Since its beginning in 1985, Ecobank has been committed to the economic development across the African continent. The Bank’s commitment is reflected in the culture of its workforce of over, 14,000 people serving more than 23 million customers across 35 countries in Africa and 4 outside the continent. Developing the capabilities of these people has been the responsibility of Ecobank Academy, making it one of the largest corporate universities in Africa.
For 17 years, the Global Business School Network has been building management education capacity in and for the developing world. The core of GBSN is more than 100 leading business schools from 50 countries, with their leaders, faculty, and students engaging in programs to “improve access to quality, locally relevant management and entrepreneurship education for the developing world.”
Based on that brief introduction it is already easy to see the potential for collaboration between Ecobank and GBSN. Indeed, the two organizations have connected in the past, though small ways and passing ways.
We are excited to announce that Ecobank Academy has joined the Global Business School Network (GBSN) to pursue our shared vision for Africa to have the talent it needs to generate prosperity. Our aim is to work together over the long term to build a stronger connection between business and business schools—to develop the talent to achieve the Africa we want.
This vision began to crystalize last November when Simon delivered a keynote at the GBSN Annual Conference in Lisbon. He pointed out that Africa has only 740 universities for more than 1 billion people and offered, by way of comparison, that the United States has some 5,300 universities and colleges serving a population of 323 million people. He led a conversation amongst the 170 participants from 148 institutions across 46 countries. The dialogue exposed many of the challenges and opportunities of educating and developing talent for Africa.
The consensus was that no single sector—business, government, education, or non-profit—can make meaningful progress alone, especially in such an incredibly diverse, fast growing, and dynamic environment as Africa.
We posited that widening gap between higher education and business is an obstacle to building the future that Africa wants. And the pace of change in business has been accelerating. That space between education and practice holds the greatest potential for innovative solutions.
The addition of Ecobank Academy to the Global Business School Network is a first step towards closing the gap. In addition to strengthening collaboration between business and academia, we believe that our joint efforts will result in more relevant and scalable educational programs for young people, innovative initiatives for upskilling and reskilling over a lifetime, and collective efforts to build more inclusive and sustainable business across Africa. Our aim is to build alliances where structured designs can fill needed capabilities to address opportunities such as financial inclusion, health, renewable energy, health, nutrition, innovation, and more.
One of the ways we intend to initiate our work together is by building a virtual forum to explore the changing talent needs of the continent. The series is focused on the future that Africa wants, and the power of its people to achieve it. It highlights the importance of leadership, management, and entrepreneurship across sectors and across the continent. The aims are to explore the challenges associated with building education and development capacity and aligning it with the needs of a rapidly changing continent. The conversations in the forum will reveal new opportunities for innovation and collaboration, especially across business and business schools.
While the sessions are about building the capabilities of Africans, the series is intentionally global in three ways. First, Africa invites the leaders from all over the world to participate meaningfully in its development by co-creating solutions. After all, connecting globally to make a difference locally has been GBSN’s role for nearly two decades. Second, Africa plays a pivotal role in the future of the global society and the planet—economically and politically. Part of our work together is to assist Africa to assert its rightful place in the world. Third, Africa is an inspiration and catalyst for innovation and change around the world. The rest of the world can learn from what Africa does.
While specific topics vary across the sessions in the forum, there are several underlying themes. First is the importance of a Pan-African approach and solution to intercontinental areas. Economic integration and international cooperation are essential, especially at it relates to the mobility of workers, learners, and ideas. Second, technology plays a central role. It is the primary driver of change and it is the biggest enabler for organizations and society to respond to these changes. Technology has played an important role in the development of Ecobank and will in turn play an important role in GBSN. Third, markets alone cannot achieve Africa’s agenda—market failures can and do exist and government involvement and support are necessary.
We are proud to take this first bold step and excited about working together. We invite business schools and companies, especially their learning and development units, to join us in the Global Business School Network. We will gain strength through greater diversity and connectivity, as well as size—and significantly increase our impact on the future of Africa and other developing areas.