IESE MBA Academic Director, Prof. Alejandro Lago shares his insights on the IESE MBA students visit to SBS and Kenya.
Africa and Kenya in particular, is a place for discovery when you look at it from the un-experienced eyes of a foreigner businessman. A two-sided discovery full of great opportunities but also great challenges. This was my first impression when I first came to Kenya in 2007. Not surprisingly, IESE had had the stubborn idea that we should bring our MBA students to experience this discovery by themselves since even before that. Fortunately, with this first IESE MBA program in Kenya, we made the idea a reality and as the Academic Director for the program, I can only say that Strathmore Business School has granted us with the privilege of achieving much more than a simple discovery.
In these two weeks in Kenya, our students had a unique opportunity to understand the business and economic context of this very large continent through very lively, insightful lectures and cases by local professors. Furthermore, a magnificent number of guest speakers from different industries and contexts both local and expats – had shown us how Africa is now home to both a promising breed of entrepreneurs and well established business leaders who are the real force behind the true new renaissance in the continent.
Hovever, beyond the pure academic experience, we had a unique opportunity to deep dive into the culture and the reality of Kenya and Africa, thanks to the constant interaction with SBS students, professors, and East African professionals. The different networking events, the negotiation exercises between IESE and SBS students and the development by our students of small consulting projects for Kenyan SMEs have been paramount to achieve this interaction. With this deep dive, we became aware that community, trust in people and ethical values play a fundamental role when doing business here. I am sure many of us have now a positive and encouraging African business virus quite different from those which the original Europeans settlers in Africa talked about. Yes, a business virus which will surely encourage our students to try to develop stronger business ties here.
I only hope that this experience will lead to an even greater collaboration with SBS and that many other IESE groups come to Kenya in the future. Because above all, we have learnt that the biggest opportunity for us all IESE and SBS people – is the constant collaboration and exchange of ideas across continents. Indeed, we as business leaders will only have a large impact on society if our minds join and find solutions to real problems together independently if we come from Africa, Asia, Europe or America.