Harvard Business School Leverages Africa’s Entrepreneurial Community – Interview

In a recent interview, Program Director Diane Waters highlighted the innovative AfricaLive! online course, meticulously crafted by Harvard Business School professors Caroline Elkins, Tarun Khanna, and Karim Lakhani. Aimed specifically at nurturing talent within the African market, these esteemed educators have tailored a curriculum that addresses the unique challenges and opportunities of the continent’s burgeoning business sector and dynamic entrepreneurial landscape. Here are the interview excerpts:

What are the reasons for starting AfricaLive? How important is this study program for the young business leaders in Africa?

The AfricaLive! online course was created by Harvard Business School professors to meet the urgent need for skill and knowledge development in Africa’s burgeoning business sector, aiming to equip aspiring entrepreneurs with the necessary tools to navigate and lead in a dynamic environment. Customized for individuals aiming to innovate and expand in the African market, AfricaLive! merges Harvard’s scholarly excellence with the practical wisdom of African industry leaders.

The course offers a mix of interactive virtual sessions, small group activities, and asynchronous learning modules, providing a comprehensive and engaging approach to application and learning. Designed to encourage innovation, strategic thinking, and ethical leadership, AfricaLive! readies participants for impactful careers, providing a rich, engaging curriculum and culminating in dual certification from HarvardX and AfricaLive!, affirming their expertise and commitment to driving sustainable change.

Do you believe building the entrepreneurial capacity of the participants will enhance their understanding of the emerging challenges in the changing business landscape?

Equipping AfricaLive! participants with essential skills and knowledge enhances their ability to navigate the dynamic and complex markets of Africa. Entrepreneurial capacity extends beyond business management to include innovation, critical thinking, and resilience. As they face technological advances and shifting economic trends, entrepreneurs must adapt and innovate. Training fosters agility and foresight, preparing them to anticipate changes, understand global impacts on local markets, and address emerging challenges, while promoting continuous learning and adaptation in a fast-paced world. 

Entrepreneurship is very challenging. In what ways would you argue that the AfricaLive! educational program provides the necessary skills for young vibrant leaders?

AfricaLive! is designed to prepare young leaders for the entrepreneurial landscape, blending theoretical knowledge with practical skills in real-world contexts. The course offers discussions with Harvard faculty and African industry leaders, encouraging innovation, creativity, and strategic thinking. It emphasizes resilience, adaptability, and ethical leadership, equipping participants to navigate business uncertainties and contribute positively to society. Networking with peers and industry leaders further enriches the experience, creating a robust support system for aspiring entrepreneurs. 

Do you agree that there are diversities in business culture in African countries? What could be the best way to systematize entrepreneurial policies to help Africa’s development?

Indeed, there is a rich tapestry of diversity in business culture across African countries, reflective of the continent’s wide array of languages, ethnicities, traditions, and historical backgrounds. Each country, and often regions within countries, has its own unique business customs, economic environments, and regulatory frameworks. This diversity can present both challenges and opportunities for entrepreneurs and policymakers.

To effectively systematize entrepreneurial policies for Africa’s development, a multi-faceted, collaborative approach is essential. Tailoring policies to local contexts, encouraging pan-African dialogue, and involving diverse stakeholders ensures policies are relevant and comprehensive. Emphasizing education and skill development, alongside creating robust support systems like funding, mentorship, and incubators, will equip entrepreneurs to thrive and contribute to a unified and progressive business environment across the continent.

What are the future visions for African Entrepreneurs and the single continental free market (AfCFTA)?

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) presents a future of vast opportunities for African entrepreneurs, offering access to a larger market and a more integrated continent. It promises reduced trade barriers, streamlined customs, and a harmonious regulatory environment, enabling entrepreneurs to expand beyond local confines, innovate, and compete more effectively. This vision includes increased intra-African trade, collaboration, and shared knowledge and resources, leading to economic growth, job creation, and sustainable development. Ultimately, AfCFTA positions entrepreneurs at the forefront of transforming Africa into a thriving, unified, and prosperous economy.