UK business school scholarship opens doors for junior NRZ official

Ermion Maundu has always been a self-starter. He began his career as a junior official for the National Railways of Zimbabwe with just a basic level qualification. Financial constraints meant he could not further his education, but when he found that his career was limited by his lack of qualifications he started to study privately for his A-levels.

Ermion Maundu.
Ermion Maundu.

Juggling studying and working, he was eventually promoted several times until he became an internal auditor. He then joined the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority where he completed a bachelor’s degree. Still hungry for more, he turned his attention towards an MBA, a degree widely acknowledged to be a key enabler in the world of business.

“I wanted to remain relevant in the world of today as well as to keep abreast with modern ways of conducting business. An MBA adds value not just to me, but to everyone and everything around me as a result of the knowledge and skills acquired in the programme,” he says.

Carrying on his tradition of studying while working, Maundu settled on an online MBA offered by Edinburgh Business School and was also fortunate to qualify for a scholarship from the organisation, which helped offset some of the financial burdens.

Maundu’s story is not an uncommon on in Africa. It reflects the rise in demand for business education across the continent.

Economy held back

A growing middle class, eager to contribute to and participate in the potentially booming economy is being held back by a lack of good learning opportunities on the continent.

Data from the Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAT) shows that 5,490 GMAT tests were taken in the African region in 2012/13 – more than in Eastern Europe and only a few thousand less than in Canada and Latin America.

At the same time, there are only 41 listed business programmes in Africa compared with almost 500 listed for Asia, according to FindMBA.com.

A number of African countries have no business school at all, and the bulk of those that do exist are mostly in South Africa, which also boasts the only Financial Times top-ranked business school on the continent – the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business.

Brain drain

This has led to a brain drain of African students leaving to seek education overseas – Africa has traditionally been a fertile recruiting ground for US and European business schools, which attract the continent’s elite students, many of whom never return. All while the African economy is thriving, and the need for skilled managers and innovative entrepreneurs is growing by the day.

Rising to meet this gap in the market is online learning. With multiple course options and flexible learning conditions being among the main advantages, there has been a sharp increase in the number of international business schools offering online learning in Africa.

Edinburgh Business School was an early mover and its online MBA study programme has enjoyed significant success in Africa. Alick Kitchin, Joint Head of the School, says that about 3,760 of its 11,500 students are in sub-Saharan Africa.

The school’s model is acknowledged to offer more sustainable study packages with a mix of online learning and study peer groups, as well as local tutoring options at approved centres around the continent.

The school has been active in Africa for over 20 years and it established The Africa Scholarship Scheme, of which Maundu was a beneficiary, in 2010.

The scholarship scheme is the largest of its kind in Africa, offering 250 people a fully-funded place on the MBA programme.

Graça Machel, well-known African educationalist and the wife of the late Nelson Mandela, describes the scholarship programme as, “A wonderful opportunity for students from all over Africa to learn, gain and share invaluable technical, managerial and leadership skills, as well as obtain recognised qualifications.”

Influence

The MBA has certainly raised Maundu’s professional and educational aspirations.

“I want to work for an international organisation especially those whose mandate is to impact on communities or people`s lives. I am also hoping to get assistance to pursue a doctoral degree in business administration. I want to be part of a group of managers/leaders who have an influence on business and society in general,” he says.

Students are able to apply what they learn to their actual working experience while adjusting the schedule to their own working conditions. Many of the students – like Maundu – work full-time while studying.

While many of these international business schools making inroads into Africa are criticised as being out of touch with Africa’s needs and exploitative, Guy Pfeffermann, Chief Executive of the Global Business School network said in a recent article in the Financial Times that there is room for them.

The demand in Africa is “absolutely humungous” he said. “There is an incredible shortage of well-trained business leaders and managers in the developing world.” – For more information on studying with EBS contact [email protected]

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