In mid 2022, Capital Business School under the Ethiopian Kazana Group and Strathmore Business School (SBS) in Kenya entered into a partnership agreement for the latter’s provision of executive education.
“Ethiopia is opening up very quickly, and we need our executives in Ethiopian organizations to be as sharp and polished as they need to be now more than ever,” Addis Alemayehu, Founder and Chairman of Kazana, emphasized at the time.
This year, as the duo seek to work in tandem to excel the business landscape in the country, Capital’s Metasebia Teshome reached out to Caesar Mwangi (PhD), Executive Dean of the Strathmore University Business School for an inside view of the partnership and what the future holds. Excerpts;
Capital: Tell us about Strathmore Business School’s operations?
Caesar Mwangi: Strathmore Business School’s (SBS) operation started in Kenya, but we now have offices in Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda. And now we are establishing this fruitful partnership in Ethiopia. SBS strives to develop ethical and transformational leaders through research, innovation, and the dissemination of business and management knowledge; and in doing so we envision developing Africa’s greatest business leaders.
SBS also has a strong research base. Of course you cannot apply knowledge unless you have proper research thus our programs are provided by international faculty and the research they carry out. SBS works closely with Strathmore Research and Consultancy Company (SRCC), which also undertakes research and maintains links with industry so as to keep our learning at the cutting-edge.
Apart from the executive leadership programs, we have specially designed programmes in Doctoral, Masters and Undergraduate programmes to develop Great African Leaders. At undergraduate level, we train young people straight out of school for a comprehensive acquaintance to the business world through our Bachelor’s in Financial Services, Commerce and also Supply Chain. We also beef up on the foundational business knowledge in our Master’s programs in Business Administration, Healthcare Management, and Agribusiness. And in the top academic echelon we offer, PhD programs in Healthcare and Business.
Capital: Do you want to come to Ethiopia, and what kind of agreement do you have with the Kazana Group?
Caesar Mwangi: Kazana group is founder of Capital business school and the chairman of Kazana Group Addis Alemayehou has lot of experience because he went to school in Kenya. So he understands that we have certain expertise in management and leadership development, which could be useful in this country. So he thought about partnering with a leading business schools in Kenya. Of course Strathmore, is a great leader in that regard since it has accumulated over 17 years of experience in training and graduating business leaders who have gone to make a great difference in many businesses in Kenya, Africa and beyond.
The group founder wants to replicate the same here. He wants Capital Business School to train Ethiopians and equip business leaders to have a difference in the Ethiopian industries in Africa and in the world. Since this is in alignment with what we are doing we are open to synergetic partnerships in human capital development and more.
Capital: How would you best define your work in different countries in the continent?
Caesar Mwangi: Our work is defined by its fruits which are of course shown in the many success stories. We have trained, last year alone, over 2000 executives. These people have gone back to their businesses and made a lot of changes which are helping their business to grow. We’ve had people from groups like the Equity Banking Group who are among the fastest growing banks in the African continent. That Group is growing now in many different African countries, including the DRC Congo. We have trained many people in the healthcare field who have gone back to their hospitals and improved health care management. For us health is a very important area. So we have very special health care programmes.
Apart from the business programs we’ve trained many people in agribusiness because the backbone of Africa is agriculture. From the many trained in this program, they have gone to setup agreement businesses which have generated production and exports for their countries.
So these are just but a sample of the success stories, and you can imagine out of the 2000 who came last year there were thousands more the year prior and if you stretch that from across the last 17 years, the operations have been having huge effect.
We have many people who have come to study in our business school and have gone and got very, very good opportunities in foreign countries including in Europe and the US. Our alumni are all over the world. Because they are very competent they’re helping their countries in different ways. They help their families in different ways. So we have different forms of impact and we’re very proud but the main thing is that we are transforming Africa.
Capital: There are lots of business schools in Ethiopia, what special elements do you think you bring that can make you different from other business schools?
