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The Making of Africa's Premier Business School

  Jul 1, 2013

By Millicent Mwololo

Strathmore Business School (SBS) brought the concept of business schools into East Africa. Strathmore University was the first in the region to apply for a business school. Ever since, Strathmore Business School has been streamlining the case studying methodology. “We have been vibrant on how to deal with theory and practice, which many institutions find very tricky for a masters base,” says Dr George Njenga, DVC Research at Strathmore University and the Dean – Strathmore Business School.

Dr. Njenga is also the Director of the Association of African Business Schools, a body that is charged with the role of setting up the first quality assurance system for departments within universities for the whole of Africa. The move will see business schools in the continent meet international standards. Already, a number of universities in South Africa have been accredited and the same standards are now being brought to business schools in Kenya.

Today, Strathmore Business School more recently known as SBS, is no doubt the top business school in the region. In fact SBS benchmarks itself with the best business schools in the world in operations, teaching, management and administration. “This requires constant research, perspective and timely planning,” says Dr Njenga.

Strathmore Business School is renowned for its top quality professors drawn locally as well as from some of the top business schools in the world. These include IESE Business School (Spain), Gordon Institute of Business Sciences (South Africa), Harvard Business School – Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness (USA), Lagos Business School (Nigeria), University of British Colombia, University of Navarra (Spain), Jiao Tong University & Antai College of Economics and Management (China), and Asian Institute of Business Management, (Philippines). SBS has joint programmes with the exchange of professors and students with these universities.

For the last eight years that Dr Njenga has been the dean at SBS, various achievements have been realised. Together with his vibrant team, Dr Njenga has positioned SBS among the top 10 business schools in Africa competing with the University of Cape Town, American University in Egypt, Pan Atlantic University, Makerere University, University of Nairobi and the United States International University. This has been enabled through relationships with professors from top business schools in the world as well as coherent curriculum and unique mode of delivery to enhance practical learning among participants.

SBS will in January 2014 roll out programmes in MBA Healthcare, Advanced Healthcare Management, MBA with Research for Executives and the first Masters in Public Policy and Management in the region. Masters in Public Policy and Management combines public policy, economics and business practice, Dr Njenga says.

Dr Njenga leans more towards servant leadership. “I always see myself as an enabling person to generate the highest performance from my staff,” he says. He has also adopted a very flexible bureaucratic system. “Today’s working environment changes so fast and as such doesn’t require strong rules and procedures that are not receptive to innovation,” he shares. He also believes in transformational leadership and that members of staff have to perfect themselves in the organization. He is the executive who whenever he gets down to work values colleague-ality. “I have to have a high moral standing to appreciate the views of other colleagues and build consensus and coordination,” Dr Njenga says. This, he says, enables any organisation to achieve more as it puts together minds, passion, innovation and creativity of so many people. He is God-fearing and also believes that there is providence in daily life.

SBS is destined to become Africa’s premier business school, says Dr Njenga. He also envisions that SBS will develop people through the integration of economies in Africa. “I believe that the place of Africa in global economics is integration,” he says. He is already doing so by combining executives from West Africa, South Africa and East Africa in classes at the SBS. And he has felt the impact of this: “When we started this, we had less than 10 Spanish companies investing in Kenya, today they are over 40. We at Strathmore Business School are instrumental in that,” he says passionately.

Dr Njenga manages to marshal members of his staff to work together towards a common goal through an employee programme that motivates all staff to act as professionals and portray business elegance. He also takes his professors to top business schools like IESE Business School and Harvard Business School to enhance their teaching delivery and ciritical aspects of adult learning. In addition, every lecturer has a coach they can go to. “The dean always acts as the coach,” he states. There are also in-house courses for the staff that detail on the culture of the leadership at the SBS. The courses have instilled professional and business ethics in the institution. Dr Njenga has an open door policy and anyone institution including students, support staff and lecturers always walk in and share ideas. “This has always meant that I have to be prepared and very much in touch with the issues in the institution,” he says.

In the next five years SBS will be the premier position in researching public policy and civil society. “We would want to stand out uniquely by taking a non-aligned position so that we can deliver as per our mandate,” Dr Njenga shares. SBS envisions to be the top institution in healthcare management studies and research. It will also become the best business school in Sub-Saharan Africa. “We also want to significantly increase private sector participation in the creation of wealth in Kenya,” Dr Njenga adds. The institution also wants to increase its global competitiveness in business and public policy. Even more, SBS sees itself at the core of research so as to develop some of the best health care management systems in Africa.

He believes that economic wealth must be generated at a county level; and as such good business education and global competitiveness must be inserted into the county strategy. He has strong conviction that the government must give an enabling environment for the private sector to thrive as it creates significant wealth for the country.

Source: Golden Hands, Daily Nation, June 2013

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