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A student at the University of Western Ontario’s Richard Ivey School of Business teaches students in Ghana. (Richard Ivey School of Business)
A student at the University of Western Ontario’s Richard Ivey School of Business teaches students in Ghana. (Richard Ivey School of Business)

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The benefits of teaching case studies in Africa Add to ...

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In 2010, the world’s second-leading publisher of business case studies made them free to poor countries with per capita wealth of less than $2,000.

The “39 country initiative,” by the publishing arm of the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario, aims to help developing countries improve their management education. Ivey gains, too, building its global brand as a top business case publisher (second after Harvard Business School) and creating overseas opportunities for faculty and students to deliver case-teaching workshops.

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When Ivey associate professor Nicole Haggerty saw that 32 of the 39 eligible countries were from Africa, she designed a new elective course in international service learning that had its inaugural run in Kenya, Ghana and Rwanda this summer.

“This course is an example of how everybody can win and create opportunities,” she says, citing its potential to “co-create value for us and our African partners.”

In early summer, her class of 18 undergraduate business students spent five weeks teaching their peers at university business faculties in the three African countries. The Ivey students, heading into their final year at Ivey this fall, also worked as research assistants to African business professors writing local business cases that will be added to Ivey’s roster of published material. Finally, as part of a research project for an Ivey professor, the students interviewed local African entrepreneurs in the informal economy that generates the lion’s share of wealth in these emerging markets.

In the end, 378 students from five African universities received certificates for completing the three-week program on business decision-making while African professors developed six business cases. Separately, Prof. Haggerty taught a three-day workshop to 22 participants from nine institutions in Ghana.

“These are the people inside the African countries who will be the mechanism for economic development and social change,” says Prof. Haggerty. Despite poverty and political turmoil, the continent is seen as at a tipping point: seven of the world’s fastest-growing economies are expected to come from Africa in the next five years.

No wonder Ivey students jumped at the chance to take Prof. Haggerty’s course.

Annika Wang, 20, was one of a three-student Ivey team that taught at the National University of Rwanda in Butare. An experienced traveller with an academic focus on global development, she still recalls the initial shock of adjusting to unfamiliar surroundings.

“The first night was not good,” she recalls, arriving tired, hungry and thirsty to find cockroaches on the dining room table of the home rented for her team. Her glum first impressions evaporated the next morning when the house gardener, though unable to speak English, guided her to a local convenience store for supplies. “I have an over-all wonderful impression of the people and the country, including its businesses,” she says.

She and other Ivey students struggled to wean their African counterparts off traditional lectures to embrace active participation in class – a hallmark of case-method teaching.

The novice teachers also had to adjust to the lives of their students, many surviving on subsistence grants and others suffering lingering effects of the Rwandan genocide 18 years ago. That meant cutting a little slack on class punctuality.

In the process, Ms. Wang says she grew as a person. “We had to learn to rely on ourselves and our teammates and I learned a lot about myself and my values,” she says.

In Kenya, 20-year-old Daryn Awde and his three-person team taught undergraduate and master’s level students at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology in Mombasa.

“I learned a lot about the Kenyan culture on a level different than that of a tourist,” he says, in part because he and his teammates had to go out in the street to find vendors and other small business people willing to talk about the informal economy.

“Some of them only spoke Swahili,” says Mr. Awde. “But Kenyans were so interested in what we were doing and having their stories heard that other people around them [the vendors] would volunteer to translate for them.

“It became a community thing,” he says.

The experience has influenced Mr. Awde’s career plans. With a network of contacts developed over the summer, he hopes to return to Kenya and work with private- and public-sector interests. “My impression of Kenya is that it has wonderful potential for development,” he says. “It has an entire population looking for opportunities and ready to grasp the opportunities.”

Early next month, Prof. Haggerty will reconvene her class for a final de-brief, with an eye to lessons learned for an expanded program next year.

Professor honoured

The Academy of Management, a professional association with members in more than 100 countries, has presented its distinguished educator award to Prof. Anita McGahan, of the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, for her career achievements inside and outside the classroom.

 

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Contact Jennifer at jlewington@bell.net.

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