In October last year the Central Africa Europe Business School (CAEBS) in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, has started its first ever executive MBA course. Formed by the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management and the Université Protestante au Congo it is one of the few schools venturing into the fairly new terrain of an African MBA.
Its first MBA course started with 39 professionals between 25 and 35 years of age that all have more than two years of work experience, with the majority having six years. Most students are locals, but a few students have also signed up from other African countries like Burundi, Cameroun and the Ivory Coast.
MBA Channel spoke to academic director Patrick Bakengela Shamba about the programme and how the school can make a difference for Africa.
How would you describe your business school?
As a new innovative business school in Central Africa it responds to the challenges of the globalized world by offering competitive management education for future leaders. Most universities here focus on academic aspects of education only. So we at the Central Africa Europe Business School bring something quite new to the market that responds to the demand for managers at a higher level of international education which currently lacks in the French speaking parts of Africa. Our EMBA programme is designed for executives and professionals managers, especially for those from the Central Africa region.
How does your programme differ from programmes in the U.S. for example? Do you incorporate African knowledge as well?
We do bring international management in as well as African knowledge to allow students to broaden their horizons and to be transformative business leaders in Africa. It is important that we have a mix of both and not only work on international case studies. For example, at the CAEBS, we offer an executive week in Frankfurt, Germany, for all EMBA students studying in Kinshasa. During this visit, one of the German professors talks about management made in Germany. However, in Kinshasa, one of the Congolese professors, who also works with the government and deals with macroeconomic aspects of the Congolese economy, talks in the classroom about day-to-day problems in Africa. Our students have the opportunity to understand and analyze global and local challenges in doing business and build their capacities accordingly.
Talking about this German connection that you have: Your origins stem from the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management. How is this viewed? Is this outside help appreciated or rather detested as a modern form of colonialism?
The support from the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management is very much appreciated here in Kinshasa. The Protestant University of Congo and Frankfurt School of Finance and Management started their cooperation more than ten years ago. Five years ago, the two universities were selected as an “African Excellence Centre” to deliver a very innovative master programme in microfinance supported by the German Academic Exchange Service DAAD. We have launched at least 80 graduates in the market and are able to empower the development of microfinance. We are now contributing to the education of future leaders in the Central Africa region.
How important is it to have the business school in the Democratic Republic of Congo?
Before, young professionals who wanted to have an MBA education had to go abroad and had to leave their families and work behind. This is brain drain. Now these students continue their careers at home and still get an international education.
Does this mean the companies mostly pay for your course?
Yes, the upcoming year the programme costs 12500 Euro and lots of companies do cover the cost for the students. We have also some students who pay by themselves. They are very motivated and are eager to enrich their experience and benchmark with peers from diverse backgrounds. When we launched this programme, we had almost 100 candidates and we selected only 39 of them.
So from which industries do most of your students come from?
They come from a very broad spectrum: A few are from public service and others from NGOs, from banking, finance, architecture and international telecommunications companies.
What are the main reasons for your students attending an executive MBA course?
The EMBA is seen as a passport for promotion and transformation of their capacities and potential within their companies or businesses. Most of the students are interested in the EMBA because of their passion to learn and respond to day-to-day challenges. Many of our students have experience with UN-organizations for example, but as they don’t have a Master degree, they don’t have any hope of a promotion. So this is one aspect why they choose an MBA. But we also have students who run their own business and want to be competitive in a globalized world.
Will you be able to make a difference for West Africa and in particular Kinshasa? Thinking that the city was once a fishing village and is now a sprawling urban area with over 9 million people…
Kinshasa is a huge market. It cannot be compared to South Africa or other English speaking African countries. It is in a special situation: After years of civil war and slow growth, the city is now booming. Only in the past five to ten years the use of mobile phones or bank accounts has exploded. There are so many opportunities and Kinshasa is also geographically in a good position and close to neighbouring countries. We are making the difference by giving the opportunity for students to realize their potential and become transformative business leaders.