Note: This piece first appeared on Africa.com as part of a thought leadership series by the Foundation for African Leadership in Business. ALB partners with the world’s leading business schools and corporations to provide MBA scholarships and leadership development opportunities to African professionals. ALB is a registered 501C3 non-profit organization.
The signs of a long-term economic boom coming to Africa are all around.
First, with a booming population whose average age hovers around 19, Africa has a potentially strong workforce that is both better-educated and healthier than previous generations. A recent McKinsey & Co. analysis indicates that Africa’s population may double to 2 billion by 2050, adding an additional 122 million people of working age.
Second, the rush to commodities in Africa, ranging from oil to precious metals, has brought much-needed infrastructure to both urban and rural areas. And there’s potential for even more: It’s estimated that Somalia has as much oil as Kuwait. Meanwhile, Africans have flocked to mobile technology. With a market penetration of up to 70%, there are more cell phone users in Africa than in the U.S. or Europe.
Finally, much of Africa has experienced greater geopolitical stability in recent years. While some serious problems remain, investors have signaled their increased confidence in the continent’s prospects by flocking to African sovereign debt. Countries like Zambia and Ivory Coast have seen robust demand by outside investors for government bonds, pushing yields lower than several major European economies.
But these are macro trends. As Dean of Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management, I have also seen personal stories that portend a brighter economic future for Africa.
Vanderbilt alumnus Kisseih Antonio (MBA ’05) is now working in Ghana as regional head of product development for Econbank Capital, the investment arm of the thriving pan-African financial institution. After studying finance at Vanderbilt, he went on to positions at Barclays and Zenith Capital. As Vanderbilt and other U.S. business schools continue to attract a steady number of African students to their campuses, I expect to hear more stories like Kisseih’s in the near future.
While Africa is poised to experience economic growth similar to India, China, and Brazil, there is a desperate need for talented business management. Disciplines like finance and accounting are just one piece of the puzzle. Multinational corporations that are beginning to invest more in African economies — as well as home grown enterprises — will require a vast influx of business management skills ranging from human resources and operations management, to marketing and business strategy.
As both Dean of the Owen School and this year’s Board Chairman of the Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC), I heartily encourage students who want to help Africa achieve its full economic potential to explore a business school education.
Your future awaits.