Business Schools in Africa and Socioeconomic Development on the ‘Continent of the Future’

Business Schools in Africa and Socioeconomic Development on the ‘Continent of the Future’

We have decided to break with the simplistic approach of outsourcing higher education, instead developing a dynamic educational and social project that appropriates regional-specific features.

In the year 2023, the rate of access to higher education in Africa for 18-to-24-year-olds will be 30 percent (currently at 18 percent), with 18 million students, a sixteenth of whom will continue their studies outside their country of residence, which represents the highest level of mobility in the world.

The number of college students in Africa has more than tripled over the last 15 years: from 3.5 million students in the early 2000s to more than 12 million today, according to the latest UNESCO statistics (approximately two-thirds in sub-Saharan Africa and one-third in North Africa). We will continue to see explosive growth in enrollment in tertiary education in Africa in the coming years, with an expected annual growth rate of nearly 10 percent each year, greater than in all other regions of the world.

Africa, viewed by many as the continent of the future, will redesign the global growth map. The continent continues to attract a growing number of multinationals that are developing and diversifying their investments beyond the traditional sector of the extraction industries.

At emlyon business school, we set up our campus in Casablanca to become a key player in providing education for young people, transforming professional practices and supporting growth and development within this emerging market. In Morocco and in Africa, we have decided to break with the simplistic approach of outsourcing higher education, instead developing a dynamic educational and social project that appropriates regional-specific features and draws on emlyon’s distinctive academic quality.

We are seeking to work with local partners, businesses, civil society stakeholders, and prestigious higher education institutions, on a collegiate basis, to jointly create education, training, and transformation programs. Assistance-based approaches in Africa are totally outdated. We are focused on a philosophy of cooperation.

In Casablanca, our innovative new campus supports emlyon’s “early makers” pedagogy—a fast-paced, immersive learning approach that helps students deal head-on with disruption. The campus has classrooms with convertible furniture, allowing multiple and changing teaching uses, and is equipped with interactive technologies and tactile screens. The cafeteria has been transformed into a shared space integrating the restaurant as just one use among others, such as group work, career forums, and special events. The traditional library has become an emblematic, digitized, and collaborative “hive” of coworking. The entrepreneur zone and the makers' lab complement the building, representing a live demonstration of the early makers pedagogy.

Most importantly, this reflection on transformation of space as support for transformation of learning and, more generally, management, has over time become a robust component of emlyon’s expertise. In the coming years, we want to make this approach a key strategic differentiator for our school—integrating research and intellectual production, services for companies, transfer of knowledge, and events.

We are aware of the role that higher education institutions must play in promoting the socioeconomic development of their region. Through these different initiatives, we assert our desire to be firmly committed to our environment and concerned about its contribution to society.

Nevertheless, several challenges remain: first among them is to better adapt educational offerings to the labor market. Our role is first and foremost to guide students toward job-creating sectors and job-creating occupations such as entrepreneurship, one of the cornerstones of emlyon's reputation. We have a duty not only to offer courses of the same quality as those offered on our other campuses in France but also to adapt them to the local context.

To meet this challenge and help reduce the mismatch between skills and the economic environment of today and tomorrow, we aim to better prepare young higher education graduates to work in a changing African economy while also fostering innovation and an enterprising spirit in order to support the growth of this continent on the move.

We are witnessing a massive influx of investment funds and private higher education groups in Africa, and especially in Morocco, as was the case in France a few years ago. However, the demands and expectations of our different stakeholders (students, parents, companies, governments) are completely different in this region and require a greater ability to adapt and anticipate than in Europe or North America, where the sector is much more mature and structured.

Part of this adaptability mindset means that higher education in Africa must also contribute to reducing gender inequalities. In spite of a noteworthy change in recent years, women are still underrepresented in African higher education, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. So we will be granting specific scholarships for women in all of the programs available on our Casablanca campus, in both postgraduate education and professional training.

In 10 years, only those higher education institutions that have been able to break away from their local philosophy and position themselves as visionary and creative players will successfully achieve their mission on this beautiful continent where wealth and talent abound. We will be one of those players, fully in line with our early makers signature: a great school that tries, experiments, and innovates by moving forward with others.

Tawhid Chtioui, Dean, emlyon business school Africa Tawhid Chtioui is dean of emlyon business school Africa in Casablanca. Follow him on Twitter @tawhidChtioui.