Caesar Mwangi: First and foremost Ethiopia is among the most historically rich countries, and the only country which has not got the interruption of colonialism in the continent. Ethiopia is one of the countries which we admire very much from Kenya, the country with the best airline in Africa, and the country with people with a lot of discipline and respect and culture. Now if you put that into management practice you know that it’s going to help so many companies here to develop and create a lot of opportunities for the young people to get jobs. If the businesses and all the organizations here can flourish through good leadership and management training through the expertise we bring, then I believe the benefit that we bring to the country to this regard is our own unique element.
Capital: The business environment in Ethiopia is different from other countries especially from Kenya, so how are you planning to apply your business strategy here in Ethiopia?
Caesar Mwangi: I want to explain one thing. We cannot apply the same things here as we apply in Kenya, because as you’ve said rightfully so that the business environment here is different. The programs we offer are not a one shoe fits all, they are very adaptive from country to country. We do have a co-creation of programmes because the environment is different. We cannot apply the same thing, for instance in Kenya we started off getting technical support from a Spanish business school called ISA but from the ISA’s ideas we took the knowledge and customized it to the Kenyan environment, because the environment in Kenya was different from Spain. We have been engaging with some of the people in Harvard Business School, the knowledge they give us we don’t apply the same way they apply it in America, we customize it for Kenya.
Now one of the things which we want to do is to develop African case studies of businesses in Kenya, Ethiopia and East Africa which can be used to teach professionals based on the context and based on the environment of the respective countries. So in a nutshell, we will have a tailor-made strategy for Ethiopia’s business environment.
Capital: How do you see the business environment in Ethiopia?
Caesar Mwangi: We are still learning. I must say we’re not experts as we observe, I have not been here for the last 17 years. So when I came I could see the difference. Infrastructure has grown very much and is majestic and beautiful. The construction projects here are numerous. The hotels, the other businesses have grown here, and are in plenty as when compared to when I was here. Now those businesses are being managed by Ethiopians, and I know they are owed by Ethiopians. And I think the Capital Business School is now providing a service to those Ethiopians to be able to keep on applying new knowledge to the growth of these new businesses which I’ve seen coming up over the last 17 years. So I don’t have all the knowledge, but when we shall engage with the professionals here and work with the faculty members from Ethiopia; we shall learn from each other and then apply the ideas.
Capital: Did you get a chance to asses other business schools in Ethiopia?
Caesar Mwangi: I have not done a far assessment of business education here but I’m sure there’s great education on offer. I cannot say that I know it very well, but I think the Kazana Group has seen an opportunity to bring something different which may have a different effect. I think that is what we are trying to do. One thing we must realize is that is there are no barriers to sharing of knowledge. Knowledge is free. You can get it from all over the world. If you want to be world class, therefore, you need to seek for more and more knowledge all the time and then you can apply to help you also become world class. And I think that is the whole idea behind business.
We want Capital Business School to be a world class business school. We have people from all over Africa and all over the world saying we want to go to Capital of Business School. Right now we have people from all over the world coming to Strathmore business school because we are as good as any other business school in the world. Now, if we uplift our brothers and sisters in Ethiopia all of us are better off. That’s what we’re doing in Uganda, Tanzania, and Rwanda because we want to uplift the continent since that’s our vision.
When we’re all better off, then our children will be better off, our children have better opportunities. I said many of our children are working in poor countries outside of Africa in very dangerous conditions. Our children are trying to run across to Libya and cross the Mediterranean Sea to run away from the continent. These are our children. We must give them opportunities. That is what is driving us. So we need to develop the content for our children and their children.
Capital: What kind of challenge do you expect and how are you planning to cope up with them?
Caesar Mwangi: In life whenever there is a change process you expect some challenge maybe something like resistance to new ideas but I always say life is always about dealing with challenges. By being able to demonstrate that we can overcome these challenges, we shall all be better off. We have to have our vision clear so that people understand it. When there is any challenge towards resisting new ideas, we demonstrate through research and case studies that these new ideas will bring prosperity for more people. And that’s how we overcome any resistance and challenges.
Anything new is often subject to resistance, but we cannot let that hamper any progress. We must demonstrate openness to the change management process.