing case studies requires a different skills set and approach to traditional academic research.
As a result, some academics might need guidance in formulating the documents and supervising students who are assigned to write case studies. The new investment will thus fund the appointment of a case study editor at the GSB for three years. This will help academics generate and publish peer-reviewed business case studies for the MBA and other postgraduate programmes.
Photo Emil Sjöblom via Flickr.com.
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