Greetings from Guy: Addressing the Management Skills Gap in Africa

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The existence of two organizations illustrates what is wrong with too many academic programs around the world and especially in Sub-Saharan Africa: the National Association of Unemployed Graduates in Nigeria and the Unemployed Graduates Association of Ghana.

Such shortcomings can be found also in management education. In July GBSN partnered with the Center for Global Enterprise – created by Sam Palmisano, former CEO and Chairman of IBM – to convene a group of experts at IESE Business School’s campus in New York City to bring their knowledge to the table about the Management Skills Gap in Africa. The round table brought together academics, business, think tanks and foundations to discuss the disconnect between so many higher education programs and employer expectations.

In a nutshell, employers are looking especially for “soft skills” and practical work experience. “Socio-emotional” skills are especially important. Specifically, five skills are most likely to increase chances of success in finding employment: social skills, communications and higher-order thinking skills, all supported by the interpersonal skills of self-control and positive self-concept. A positive self-concept is particularly important to younger persons’ workforce success.

Experiential learning is key to bridging the gap, an insight that is driving a number of GBSN initiatives including the upcoming Action-based Curriculum Training (ACT) program pilot. Experiential learning encompasses internships, teaching cases and other learner-centered pedagogies, student consulting projects, as well as design thinking. CGE is also exploring ways to make learning experiential and accessible outside of the traditional academic environment. They developed the Alpha Team concept, a six-week virtual, online, internship that convenes 21 participants selected from among candidates in 92 countries in a multicultural and out-of-the-box experience to provide a fresh management perspective on a real-world business problem. I found this emphasis on the “how” rather than the “what” particularly refreshing.

As is true of any innovation, unless they can be scaled up so as to broaden access to job-relevant education their usefulness will remain limited. One huge challenge is how to ensure that teachers are in fact equipped to use such pedagogies. Another is how to drive down costs, and how technology, and in particular how online or blended programs delivered on mobile phones, could scale up experiential learning. I welcomed the emphasis on increasing the institutional capacity of higher education and also on entrepreneurship education, which is key to broadening impact in countries where most graduates are, or will be, self-employed.

Many thanks to our CGE for partnering with us to hold this important conversation, to IESE for hosting us, and to all of the roundtable participants for your enthusiastic and insightful contributions.

Guy Pfeffermann is the Founder & CEO of the Global Business School Network

Guy Pfeffermann, GBSN and Lisa MacDougall, Goldman Sachs

Olayinka David-West, Lagos Business School participating in the design thinking workshop.

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