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Strathmore Business School Hosts 7th Association of African Business Schools Connect Annual Conference

With Africa emerging as an economic powerhouse, the theme for the Association of African Business Schools’ (AABS) Connect Annual Conference 2014 was appropriately titled: “The Role of Business Schools in Building Lasting Institutions in Africa.”

The conference was held for the first time in SBS, which also happened to be the second time in Kenya. AABS has 30 full members across Africa and nine pipeline members which are working on achieving membership during the next three years.

With around 80 delegates, including deans, heads of business schools, academics as well as business and public sector leaders in the education sector, the AABS Connect Annual Conference brought together some of the best minds in the management education sector. Last year’s event, which was held in Morocco, proved to be a forum for lively debate about issues currently faced by business schools in Africa and this year promises the same.

Dean of Strathmore School of Business, Dr. George Njenga, mentioned that hosting the Conference is targeted at developing business in the region. It aims to spearhead business growth by supporting growth of institutions that teach good management skills and values “This generation of talented and ambitious young Africans must be equipped with the modern skills and knowledge they need to formulate and implement African solutions for Africa’s challenges. As such, our challenge is to improve learning outcomes and impact”.

“Never before has the outlook and potential of the African economy been so positive,” says AABS Chairman and Director of the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business, Professor Walter Baets. “With a number of African countries amongst the fastest growing in the world, the challenge is not only to drive growth across the region, but to drive inclusive growth.”

“Business schools play a critical role in developing managers and executives who are key role players in driving growth and competitiveness,” says Prof. Baets. “Not only do they build enterprises and create jobs, they are the ones who need to ensure that growth is inclusive, sustainable and takes into account development goals.”

The focus of the AABS Connect Annual Conference 2014 was on how businesses and business schools can connect and play a more active role in the sustainable development of African economies. “Business schools are unlocking potential at all levels of society by facilitating talented people to gain advanced training whatever their social economic status and consequently creating a pool of highly trained individuals” said Dr. Njenga.

Dr Njenga went ahead to mention that “Today, more than ever, if our business schools are to fulfill their potential, it is time for them to meet the challenge of being engines for economic growth; it is time for Africa’s business schools to take their place as world leaders in sustainable development. This means developing strategies in which business schools play a key role in research and innovation to boost competitiveness.”

A strong lineup of speakers was present and included, economist Dr Robin Kibuka from Uganda; Chairman of the Simba Group, Patrick Bitature; Prof. Terry Ryan, Chairman of the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, Nasim Devji, Group CEO and Managing Director of DTB Group; Prof. Nick Binedell, founding dean of the Gordon Institute of Business Science and Jonathan Cook, Chairman of the African Management Initiative, among others

The Speakers addressed topics such as: The Role of Institutions in Africa’s Economic Story; Advancing Management Education in Africa (Exploring the role of international organisations); Business Schools in the digital age; case studies of successful sustainable businesses and lessons learnt; leadership development for sustainable and ethical business; building competitive performance through institutions; integrated education – business schools in the digital age; creative curriculum design and growing the African student pipeline.

“As business schools we have an opportunity to develop our own models and intellectual frameworks to better serve business communities across the continent,” says Dr George Njenga. “This conference is an excellent opportunity to network with thought leaders from across the continent and share ideas and best practice.”

The key guest at this year AABS connect conference was Nairobi City County Governor Dr. Evans Kidero, who mentioned that Government, business schools and other partners need to continue working together to address challenges that affect Africa such as poverty, social inequalities, unemployment, poor infrastructure, a lack of access to financial services as well as unsuitable laws and regulations

The conference included presentations, discussions, and round table working sessions with an academic as well as a corporate lead and the chance to network informally during the programme.

To encourage networking across the continent, business schools operating in Francophone African countries who attended the conference had interpretation services available at the conference.

“One cannot credibly talk of being an African association without the contribution of French-speaking business schools,” added Prof. Baets. “We are delighted that this event will bring together colleagues from all corners of the continent.”

Global associations such as The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International); European Foundation for Management Development (EFMD); The Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP); CEEMAN – The International Association for Management Development in Dynamic Societies; Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC), Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council; Academy of Business in Society (ABIS); Global Business School Network (GBSN) and others attended the conference.

This was a forum for collaboration across different institutions and organisations to forge innovative change in management education in Africa. These international organizations bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to assist business schools in Africa to develop a cohesive growth strategy

Prof. Baets emphasizes that good managers are necessary for driving growth, because they not only create and build enterprises which create jobs, but are key players in ensuring that growth is inclusive, taking into consideration development goals and challenges such as inequality.

“The World Economic Forum has identified inequality as the biggest potential risk for global, political and social stability. This is a challenge that we, as business schools in Africa, must rise to meet by fostering inclusive growth in our management education curricula.”

The AABS Connect Annual conference will further extend throughout the week with quality review visits to the United States International University and Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology in Nairobi. A group of representatives from AABS members led by Prof. Erasmus Kaijage, will look at technical aspects of the selected business schools to help them towards gaining accreditation and employing best practice.